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Celebrating Burbank, the Browns, and Barnstorming Baseball

Burbank Central Library, 110 N. Glenoaks Blvd., Burbank, CA

The Baseball Reliquary travels to beautiful downtown Burbank with an exhibition entitled “Gone But Not Forgotten: Celebrating Burbank, the Browns, and Barnstorming Baseball,” to be presented at the Burbank Central Library, 110 N. Glenoaks Blvd., Burbank, California, from May 1-May 31, 2001.

This exhibition will focus largely on the St. Louis Browns, who conducted spring training in Burbank from 1949 to 1952, and will feature many historic artifacts from the Baseball Reliquary and private collections. Despite being considered one of the worst teams in major league history (in 52 seasons they had 3,414 wins and 4,465 losses), the Browns were a popular attraction in Burbank, drawing crowds of 2,500 to Olive Memorial Stadium, constructed by the city in 1946 and dedicated to the Burbank veterans of the armed forces who died in World War II. (The stadium was razed in 1995, but a monument and plaque were erected at the site in its memory.)

The people who packed tiny Olive Memorial Stadium in Burbank, California from 1949 to 1952 to watch the spring training games of the St. Louis Browns were an eclectic mix of baseball fans, retirees, workers on their lunch hour, and a bevy of movie stars and celebrities ranging from Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole to Marilyn Monroe and Ronald Reagan. Photo courtesy of the Burbank Historical Society.



In this 1952 photograph, St. Louis Browns manager Rogers Hornsby is welcomed to spring training in Burbank, California by Mayor Walter W. Mansfield (first right) and Al Rediger (second right), president of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce. Photo courtesy of the Burbank Historical Society.

The extraordinary career of Bill Veeck, who owned the Browns from 1951-1953, will be highlighted in the exhibition. The game’s enfant terrible, Veeck was a visionary and maverick baseball man whose promotions and innovations often infuriated his conservative fellow owners. Veeck’s legendary stunts included bringing 3’7” midget Eddie Gaedel to bat for the Browns in 1951, but he was also one of the first owners intent on breaking major league baseball’s long-standing color barrier. In 1947, he signed Larry Doby as the first black player in the American League, just weeks after Jackie Robinson’s historic first appearance with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Veeck was in the first class of electees to the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals in 1999.

The exhibition will also include relics from now-defunct barnstorming teams of the period from the 1920s through the 1950s, including the Zulu Cannibal Giants and the House of David. The Zulus conjured up the worst stereotypes of American blacks — playing barefooted and wearing tribal paints and grass skirts — but their unique mix of baseball skills and comedic theater found them in constant demand at ballparks throughout the country. The House of David was a religious colony in Benton Harbor, Michigan, whose barnstorming clubs regularly toured with and played against Negro League teams in the 1930s and 1940s. In this context, the all-white House of David may be considered one of the clubs that pioneered baseball integration.

Library hours for the month-long exhibition are Monday through Thursday from 9:30 AM to 9:00 PM; Friday from 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM; Saturday from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM; and Sunday from 1:00 to 5:00 PM.

For additional information, contact the Baseball Reliquary by phone at (626) 791-7647, or by e-mail at This project is made possible in part by a grant from the California Council for the Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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