The Baseball Reliquary Survived and Is ‘Better Than True’

LOS ANGELES — Now on show on the Los Angeles Central Library by November in an exhibit entitled “Something in Common.” There is a San Diego Chicken costume, a half-smoked cigar from Babe Ruth that in all probability — possibly? probably? — was spirited from a Philadelphia brothel in 1924 and a baseball signed by Mother Teresa. The actual Mother Teresa? Well… possibly not.

The artifacts are on mortgage from the Baseball Reliquary, an actual group mixing surprise and whimsy with deep reverence. Its vibe lands someplace close to the intersection of Cooperstown and Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

The tales these gems inform belong to the ages — as now, poignantly, so does Terry Cannon, the mirthful, considerate, masterful doer whose curiosity, vitality and ardour for his initiatives was boundless. The nonprofit Reliquary was Cannon’s brainchild in 1996. Then got here the Shrine of the Eternals, a kind of distant and mischievous cousin to the baseball Hall of Fame, in 1999.

The previous couple of years have been tough. The pandemic hit, adopted by Cannon’s loss of life from most cancers in August 2020. Then a seismic retrofitting indefinitely closed the Pasadena Central Library, the place Reliquary members and followers gathered yearly to pay homage to inductees as wide-ranging and various as Jim Bouton (2001), Shoeless Joe Jackson (2002), Buck O’Neil (2008), Marvin Miller (2003) and Charlie Brown (2017).

In this baseball summer season of All Stars taking part in in Dodger Stadium and previous greats like Gil Hodges, Tony Oliva, Jim Kaat, Minnie Miñoso and O’Neil being honored in Cooperstown, current silence stoked concern that the Shrine of Eternals may need been eternally silenced.

“Absolutely not,” mentioned Mary Cannon, Terry’s widow and co-conspirator, noting the beginnings of a stirring comeback. “It could be very a lot within the works.”

The web site, darkish since January due to technical difficulties, sprang again to life in early July. And the Shrine’s 2020 class can be inducted on Nov. 5 in a public ceremony on the Los Angeles Central Library’s Taper Auditorium that may coincide with the closing of the six-month exhibit the following day. That class — the broadcaster Bob Costas; Rube Foster, often known as the Father of Black Baseball; and Max Patkin, the “Clown Prince of Baseball” — has been on hiatus for practically two years.

“Fantastic,” mentioned Costas, who, like many others, assumed the Reliquary was misplaced to the pandemic. “But I’d higher present up, as a result of I’m the one one nonetheless residing. This is the Shrine of the Eternals, and the opposite two are already in eternity.”

The Baseball Reliquary emphasizes the sport’s artwork, tradition and characters over statistics and is financed partially by a grant from the Los Angeles County Arts Commission. Its hundreds of books, periodicals, journals, historic magazines, artifacts, unique work and correspondence are actually housed at Whittier College’s Institute for Baseball Studies.

“Terry and I conceived and connived and superior that,” mentioned Joe Price, who accepted a request from Cannon earlier than his loss of life to take cost and steer the Reliquary ahead. With his infectious enthusiasm and impish smile, Price appears a pure alternative.

Now a professor emeritus in spiritual research at Whittier, Price, alongside Charles Adams, a retired professor of English at Whittier, spent the pandemic organizing and cataloging the gathering of greater than 4,000 books based on Library of Congress requirements.

Within is the place historical past and historic fiction playfully mingle. It is the place Moe Berg, the previous catcher who later served as a spy for the Office of Strategic Services throughout World War II, crosses paths with Chicago’s 1979 Disco Demolition Night — with keepsakes from every within the archives. Alas, the yukata jacket that Berg “would possibly” have worn in Japan and {a partially} melted vinyl document “allegedly” from Comiskey Park seem to have misplaced certificates of authenticity over time.

“Academy Awards are all the time gained by film stars, but everybody else who carries their water and makes them look good — the character actors, are extra attention-grabbing than the film stars,” mentioned Ron Shelton, who wrote and directed Bull Durham. Shelton inducted Steve Dalkowski, the inspiration for the film’s Nuke LaLoosh character, into the Shrine in 2009. “In a sure means, the Hall of Fame honors the film stars, though loads of them are dishonorable characters. The Reliquary is about all the pieces that is not a film star.”

Shelton and Cannon grew to become acquainted when every was concerned in experimental movie teams within the Los Angeles space within the Nineteen Seventies.

