The Baseball Reliquary Survived and Is ‘Better than True’

LOS ANGELES — Now on show on the Los Angeles Central Library by means of November in an exhibit entitled “Something in Common.” There is a San Diego Chicken costume, a half-smoked cigar from Babe Ruth that probably — 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 tasks was boundless. The nonprofit Reliquary was Cannon’s brainchild in 1996. Then got here the Shrine of the Eternals, a type of distant and mischievous cousin to the baseball Hall of Fame, in 1999.

The previous couple of 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 time of All Stars enjoying 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 is very much in 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 will likely 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 pause for practically two years.

“Fantastic,” mentioned Costas, who, like many others, assumed the Reliquary was misplaced to the pandemic. “But I’d better show up, because I’m the only one still living. This is the Shrine of the Eternals, and the other two already are in eternity.”

The Baseball Reliquary emphasizes the sport’s artwork, tradition and characters over statistics and is financed partly by a grant from the Los Angeles County Arts Commission. Its 1000’s of books, periodicals, journals, historic magazines, artifacts, unique work and correspondence now are housed at Whittier College’s Institute for Baseball Studies.

“Terry and I conceived and connived and advanced 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 Whitter, 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 accordance with 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 “might” 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 always won by movie stars, yet everyone else who carries their water and makes them look good — the character actors, are more interesting than the movie 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 certain way, the Hall of Fame honors the movie stars, though a lot of them are dishonorable characters. The Reliquary is about everything that’s not a movie 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 brilliant,” mentioned Shelton, whose guide in regards to the making of Bull Durham, “The Church of Baseball,” was revealed this month. “I use weirdly in the most positive way. He not only had his own drummer, he had a kind of vision that went with it. The Reliquary really is a work of imagination. The archive lives in your mind and sometimes in your heart.”

The Shrine’s inaugural class in 1999 included Curt Flood, who took M.L.B. to court docket to problem the reserve clause stopping participant motion; Dock Ellis, maybe greatest recognized 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 individuals in and out of the sport ultimately would flip towards him. Ellis was moved to tears. Afterward, 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 “reputedly” 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 individual to seem in an MLB recreation at 3 ft 7 inches? Eyes twinkling, Price permits that the provenance of a few of these gadgets “is certainly questionable.”

“You know what was really hard to find 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 stores to find that thing.”

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

A visible so simple as produce from a grocery retailer could be a highly effective pressure 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 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 — no less than one in every of which lives within the archives right here in a Mason jar.

“We didn’t realize formaldehyde would turn them dark brown,” she mentioned, including: “There are all of these wonderful stories but nothing there, so we tried to create tangible things for people to see.”

Even throughout 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 received the decision for induction in 2018.

“My husband, Joe, said, ‘What is this, some kind of joke? A Baseball Aquarium?’” Faust mentioned. “I said, ‘There’s nothing fishy about it.’ When I knew who was going in with me, I thought, ‘Wow! That’s some pretty good company.’ I felt honored to be remembered.”

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

“Rusty Staub’s a perfect one, right?” Costas mentioned. “He’s not quite a Hall of Famer, but he’s a significant player. There are other players who aren’t as significant, but you put Rusty Staub in before you put Chet Lemon in because 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 is also 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 people’s Hall of Fame, and inductions traditionally started with Terry Cannon leading the audience in the clanging of cowbells in tribute to Hilda Chester, perhaps the most famous fan in history.

As Cannon noted at the 2018 ceremony, Chester’s fame began to fade when the Dodgers left Brooklyn for Los Angeles and “while she may have died in relative obscurity in 1978, in our community of fans, Hilda is royalty. And through our annual remembrance, we can be assured that the final bell has not yet rung for Hilda Chester.”

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

“Then he would pause,” Shelton mentioned. “And say, ‘I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s better than true.’ That’s what the arts do. It’s better than true. And that’s where the Reliquary lives.”

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