Press contact: Audrey Fischer, Library of Congress (202) 707-0022; Barbara Teszler, Smithsonian Books/Harper (212) 207-7727
September 16, 2009
Baseball is Subject of New Library of Congress Publication
The Library of Congress, home of the world’s largest baseball-related collection, presents "Baseball Americana: Treasures from the Library of Congress," a lavishly illustrated history of the national pastime. From baseball’s biggest stars to sandlot street urchins, from its most newsworthy stories to Little-League games, the book tells the history of the sport’s hardscrabble origins, rich cultural heritage and uniquely American character.
Published in association with Smithsonian Books/Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, "Baseball Americana" draws upon images from the Library’s collections of prints and photographs, films, magazines, music, maps, rare books and manuscripts. Also included are items from the Veterans History Project collection, housed in the American Folklife Center. Through photographs, personal accounts, official games guides, newspaper accounts, films and memorabilia—including baseball cards—the book offer a first-hand look at the development of baseball from the late 18th century through the 20th century.
"Interest in baseball runs remarkably deep in America, shared by men, women and children of every race, religion, age, ethnic group, social and economic class," said author Harry L. Katz. "I wished to produce a book expressing through historical images the sport’s democratic origins and profound impact on American popular culture. I wanted readers to hear the crack of the bat, feel the dirt and smell the grass at the ball park."
Baseball historian and appraiser Frank Ceresi, Prints and Photographs Division digital image curator Phil Michel and Publishing Office writer-editors Susan Reyburn and Wilson McBee also contributed to the book, which includes a preface by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and baseball enthusiast George F. Will.
More than 350 images—many never-before published—chronicle the game’s venerable history. Among the Library’s treasures featured in the book are the first-known written reference to baseball, from the diary of New Jersey college student John Rhea Smith (1786); the first image of baseball printed in America (1787); the first dated baseball card, featuring the Brooklyn Atlantics (1865), a rare chromolithograph of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings; and a 1920s news service photo depicting Babe Ruth knocked unconscious in the outfield just minutes before continuing to play in a double-header.
To officially launch the book and celebrate the Library’s baseball holdings, the American Folklife Center and the Publishing Office will sponsor a "Baseball Americana" symposium at the Library Oct. 2-3, 2009. The event will culminate with a book-signing at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 3. The symposium is free and open to the public. For details and to register, go to www.loc.gov/folklife/Symposia/Baseball/index.html.
Harry L. Katz is the former head curator of the Prints and Photographs Division in the Library of Congress. His books include "Cartoon America" (2006), "Herblock: The Life of a Great Political Cartoonist" (2009) and a forthcoming book on Civil War drawings.
"Baseball Americana," a 265-page book with more than 350 images, is available for $29.99 from the Library of Congress Shop (www.loc.gov/shop/) or by calling (888) 682-3557. It is also available in bookstores nationwide and online.
Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov and via interactive exhibitions on a new, personalized website at myLOC.gov. These include "America’s Pastime: Historic Baseball Resources from the Library of Congress" at www.loc.gov/topics/baseball/.
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