“There is no room in baseball for discrimination. It is our national pastime and a game for all.” _ Lou Gehrig
Baseball, America’s pastime, explore is legends and myths, its heroes and flops its thrills and chills, its struggles and its moments of triumph. Meet super star players Hank Greenberg, Sandy Koufax, Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Fernando Valenzuela, and Ichiro Suzuki who didn’t just play the game of but changed it, and American life. These players served as athletic, cultural and ethical role models. Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American at the Skirball Cultural Center celebrates and pays tribute to the sport as a unifying force in American life and the remarkable players who achieved so much more than batting averages and stolen bases.
The exhibition is the stuff of American dreams. It’s about being the best you can be no matter what you are pitched. It’s about overcoming adversity, it’s about belief. It’s about our history as a nation; it’s about players who demonstrate their skills on the field while distinguishing themselves with their blend of patriotism and cultural pride. It’s about breaking down barriers, racial, religious and social. We meet men of conviction, Sandy Koufax, whose unparalleled athleticism yielded millions of flashbulb memories and whose decision not to pitch the first game of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur unexpectedly made him a hero. We meet Moe Berg, who was not only a MLB catcher but also a spy for the United States government
We learn abut two women who challenged and broke down the gender barrier, Justine Siegal, the first woman to throw batting practice in a major league spring training camp, and Thelma “Tiby” Eisen of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, who proved that women could play at a competitive level.
Using baseball as a lens through which we can view, learn and understand the values of a rapidly changing nation the exhibit takes us through the history of the sport beginning with the Civil War era and continuing to the present day. The exhibition looks at how baseball has served as an arena in which values, identity, race, and ethnicity have been projected, contested and occasionally solidified. We learn how the once all white sport became integrated with the emergence of Jackie Robinson. How fans learned to sit together, share a common passion, cheer a player based on performance rather than color.
Chasing Dreams is the first large-scale exhibition to illustrate America’s national pastime as a pathway for immigrant and people of all races and religions to become American. “Chasing Dreams weaves together baseball history with stories of immigration and integration into American life,” explains Robert Kirschner, Skirball Museum Director. “It illustrates what it is about the game that has resonated so deeply with diverse immigrants and minorities since the nineteenth century—whether on the field or in the stands—helping them to navigate American culture, connect to the nation’s collective values and traditions, and feel at home in American society. We hope that it will deepen our visitors’ appreciation of the role that baseball has played in furthering equality and social justice.”
Along with more than 130 original objects, including game –worn uniforms, films, awards, and signed memorabilia,the gallery also provides opportunities for interactive fun. Visitors can stare down baseball’s heaviest hitters in “Catching History,” a simulation game created specifically for the exhibition in which they “field” balls and learn facts and trivia for every play. An interactive, touch screen database entitled “People of the Game” provides encyclopedic information on approximately 200 Jews in the major leagues—each represented by a baseball card, along with biographical and statistical data—plus the opportunity to build one’s own virtual “dream team.” Finally, a major interactive station invites visitors to don a reproduction Sandy Koufax jersey, step onto the mound, and try their hand at pitching like the indomitable Dodgers’ ace.
Chasing Dreams will be complemented by the companion exhibition The Unauthorized History of Baseball in 100-Odd Paintings: The Art of Ben Sakoguchi, featuring the work of renowned Los Angeles artist Ben Sakoguchi (b. 1938). Through a series of colorful, captivating, and often provocative paintings, the artist portrays true stories of baseball players and communities that have been overlooked, forgotten, or misrepresented.
During the run of the two exhibitions, the Skirball will present several related public programs, including outdoor screenings of baseball favorites from recent decades, such as The Sandlot and Field of Dreams, as well as Tuesday matinees of 1940s and 1950s baseball classics, such as The Stratton Story and Take Me Out to the Ballgame. There will be baseball themed comedy shows at a special UnCabaret comedy night.
Especially designed for families, the Family Dugout will offer children and adult museumgoer’s a relaxing place to spend time together and share baseball memories. At the Skirball’s annual summertime museum sleepover, baseball-inspired activities and an after-hours visit to Chasing Dreams will keep families busy overnight.
Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American – April 7-October 30
The Unauthorized History of Baseball in 100-Odd Paintings: The Art of Ben Sakoguchi April 7 – October 2
Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90049
Free on-site parking; street parking strictly prohibited.