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.
Of the more than 60 baseball stamps issued by the United States since 1939 the vast 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.
Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio was born in California to Sicilian immigrant parents.
He played 13 seasons at center field for the New York Yankees between 1936 and 1951 earning an All-Star birth every year and helping the team win 10 American League pennants and nine World Series Championships.
His most famous accomplishment however was his 56-game hitting streak in 1941 a record that still stands.
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.
May 3rd, 1936 was a cool rainy day at Yankee Stadium.
The indelible architectural landmark opened 13 years earlier in 1923 during the Yankees golden years under Babe Ruth.
Heavy clouds hovered over the arcade of ornate arches that encircled the interior edge of the park's roof.
And within the park's cavernous interior more than 25,000 fans, by far the largest attendance since opening day, braved the bad weather to witness the birth of a new era and megastar for the Yankees.
An astonishing portion of the crowd, wrote a New York Post reporter, was composed of strangers to sport mostly Italians who did not even know the stadium subway station.
The Bronx Bombers were batting against the St Louis Browns in the bottom of the first with Yankees runner on first and third a loud cheer echoed throughout the stadium as a rookie wearing number nine on his pinstriped home Yankee uniform, approached the batter's box for the very first time as a Yankee.
The 21 year old sensation was already being hailed as Babe Ruth's successor and he wore this uniform only during his 1936 rookie season including the World Series that year.
We all associate the number five with DiMaggio but throughout his entire 1936 rookie campaign DiMaggio wore number nine which appears in the back of this jersey in athletic felt, as well as in the collar area next to his name in pink thread which was once actually red in color but faded to pink due to the season's wear and contact with DiMaggio's sweat from his neck and of course from the impact of dry cleaning throughout the season.
After countless home runs hit by DiMaggio between 1939 and 1942, he doffed this New York Yankees cap to the cheering crowd when he crossed home plate.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said this about DiMaggio:
He was in a world by himself.
There was nobody who could take over a ballpark like he could.
If you told me in 1938 that I could be Secretary of State and I would be friends with DiMaggio, I would have thought the second was less likely than the first.
With DiMaggio at the helm, the Yankees seemed invincible.
They won nine World Series titles.
He won three American League MVP awards in 1939, '41 and '47 and he played in the All-Star Game in each of his 13 seasons.
This Bat was used by the Yankee Clipper throughout the 1937-38 and 39 seasons when he hit 346, 324, and 381, while helping the Bronx Bombers win three consecutive World Series titles.
The style of the center brand label and power rise stamp on the bat dates it to the 37-39 period.
The bat is also side written with DiMaggio's name and date of 1939 written in grease pencil on the side of the bat's barrel.
This means the bat was returned to Hillerich & Bradsby by DiMaggio in 1939 because he wanted more bats made with this bat same weight and length specifications.
Side written and vault marked bats are the most coveted by collectors as they provide the highest form of provenance and proof that the bat was actually used by the ball player, in this case Joe DiMaggio.
Jolten Joe's fame did not stop the federal government from targeting his parents as enemy aliens during World War II, depriving them of their livelihood and imposing a curfew on them.
Artist Khadir Nelson's portrait of DiMaggio on the 2012 commemorative stamp honoring him caused some baseball fans to complain that he was erroneously pictured as a left-handed hitter.
But the artwork is actually based on a photograph of his back swing.
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