'Baseball in the Berkshires' exhibit to showcase memorabilia

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Photo Gallery | History of Baseball at Arrowhead

PITTSFIELD — Scorecards from the 19th century. Vintage uniforms. Signed baseballs. The rich and relevant history of baseball in the Berkshires will be on display at the Berkshire Historical Society's headquarters at Arrowhead beginning on Friday.

"Baseball in the Berkshires: A County's Common Bond," which will be on display until Monday, May 2, will showcase more than 280 items from 90 private collections.

Some of the more offbeat items include the toothbrush that Dalton native and former big league pitcher Turk Wendell used to brush his teeth between innings when he played in both the major and minor leagues.

Wendell, who was known for his quirks, used a toothbrush in the dugout to scrub the debris left from the black licorice he used to chew when he was on the mound. A sample of Wendell's black licorice also is part of the exhibit.

Items from women's baseball played at Miss Hall's School during the early 20th century also will be on display, said Peter Bergman, the Berkshire Historical Society's director of communications.

The society presented a small Berkshire baseball exhibit at Arrowhead last summer, but it was not as extensive as this one is.

"It came about because a couple of collectors approached us about showcasing items from their collections," Bergman said. "As far as I know, nobody (in the Berkshires) has ever looked at it like we will this year."

This year's exhibit, which takes up four rooms in author Herman Melville's historic home, is intended "to show the effect of baseball on the Berkshire County community and the effect of the community on the baseball here," Bergman said.

"The feeling of the creators of the exhibit is that the Berkshire community has been bonded together by the game of baseball," he said.

Berkshire County has been the scene of several baseball firsts. The earliest mention of the sport in North America was discovered in a 1791 Pittsfield town bylaw. It predates the previous earliest reference to baseball in North America by 32 years. A copy of the bylaw is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The country's first intercollegiate baseball game, a match between ancient rivals Williams and Amherst, took place at a field at what now is the corner of North Street and Maplewood Avenue in Pittsfield in 1859.

Baseball has also been played at the site of Pittsfield's historic Wahconah Park since 1892. The 3,100-seat ballpark, named to the state Register of Historic Places in 2005, is one of the few baseball parks with wooden grandstands that are still standing in the United States.

African-American baseball player Ulysses "Frank" Grant, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, was born in Pittsfield and raised in Williamstown. He was considered to be "the best ballplayer in the 19th century," according to Kevin Larkin, the author of "Baseball in the Bay State."

Items will also be on display from several county natives with connections to Berkshire baseball: Former Major Leaguers Tom Grieve and the late Mark Belanger; baseball scout Tom Mooney; and local baseball enthusiasts Tom McGrath and John and Kevin Kinne.

Items from David Ortiz, Ted Williams, Alex Rodriquez, Jeff Bagwell and Yogi Berra are also included in the exhibit.

"Baseball in the Berkshires" a book co-written by Larkin and Jim Overmyer, will accompany the exhibit.

Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 413-496-6224.

If you go ...

What: "Baseball in the Berkshires: A County's Common Bond"

When: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday-Monday, through May 2

Where: Arrowhead

Admission: Adults, $12; Under 18, $8


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