Take me out to the ball game
Take me out with the crowd
Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks
I don’t care if I never get back
And so begins the chorus of the iconic song about the old American game of baseball. You’ll be humming the tune along to yourself once again as you walk through the inspiring exhibition Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American. Hosted by the American Jewish Historical Society in downtown Manhattan, Chasing Dreams is a wonderful little exhibit that focuses on baseball’s influence on American culture and identity.
This pop-up exhibition was developed by Philadelphia’s National Museum of American Jewish History and features an array of historic photographs, memorabilia, films, and an interactive card database. Exceptionally curated, Chasing Dreams is the exhibit New York has been waiting for to connect our favorite sport with what it means to be an American. The exhibit features not only Jewish ball players but the iconic, history-making ball players like Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio and Katie Kasey. If you’re a history buff and baseball fan, head to the AJHS to see what you really know.
With a simple layout and pleasing blue and white wall and text colors, the exhibition is designed to show off the historic photos and memorabilia that identify the diversity of American ball players from the early 20th century on. Wall labels identify seven different themes: Nice Jewish Boy, Great Pitcher; Everybody’s Playing It; A Baseball Song; Hammerin’ Hank and Joltin’ Joe; Heroes & Hurdles; Role Models; and The Family That Plays Together, Stays Together. Within each theme, a life-sized image of an iconic ball player or historic shot draws you in, and small vignettes offer greater insight – and photos, advertisements or newspaper clippings – to give you some extra little baseball history you may not have known.
Here’s a glimpse into the facts:
- Italian Joe DiMaggio and Jewish Hank Greenberg put their baseball careers on hold during the World War II years in order to offer their services on the battlefield
- Jewish Sandy Koufax sat out Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because the day fell on Yom Kippur
- Justine Siegal is the first Major League female coach
- Many Jewish ball players changed their last name from Cohen in the face of rising antisemitism
Another fact? The original lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” are probably not what you know them as. The words, written by Jack Norworth and set to music in 1908 by Albert Von Tilzer (Gumbinski). The sheet music is on display in the exhibition:
Katie Casey was baseball mad,
Had the fever and had it bad.
Just to root for the home town crew,
On a Saturday her young beau
Called to see if she’d like to go
To see a show, but Miss Kate said “No,
I’ll tell you what you can do:”
Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd;
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don’t care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don’t win, it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out,
At the old ball game.
Katie Casey saw all the games,
Knew the players by their first names.
Told the umpire he was wrong,
Good and strong.
When the score was just two to two,
Katie Casey knew what to do,
Just to cheer up the boys she knew,
She made the gang sing this song:
You’ll discover so much about America’s sport in this one small exhibition! The AJHS itself is thrilled to host this pop-up exhibition. Executive director Rachel Lithgow comments, “This is a great opportunity for us to work with our friends and colleagues from NMAJH while highlighting the gems of our baseball and sports archives here at AJHS. With the baseball season back in full swing, this is the perfect exhibit for us this time of year.”
Some of the memorabilia on display from the AJHS’s own collection include a Koufax game-worn Dodgers jersey, a Greenberg autographed 1945 game-used Tigers jersey and bat, a photo of Greenberg with boxing champion Joe Louis, a scorecard belonging to backup catcher turned World War II spy Moe Berg, and a ball signed by Thelma “Tiby” Eisen, an all-star in the All–American Girls Professional Baseball League.
There is a great family guide to the exhibit as well as educator’s guides, plus a touchscreen database of cards featuring Jewish baseball players from the 19th century through today, and a collection of short original films featuring historic game footage and interviews with baseball executives including those from the Yankees and Mets, as well as fans.
The exhibition will be open through July 31 – perfect timing for baseball season. The AJHS is located on West 16th Street and “is the oldest ethnic, cultural archive in the United States.” If you’re looking for records of original Jewish history, writings, artifacts, and other items, the AJHS is the place to go.
Stop by the AJHS to see Chasing Dreams and you’ll be heading to your own ball game in no time!