“Creating Baseball” looks at early U.S. baseball-themed stamps and the myths they reflect about the origins of the sport. The Centennial of Baseball stamp gave tacit federal recognition to the now-discredited claim that Abner Doubleday invented baseball in 1839 at Cooperstown, New York. Similarly, a 1969 stamp honoring Anna “Grandma” Moses shows “July Fourth,” her painting of a small-town Independence Day baseball game, reinforcing misconceptions about the sport’s rural American origins, when it was, in fact, a big-city game that evolved from British antecedents.
“We All Play Ball” examines baseball’s global spread in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. With modest equipment needs, baseball was played by American soldiers on military posts around the world and quickly adopted by local people. International baseball stamps will be complemented by memorabilia as well as military-issued equipment. Watching and playing baseball helped the Irish, Italians, Jews, Poles and other immigrant groups break down ethnic walls and show their determination to integrate into American communities. Europeans learned baseball in this country, but most Latino immigrants came already knowing and playing the game, making them one of baseball’s fastest growing audiences and comprising more than 25% of professional baseball players.
“The Negro Leagues” takes its inspiration from U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall, who described a passion for baseball as “a kind of citizenship perhaps more authentic than anything which can be on a piece of paper.” However, African Americans were denied the opportunity to play Major League Baseball until 1947, so they formed their own professional leagues and teams—in the process reaffirming their Americanness to a country that refused to acknowledge their equality.
“Legendary Playing Fields” explores the sense of community that accompanies the familiar surroundings of a favorite baseball park—whether it is a classic stadium like Wrigley Field in Chicago or a newer green cathedral such as Washington, D.C.’s Nationals Park. In the early years, stadiums were generally built on undesirable land in the worst parts of town. One of Washington’s earliest baseball grounds, Capitol Park, was located in an underdeveloped working-class Irish neighborhood dubbed Swampoodle for the tendency of its unpaved streets to flood. Coincidentally, this very plot of land is now the home of the National Postal Museum. “Baseball: America’s Home Run” explores the history of Capitol Park and other parks, including production material for the 2001 U.S. Postal Service’s stamp, Baseball’s Legendary Playing Field Issue, paired with signs, seats, architectural elements and other artifacts from the stadiums depicted on the stamps.