By Southwester Staff
As baseball season once again kicks off at Nationals Park, the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum has mounted a special exhibit celebrating the 150th anniversary of professional baseball.
The exhibition, titled Baseball: America’s Home Run, highlights connections between baseball and America’s national history, offering visitors the chance to examine the “mythologies of the game of baseball and the role postage stamps have played in creating and enforcing that mythology,” according to Daniel Piazza, chief curator of the museum.
Of the more than 60 baseball stamps issued by the United States since 1939, the majority commemorate individual players. Many of these postal portraits feature specially commissioned artwork designed to mimic the look and feel of classic baseball cards and recall players whose achievements on and off the field made them household names.
The display of original stamp art and production material from the Postmaster General’s Collection is paired with actual game-used artifacts as a powerful visual reminder that these players—whom most know of only from photographs and old footage—were once flesh and blood. The lives and careers of some of baseball’s greatest players, including those from the Negro Leagues, are examined through the postage stamps that tell their stories.
Uniforms and game-used bats of Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and other legendary 20th century players will be on display along with the original artwork commissioned by the U.S. Postal Service, which pictures various players along with the actual uniform they wore in the artwork, such as Jackie Robinson’s road uniform from the 1948 season.
These tributes are especially meaningful at the 75th anniversary of Robinson being called up to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 as Major League Baseball’s first African American player and the 50th anniversary of the death of Roberto Clemente, who was born in Puerto Rico and played 18 seasons at right field for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In addition to looking at who has played the game of baseball over the years, the exhibit looks at where the nation’s pastime has been played. 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.
The exhibit is on display through January 5, 2025 at the National Postal Museum, located at 2 Massachusetts Ave. NE, Washington, DC, across from Union Station.