The Baseball Reliquary Survived and Is ‘Better than True’

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

The artifacts are on mortgage from the Baseball Reliquary, an actual group mixing marvel 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, power 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 few years have been troublesome. 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 numerous 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, latest silence stoked concern that the Shrine of Eternals might 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 on account of technical difficulties, sprang again to life in early July. And the Shrine’s 2020 class might be inducted on Nov. 5 in a public ceremony on the Los Angeles Central Library’s Taper Auditorium that can coincide with the closing of the six-month exhibit the following day. That class — the broadcaster Bob Costas; Rube Foster, often called 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 dwelling. This is the Shrine of the Eternals, and the opposite two already are 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 1000’s of books, periodicals, journals, historic magazines, artifacts, authentic work and correspondence at the moment are 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 non secular research at Whittier, Price, alongside Charles Adams, a retired professor of English at Whittier, spent the pandemic organizing and cataloging the gathering of extra than 4,000 books in response to 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 through the years.

“Academy Awards are all the time received 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 lots of them are dishonorable characters. The Reliquary is about every little thing that is not a film star.”

Shelton and Cannon turned acquainted when every was concerned in experimental movie teams within the Los Angeles space within the Seventies.

“He was weirdly sensible,” mentioned Shelton, whose e book concerning 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 form 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 courtroom 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 acquired from Jackie Robinson praising his civil rights work that warned him that folks in and out of the sport would ultimately 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 “apparently” 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 seem in an MLB sport at 3 ft 7 inches? Eyes twinkling, Price permits that the provenance of a few of these gadgets “is definitely questionable.”

“You know what was actually laborious to seek out was a child-sized jock strap,” mentioned Mary Cannon, who added a couple 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 concept of them.

A visible so simple as produce from a grocery retailer is usually a highly effective drive 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 operating from third base into an out at residence plate. A distant nephew of Hall of Fame catcher Roger Bresnahan, Dave was ready for the runner with the ball at residence plate. He was promptly launched and by no means performed once more. In memoriam, Mary Cannon carved two potatoes — a minimum of one among 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 inside the baseball business, 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 bought the decision for induction in 2018.

“My husband, Joe, mentioned, ‘What is that this, some form of joke? A Baseball Aquarium?’” Faust mentioned. “I mentioned, ‘There’s nothing fishy about it.’ When I knew who was stepping 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 place Rusty Staub in earlier than you place 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 range 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 via our annual remembrance, we may 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, but it surely’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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