Modern baseball emerged in the northeastern United States during the 1830s and ‘40s but did not become widespread until after the Civil War. As the nation absorbed millions of immigrants and asserted a prominent role in international affairs at the turn of the twentieth century, baseball’s promoters started describing the game as the “national pastime.” In order to present the game as distinctly American, they invented an origin myth that had no basis in real events. In the process, they overlooked baseball’s relationship to the ancient ballgames played by Mesoamerican civilizations such as the Aztec, Maya, and Zapotec. Indigenous ballcourts flourished in the great city centers of these highly complex societies, and the political and ritual dimensions of their games shaped modern baseball as much as any European antecedent.
Mexican stamps commemorating participation in regional and international sporting events frequently drew a direct connection between ancient and modern games.
To create El Quetzalcoatl Bat, Gómez Morín (born 1956) engraved the plumage of Quetzalcoatl, a feathered serpent-hero revered by Mesoamerican civilizations, onto a U.S.-made baseball bat to represent the sport’s dual American and Latino natures.
Albert Goodwill Spalding (1850–1915), a former major league pitcher who built a sporting goods empire and organized baseball's earliest world tours, was irritated by claims that his beloved game had foreign origins. He formed a committee, called the Mills Commission, whose members birthed the myth of baseball's invention at Cooperstown, New York by Abner Doubleday in 1839.
Spalding's obsession with proving baseball's "purely American origin" played out in the pages of his own publications. He uncritically incorporated the Abner Doubleday story into his book, America's National Game, because it supported his predetermined views. Although biased and flawed, Spalding's book was nonetheless the first serious attempt at writing baseball's history.
Chief curator Daniel Piazza shares intimate knowledge, little-known facts and secrets about the stories told in “Baseball: America’s Home Run,” highlighting some of the spectacular objects on display, including discussions with key lenders to the exhibition on artifacts never-before displayed for pubic view.