Baseball Americana Book Highlights History, Memorabilia

Collectors and fans have a new book to devour–just in time for October baseball.

The Library of Congress, home of the world’s largest baseball-related collection, has released a new book entitled "Baseball Americana: Treasures from the Library of Congress". The book is a 265-page, lavishly illustrated history of the national pastime, offering the history of the sport’s hardscrabble origins, rich cultural heritage and uniquely American character.

"Baseball Americana" draws upon images from the Library’s collections of prints and photographs, films, magazines, music, maps, rare books and manuscripts. Also included are items from the Veterans History Project collection, housed in the American Folklife Center. Through photographs, personal accounts, official games guides, newspaper accounts, films and memorabilia—including baseball cards—the book offer a first-hand look at the development of baseball from the late 18th century through the 20th century.

"Interest in baseball runs remarkably deep in America, shared by men, women and children of every race, religion, age, ethnic group, social and economic class," said author Harry L. Katz. "I wished to produce a book expressing through historical images the sport’s democratic origins and profound impact on American popular culture. I wanted readers to hear the crack of the bat, feel the dirt and smell the grass at the ball park."

Baseball historian and appraiser Frank Ceresi, Prints and Photographs Division digital image curator Phil Michel and Publishing Office writer-editors Susan Reyburn and Wilson McBee also contributed to the book, which includes a preface by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and baseball enthusiast George F. Will.

More than 350 images—many never-before published—chronicle the game’s venerable history. Among the Library’s treasures featured in the book are the first-known written reference to baseball, from the diary of New Jersey college student John Rhea Smith (1786); the first image of baseball printed in America (1787); the first dated baseball card, featuring the Brooklyn Atlantics (1865), a rare chromolithograph of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings; and a 1920s news service photo depicting Babe Ruth knocked unconscious in the outfield just minutes before continuing to play in a double-header.

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