National Postal Museum 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.
Lefty Grove was born into a Western Maryland coal mining family and played Sandlot ball before pitching 17 seasons for the Philadelphia Athletics and Boston Red Sox in 1939. Despite being just shy of his 40th birthday and one of the oldest players in baseball Grove was an American
League All-Star and earned run average leader. He attained his 300th win on July 25th, 1941, about two months before his retirement. One of only two dozen pitchers ever to reach that milestone.
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.
Lefty Grove's pitching motion was a spectacle to see and has been described as a combination of a St. Vitus dance and acrobatic stunt.
After swinging his arms back towards center field while bowing toward home plate, Grove stretches arms high above his head and raised his right foot in the air as he rocked backward until the knuckles of his left hand nearly brushed the mound.
He then came up and over with a big stride a fierce jerk of the wrist and a sweeping follow through.
Batters were confronted with a cross between a dipping oil derrick and a gyrating windmill, wrote Author Jim Kaplan.
Hall of Fame shortstop Joe Sewell described Grove's fastball as a flash of white sewing thread coming at you.
And sports journalist Arthur "Bugs" Bear wrote, that Lefty Grove could throw a lamb chop past a wolf.
In 1931, Grove was at the Pinnacle of his storied career.
He won the pitcher's triple crown for the second consecutive year.
In addition to finishing with a 31-4 record, he led the league of 175 strikeouts, 27 complete games, four shutouts and a 2.06 ERA which was more than two runs per game lower than the league average.
Legendary athletics manager Connie Mack remarked in 1931 that Grove is the best left-hander that ever walked on a pitcher slap.
He surpasses everybody I have ever seen.
He has more speed than any other left-hander in the game.
Grove wore this gray Philadelphia Athletics uniform during road games throughout the 1932 and 1933 seasons when he was still at the prime of his career.
He wore this cap during home games throughout the 1929 and 30 seasons when the Athletics won back-to-back World Series titles.
Grove retired from baseball in 1941 with a career record of 300 wins and 140 losses and a 680 winning percentage, the highest among members of the 300 Win Club.
He led the American League in strikeouts seven years in a row and in wins four times and had the League's lowest ERA nine times.
To create the 2000 Legends of Baseball stamp picturing Lefty Grove illustrator Joe Saffold worked from a black and white photograph taken near the end of Grove's career when he played for the Boston Red Sox.
Saffold altered the uniform to that of the Philadelphia As and in the process he painted Grove wearing a hybrid pair of stockings, a Boston pattern but painted in Philadelphia blue.
The panel of baseball experts that reviewed the Legends of Baseball series caught the error and the stockings were cropped out of the final design.
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