Chief curator Daniel Piazza shares intimate knowledge, little-known facts and secrets about the stories told in “Baseball: America’s Home Run,” highlighting some of the spectacular objects on display, including discussions with key lenders to the exhibition on artifacts never-before displayed for pubic view.
I'm Dan Piazza, curator of the National Postal Museum exhibition, Baseball: America's Home Run, on view until January 2025.
Join me for an inside look at some of the most exciting objects from this blockbuster show that explores America's national pastime through stamps, mail and memorabilia.
Manhattan's Polo Grounds was home to three New York baseball teams, the Giants, Yankees, and Mets.
It was the setting for several of the great moments covered by this exhibition including numerous Subway Series games and Bobby Thompson's 1951 Shot Heard 'Round the World.
Smithsonian Books author Stephen Wong, who also serves as honorary advisor and a major lender to, Baseball: America's Home Run, has a closer look.
One of the most extraordinary artifacts in our exhibition is the Polo Grounds home plate used
on the very last New York Giants game played at the Polo Grounds which took place on September 29th 1957.
As we all know, the Giants franchise would move to San Francisco the following year.
This is Jack O'Donnell holding the actual plate that you're seeing in the exhibition.
And, he was holding it after the game on September 29, 1957.
As soon as the last out was made, he and his three friends to which the ticket stubs of the four of them are actually affixed to the home plate, they stormed the field after the game and Jack O'Donald had the foresight to actually go straight to home plate and grab that home plate.
There's actually an image of him taken and was published in a book of him holding that home plate above his head on that very day.
And this is a beautiful thing because the not only that image but the fact that the tickets were actually affixed to it, you can identify exactly that home plate in imagery which means, it's a term that we use called photo matched, which in the world of baseball collecting, be it for game used equipments or stadium relics, is a critical important part of of the hobby.
When you can photo match an actual stadium artifact or a game used item like a bat or a uniform it's provenance and credence becomes that much more important because of the photo matching.
Imagine during the 1940s and 1950s how many millions of fans in the New York area took the subway to see a game at the Yankee Stadium, Ebbets Field, or the Polo Grounds.
This is something extraordinary to me because personally I still take the subway when I'm in New York City to see games, particularly going north to the Bronx to go to Yankee Stadium to see games.
And what's extraordinary about this particular artifact is the fact
that it still survived until today.
This was a part of the train, the top part.
It was affixed and the conductor of the train would obviously have a brass knob to which they would turn the knob and a different address destination would appear.
And obviously when it was going to the Polo Grounds the Polo Grounds words and address would appear on the subway sign as you see displayed in the artifact.
The word Subway is interesting too because when we think about it,
I personally thought about the Mets playing the Yankees in the World Series back in 2000.
And, you know I often, you know, was recalled the word Subway Series used throughout my childhood.
But it has his antecedents back really to the late 40s and the 1950s when the New York Yankees were either playing the Brooklyn Dodgers on so many occasions that fans did not actually have to take a flight to see the World Series they just took the subway.
Hence the word Subway Series.
Here's a fun fact, back-to-back World Series Championships in 1921 and 1922, both featuring the Giants versus the Yankees were played entirely at the Polo Grounds, something that's never happened before or since at any other park.
The Giants won both series.
The Polo Grounds was demolished in 1964, just shy of its 75th Anniversary.
It was commemorated by a stamp and postal card in the Legendary Playing Fields issue of 2001.
For more on the intersection of postal and baseball history visit the National Postal Museum exhibition, Baseball: America's Home Run, online at postalmuseum.si.edu/baseball