The Baseball Reliquary was founded
in 1996 by Terry Cannon as a nonprofit, educational organization. As described in the
Articles of Incorporation, the Baseball Reliquary’s primary mission is "to foster an
appreciation of the historical development of baseball and its interaction with American
culture by the preservation and exhibition of artifacts related to the National
Pastime." Its collections specialize in objects which more conservative, timid, or
uninformed baseball museums have failed to bring to the public’s attention. In its concern
for the significant and the trivial, the timeless and the ephemeral, the celebrated and
the obscure, the Baseball Reliquary fills a void in the National Pastime’s community of
museums and archives.
Whereas the sine qua non of
most baseball museums are bats, balls, and gloves, the Baseball Reliquary has pursued a
more visionary acquisitions policy, which has resulted in many extraordinary discoveries.
While each artifact is approached with meticulous scholarship and veracity, the ability of
an object to invoke a sense of wonderment in, and to inspire the imagination of, the
viewer is of supreme importance.
The Baseball Reliquary’s
collections chart an eclectic terrain, and it is the purpose of this guide to introduce
the public to the scope of materials that have been procured. We are indebted to Larry
Goren for photographing the artifacts which appear on the following pages.
The nonpareil of the Baseball
Reliquary’s artifacts is a mid-19th century soil sample from the legendary
Elysian Fields, which was acquired in July 1997 from Gerald H. Orr of Reading,
Pennsylvania. In the coming years, the soil will no doubt be viewed as one of the world’s
most sacrosanct baseball relics. Its historic significance will surely rival the National
Baseball Hall of Fame’s so-called "Doubleday baseball", although the soil sample
comes with a legitimacy and documentation sadly lacking in the Cooperstown museum’s crude,
On June 19, 1846 at Elysian Fields
in Hoboken, New Jersey, just a short ferry ride from Manhattan, the first baseball game
ever played between two organized teams was held. Alexander Cartwright’s Knickerbocker
club took on a team called the New York Nine. The game, which was played under the first
written rules of modern baseball, lasted four innings with Cartwright’s team losing by the
score of 23 to 1. Although much refinement and evolution would come, this historic outing
embodied many of the essential features of the game as we know it today.
Comprising five acres of
meadowlands overlooking the Hudson River, Elysian Fields was a baseball mecca in the
1840s, ’50s, and ’60s, and all of the great early teams played there, including the
Atlantic, Excelsior, and Eckford clubs of Brooklyn and the Gotham, Eagle, Empire, and
Mutual clubs of New York.
The entire text of Gerald H. Orr’s
letter to the Baseball Reliquary, dated July 13, 1997, is reproduced on the following
page, as the details of the origin of the soil taken from "the birthplace of modern
baseball", and its miraculous preservation for nearly a century and a half, add
considerably to the sanctification of this relic.