Derek Gentile: Baseball in the Berkshires exhibit hits the sweet spot

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PITTSFIELD >> There are a lot of theories as to exactly where American baseball actually got its start. Cooperstown (the site of the Baseball Hall of Fame), New York City, somewhere in New England.

Well, first of all, I think the real answer is that baseball evolved from the English game of cricket, and that there were several variations that started up in several parts of New England and New York sometime in the 18th century.

But one of those places, I'm fairly sure, was Pittsfield. Witness the famous city ordinance prohibiting "base-ball" from being played too close to municipal buildings, passed in 1791.

For those who have any interest in local history and in baseball, I highly recommend the exhibit at Arrowhead, "Baseball in the Berkshires."

This is not just a plug because some friends of mine who worked on this. I took a tour last week and was genuinely impressed. And I don't impress easily.

I wish I had gone earlier, because I could have plugged it sooner. The exhibit, which is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday through Monday closes on May 2.

I think teachers should take students to see this. There are team photos of some of the tiny Berkshire communities like Becket, New Marlborough, Stockbridge and other small towns who fielded town teams in the late 19th and early part of the 20th century.

There are sections featuring some of the more prominent local Major Leaguers like Mark Belanger and Tommy Grieve. Steven "Turk" Wendell donated his Mets World Series uniform. Gene Hermanski gave the museum his Brooklyn Dodgers uniform.

And it turns out that former Wahconah Regional High School basketball coach Ed Ladley was quite a baseball player. He donated his shirt and warmup jacket from the Brooklyn Dodgers. (Ed didn't play for the Bums; he had a tryout with them.)

Speaking of Belanger, the museum has a trailer from a still-in-the-works documentary about Stick, as his Orioles teammates called him. It's pretty dang cool.

There is so much more, and some of it, I think, should be in the National Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

To all the folks I know who love the game, this really is something to visit. Soon.

On another sports note, I was saddened to hear of the death of Dwayne "Pearl" Washington of cancer at age 52. The Pearl was a decent NBA player, but he was a tremendous point guard in college at Syracuse University.

In an unofficial poll taken Wednesday night after hearing of his demise, my fellow hoop aficionados agree that in the 30-plus years of the Big East tournament in New York City, no single player electrified Madison Square Garden like Pearl.

He was deceptively fast, extremely strong on the drive and he had great body control. He had a way of sort of swinging his butt into an opponent as he was in midair driving to the hoop that enabled him to draw the foul.

There were better Big East players, like Patrick Ewing, Alan Iverson, Ray Allen and Chris Mullin, to name a very few. But for a few weekends every March that he was at Syracuse, the Pearl was wonderful.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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