“He was weirdly good,” mentioned Shelton, whose e book in regards to the making of Bull Durham, “The Church of Baseball,” was printed this month. “I exploit weirdly in essentially the most optimistic means. He not solely had his personal drummer, he had a type of imaginative and prescient that went with it. The Reliquary actually is a piece of creativeness. The archive lives in your thoughts and generally in your coronary heart.”

The Shrine’s inaugural class in 1999 included Curt Flood, who took MLB to court docket to problem the reserve clause stopping participant motion; Dock Ellis, maybe greatest identified for claiming to have thrown a no-hitter whereas excessive on LSD however who was additionally a civil rights advocate; and Bill Veeck, the maverick proprietor who was a grasp showman.

At the ceremony, Cannon learn a letter Ellis had obtained from Jackie Robinson praising his civil rights work that warned him that individuals in and out of the sport would finally flip towards him. Ellis was moved to tears. Afterwards, he donated a set of his hair curlers.

Those are genuine, as is the burlap peanut bag that held peanuts “packed for Gaylord Perry’s peanut farm.” The vestry field “seemingly” utilized by a priest at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York to manage final rites to a dying Babe Ruth in 1948? The jock strap “purportedly” worn by Eddie Gaedel, the smallest particular person to look in an MLB sport at 3 ft 7 inches? Eyes twinkling, Price permits that the provenance of a few of these gadgets “is actually questionable.”

“You know what was actually onerous to seek out was a child-sized jock strap,” mentioned Mary Cannon, who added a number of touches to make it appear as if it got here from the 1951 St. Louis Browns. “We went to so many shops to seek out that factor.”

By definition, the phrase “reliquary” means “a container for holy relics.” To Terry Cannon and his disciples, extra vital than the precise authenticity of those “holy relics” is the: thought: of them.

A visible so simple as produce from a grocery retailer is usually a highly effective power to ignite the creativeness. As a prank when he was at Class AA Williamsport in 1987, catcher Dave Bresnahan heaved a potato into left-field throughout a pretend pickoff throw to trick a rival into working from third base into an out at house plate. A distant nephew of the Hall of Fame catcher Roger Bresnahan, Dave was ready for the runner with the ball at house plate. He was promptly launched and by no means performed once more. In memoriam, Mary Cannon carved two potatoes — at the least certainly one of which lives within the archives right here in a Mason jar.

“We did not understand formaldehyde would flip them darkish brown,” she mentioned, including. “There are all of those great tales however nothing there, so we tried to create tangible issues for folks to see.”

Even throughout the baseball trade, some are unfamiliar with the Reliquary. Nancy Faust, the retired Chicago White Sox organist who created walk-up music for batters, needed to look it up when she received the decision for induction in 2018.

“My husband, Joe, mentioned, ‘What is that this, some type of joke?’ A Baseball Aquarium?'” Faust mentioned. “I mentioned, ‘There’s nothing fishy about it.’ When I knew who was getting into with me, I believed, ‘Wow! That’s some fairly good firm.’ I felt honored to be remembered.”

Faust was inducted in 2018, together with Tommy John and Rusty Staub.

“Rusty Staub’s an ideal one, proper?” Costas mentioned. “He’s not fairly a Hall of Famer, however he is a big participant. There are different gamers who aren’t as vital, however you set Rusty Staub in earlier than you set Chet Lemon in as a result of Rusty Staub is ‘Le Grande Orange.'”

Dr. Frank Jobe, the inventor of the Tommy John surgical procedure, preceded the pitcher into the Shrine in 2012. There is a Spaceman (Bill Lee, 2000) and a Bird (Mark Fidrych, 2002). There can also be wealthy variety in Jackie Robinson (2005) and his widow, Rachel (2014), the primary feminine umpire, Pam Postema (2000), and a number of Negro Leagues representatives.

Bouton as soon as referred to the Shrine as “the folks’s Hall of Fame, and inductions historically began with Terry Cannon main the viewers within the clanging of cowbells in tribute to Hilda Chester, maybe essentially the most well-known fan in historical past.

As Cannon famous on the 2018 ceremony, Chester’s fame started to fade when the Dodgers left Brooklyn for Los Angeles and “whereas she might have died in relative obscurity in 1978, in our neighborhood of followers, Hilda is royalty. And by our annual remembrance, we could be assured that the ultimate bell has not but rung for Hilda Chester.”

Nor, because it seems, has it for the Reliquary. To Shelton’s reminiscence, it was the poet WD Snodgrass who, when talking, would typically inform his viewers that each time he tells a narrative, it is true.

“Then he would pause,” Shelton mentioned. “And say, ‘I do not know if it is true, nevertheless it’s higher than true.’ That’s what the humanities do. It’s higher than true. And that is the place the Reliquary lives.”

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