Baseball players have been known to take curtain calls. The Detroit Institute of Art is doing the same thing, reprising its popular “Play Ball” series.
“Play Ball! Transforming the Game, 1876-2019” is the sequel to the successful exhibit held last year at Detroit’s venerable art museum, which was founded in 1885.
This year’s exhibit, which begins Saturday and runs through Sept. 15, will celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Detroit Tigers’ 1984 World Series champions, and also the 1887 Detroit Wolverines, the National League champions who defeated the American Association’s St. Louis Browns in a best-of-15 postseason series by a 10-5 margin. The Wolverines and Browns played in 10 different cities, and Detroit clinched the overall series after winning the 11th game of the tour.
Last year’s session celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Tigers’ 1968 World Series champions.
This year’s exhibition will be displayed in two galleries. The first one, called “Baseball from Recreational Game to Professional Sport,” covers the four decades from 1970 through the 1910s. It will feature the Wolverines, sections on the early history of baseball cards and Ty Cobb memorabilia.
The second gallery, called “The Reign of the Power Hitter,” covers baseball from 1919 to the present. The gallery continues to document the history of baseball cards, as it evolved from a novelty in a pack of cigarettes to packs of cards put out by Topps.
This year’s exhibition will again display the complete collection of more than 500 T206 cards from the collection of Rochester, Michigan resident E. Powell Miller and is noted for its superlative condition. Included in Miller’s set is a T206 Honus Wagner, his Joe Doyle “NY Nat’l” error card and a PSA 6 Eddie Plank. Miller’s complete T206 collection is ranked No. 5 in PSA’s set registry, with an set rating of 6.991.
The Detroit Institute of Art was founded in 1885. The museum includes more than 100 galleries, a 1,150-seat auditorium and a 380-seat lecture hall. The DIA covers 658,000 square feet and includes an art reference library.
Other pieces of memorabilia on display will include five handwritten scorecards kept by longtime Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell. A World Series program from the 1935 World Series between the Tigers and the Chicago Cubs — can you believe a program only cost 15 cents back then? — also will be on display.
The galleries will also feature “The Ball Players,” an 1877 painting by William Morris Hunt that is part of the museum’s permanent
collection; and the porcelain baseball vase, presented to the Wolverines after they won the N.L. pennant and then the postseason series against the Browns.
“The Ball Players” is notable because it was painted so early in baseball’s history and depicted three boys playing in a field. Hunt was an influential and respected painter from Boston during the late 19th century who drowned in 1879. As a proponent of the French Barbizon style of painting his work influenced impressionist painters who followed him. “The Ball Players” has resided at the Detroit Institute of Art for nearly a century.
“The Ballplayers”Baseball rose from the pastures to become an urban game, the “Play Ball” exhibit traces the link between the game and the fortunes of the United States during the 20th century. Both suffered growing pains but became stronger because of the adversity that was faced.