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Original Issue

Treasure Trove

Mining the Library of Congress's baseball archives

There are enoughcoffee table books about baseball to clutter every piece of furniture in everyStarbucks in the country. So it's saying something that Baseball Americana isable to stand out. Of course, the book's authors were working with a decidedadvantage: Their material was culled from the Library of Congress's baseballcollection, the world's largest.

Since part of theU.S. copyright registration process involves submitting a copy of a work to theLibrary of Congress, the institution is home to a vast array of ephemera suchas advertisements, posters, comic books and baseball cards. So in addition tothat old coffee table standby, the candid photo of the ballplayer, Americanafeatures delightful obscurities such as the sheet music to I Can't Get to FirstBase with You, cowritten by Eleanor Gehrig for her husband, Lou. On the pagefollowing a black-and-white candid shot of Jackie Robinson in the Negro leaguesis a bright ad featuring Robinson shilling for Chesterfield cigarettes.

The material isarranged roughly chronologically, but it meanders when appropriate. (Afive-page digression on women's baseball is a highlight of the World War IIsection.) The result is a journey that shows how the game has influencedAmerican culture—pop and otherwise. Co-author Harry Katz, a former Library ofCongress curator, said his intention was to have readers "feel the dirt andsmell the grass." Mission accomplished: Upon putting the book down, fanswill likely be wondering where that grime under their fingernails camefrom.



CLASSIC Among the artifacts: a flypaper ad from 1870.


BaseballAmericanaby Harry Katz etal. (Smithsonian)