One of the joys of studying history is stumbling across surprising stories. The tangents we go off on and the rabbit holes we fall down are what feed our curious minds. As the person who manages our social media, I’m delighted to be able to dive into these new discoveries on a regular basis.
On December 16, 2020 Major League Baseball (MLB) made an announcement that will literally change historical records: it is reclassifying the Negro Leagues as equal to the major leagues.
As most baseball fans know, the Cleveland Indians are battling right now for their first World Series title since 1948.
That 1948 team was stacked with future Hall of Famers: Larry Doby, Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau, Bob Lemon, Joe Gordon and Satchel Paige. But one Hall of Famer who wore the Cleveland Indians uniform in the first half of the 20th century doesn’t look natural in it at all.
Pittsburgh Pirates’ great Honus Wagner was known for his bat. Not just figuratively–he led the National League in batting eight times and finished with a .328 career batting average–but for his actual baseball bat, the lumber he gripped in his hands. He preferred a 33 inch bat weighing over 40 ounces, massive by today’s standards, with a thick handle and small knob.
Even on its surface, it’s a compelling photograph. The inscription dates the image to 1926, but even without it, one could guess the era: the sepia finish, the rugged faces, the fedora on one man, the flat “newsboy” cap on the other. Even the weathered faces and wood-slat barn suggest an earlier age.
The Jackie Robinson Scrapbook, recently digitized by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and HistoryIT, is a collection of photographs, newspaper clippings, and even baseball cards compiled by a fan, Jack Donovan, during Robinson’s career. Among the many illustrations is a photograph that is perhaps the most famous photos ever from a minor league game.
Baseballs, uniforms, gloves and bats—these are the types of artifacts that come to mind when thinking of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. But there’s another fascinating type of artifact that many people might not consider and haven’t been able to see: scrapbooks.
Today, when thousands of photographs and documents can be stored on our phone or on a thumbdrive in our pocket, it’s easy to forget the importance scrapbooks once had in preserving history. Photographs were difficult and expensive to obtain, and newspapers were bulky to store. If someone wanted to collect documents, newspaper articles, photos and other ephemera, the one of the best ways to compile them was in a scrapbook.