The Skirball Cultural Center will host the exhibit “Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American” from April 7 to October 30.
The exhibit will highlight people of diverse minority backgrounds who were role models on and off the field. Players highlighted in Chasing Dreams include Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, and Fernando Valencuela.
The Chasing Dreams exhibit originated at the National Museum of the American Jewish History located in Philadelphia. The exhibit was created to display the involvement Jewish people in baseball.
The exhibit has expanded to focus on the history of baseball in California for the Skirball Center. Researchers pulled and featured 130 original artifacts in Chasing Dreams, including baseball uniforms, awards, baseball cards and footage.
“From that idea, to explore the intersection of Jews and Baseball, (then) came this broader exhibition which looks at baseball as a lens into American identity, the highlights triumphs and trials,” said Cate Thurston, assistant curator at the Skirball. “It examines the way that different groups of people have used baseball as a tool to both acculturate to America, but also preserve their own ethnic and cultural identities,”
Among the artifacts featured in the exhibit are a photo of Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella, Hank Aaron’s 1965 Milwaukee Braves home game jersey and hair curlers worn by pitcher Dock Ellis.
“Dock was very fashionable and he wore hair curlers on the field because he had a perm,” Thurston said. “The commissioner of baseball told him he couldn’t do this and Dock removed them, but he was quick to point out that they let [an] Italian American player wear a hair piece but they wouldn’t let him—an African American man—wear curlers not during a game, in a pre-game warm-up.”
Curators also created a giant graphic timeline that spans from the 1850’s to present day in order to show both professional and amateur baseball teams.
California also had many cultural baseball teams in the past.
“That didn’t exist in other parts of the country, which really elevated play, really excellent baseball even though they’re amateur teams,” Thurston said.