Published On: Mon, Feb 17th, 2014

Roles of Jews in Baseball history explored in new exhibit ‘Chasing Dreams’

PRESS RELEASE: There are people whose contributions to baseball history went far beyond mere batting averages or stolen bases. They didn’t just play the game, they changed the game. For generations of American Jews and other minorities, they served as athletic, cultural, and ethical role models. 

Hank Greenberg hitting a third inning homer against the Philadelphia Phillies, April 29, 1947 Donated by Corbis

Hank Greenberg hitting a third inning homer against the Philadelphia Phillies, April 29, 1947
Donated by Corbis

On March 13, 2014, just in time for the start of baseball season, the National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH) will open a groundbreaking new exhibition  highlighting these game changers and—just as importantly—the fans, ideals, and culture they inspired.  Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American is the first large-scale exhibition to use the story of Jews and baseball as an opportunity to highlight ways in which our national pastime is part of the history, and ongoing story, of how immigrants and minorities of many different backgrounds—including Italians, Asians, Latinos, African-Americans, and many others—become American, to feel a part of the society in which they might otherwise be on the margins. 

The exhibition is co-curated by Dr. Josh Perelman, chief curator and director of collections and exhibitions at NMAJH, and Ivy Weingram, associate curator.  It will be on view at the Museum through October 26, 2014.

With major support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, in close collaboration with Major League Baseball, and featuring important loans from the Baseball Hall of Fame, Chasing Dreams features more than 130 original objects, including game-worn uniforms, game-used objects, correspondence, newspaper accounts, board games, awards, baseball cards, signed baseballs, Jewish ritual objects, ballpark giveaways, stadium seats, Little League memorabilia, and more.

“Since the nineteenth century, baseball has been an exhilarating metaphor for America, a land of so much promise and opportunity,” says Perelman. “And for minority communities in this country, the sport has long served as a path to learning and understanding American values, representing a shared American identity and sometimes highlighting our differences. It is, in short, a mirror of America.”

Visitors to Chasing Dreams will explore baseball’s legends and myths, its heroes and flops, its struggles and its moments of triumph. The exhibition will celebrate well-known Jewish heroes such as Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax and iconic baseball pioneers like Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, Roberto Clemente, and Ichiro Suzuki, as well as baseball’s extended family of vendors, team owners, minor leaguers, amateur players, scouts, broadcasters, journalists, novelists—and especially, fans. 

Chasing Dreams explores how baseball has served as an arena in which values, identity, ethnicity, and race have been projected, contested, and occasionally solidified.  It poses questions such as: Why have so many immigrant groups and minority communities identified with, taken pride in, and felt connected to the nation’s pastime? Did baseball impact how American Jews established affinities with other racial and ethnic minorities? What does it mean that Jews consider Jackie Robinson to be one of their own heroes?

Chasing Dreams addresses these questions through the exhibition’s four key sections: Introduction to the exhibition and early baseball history, Shaping identity, Overcoming adversity and Family and Community.

The National Museum of American Jewish History is located at 101 South Independence Mall East at the corner of Fifth and Market Streets in Philadelphia. Museum hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, and Saturday and Sunday 10:00 am – 5:30 pm. NMAJH is closed most Mondays, including federal holidays and some Jewish holidays. Museum admission is $12.00 for adults, $11.00 for senior citizens and youth, free for children 12 and under, Museum Members, and active military with ID. For information on the Museum, the public may call 215.923.3811 or visit the website at NMAJH.org.

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