Sunday, November 15, 2009

Place No. 73: Baseball Reliquary; and Alternative Place No. 73A: South Shore Sports Legends and a Mets tragedy

I confess I had to look up “reliquary,” which the American Heritage Dictionary defines as “a receptacle, such as a coffer or shrine, for keeping or displaying sacred relics.”

We need to know this because Josh Pahigian takes us back to Los Angeles for The Baseball Reliquary or place No. 73 in his “101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out.”

Spread over several locations, the reliquary’s mission is to display objects “that more conservative, timid, or uninformed baseball museums have failed to bring to the public’s attention.”

According to Josh, the collection seems to run toward the scandalous, with items like thong panties worn by Wade Boggs’ mistress, a half-smoked cigar Babe Ruth allegedly left behind at a brothel and a signed record from “Disco Demolition Night.”

You can learn more about it here.

“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,” reads the organization’s Web site.

“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.”

Considering I once picked up some of Mike Schmidt’s lawn clippings, I suppose I can’t be hard on these guys.

I do like quirky little museums, so that takes us to:

Alternative Place No. 73A: South Shore Sports Legends display at the Indiana Welcome Center

You never know what you’ll find when you pull off the highway.

I had a mission while traveling back from Texas last month, trying to find postcards, key chains and a snow globe from each state I drove through, presents for my nephews.

Indiana was destined to be a challenge, since I’m only in it for the stretch from Chicago to Michigan City, and most places along that stretch offer souvenirs featuring the Windy City. Guess there’s not a huge demand for Gary snow globes.

But there is an elaborate welcome center in Hammond, partly shaped like a barn with a large exhibit space and a museum about John Dillinger, including his “death trousers.”

I have no interest in learning anything about bank robbers. They’re evil, like Yankees, but not as arrogant. And I was mildly offended to see photos of his corpse for sale in the gift shop near items from “A Christmas Story.” Ick.

And the key chain-postcard-snow globe selection was rather poor, too.
But I did wander over to a temporary exhibit called South Shore Sports Legends, saluting athletes from Northwest Indiana. There wasn’t much to it, other than a series of banners for each inductee and a small display case.

Among the 2009 inductees, I saw a baseball player in a Mets uniform, a blue batting practice jersey with the tail under the team name -- the short-lived style from the mid-90s – and pants with the racing stripes from the 1980s and early 1990s.

I had only a faint recollection of Tim Bishop, and was sad to read at the bottom of the banner that he passed away April 18, 1997.

It said he was one of only two players ever selected for state all-star teams in three sports, was selected by the Mets in the 1994 amateur draft, batted .325 for Kingsport in 1996 and that he played for Columbia.

A quick Google search revealed the rest of the story, and it’s pretty sad. In a New York Times story from June 1997, Buster Olney reported that Bishop and a Bombers teammate were driving home after a game was postponed.

A tire blew out and the car spun around into a highway passing lane. The players got out, but Bishop went back to turn on the hazard lights. As he was doing that, the car was struck by another car, throwing Bishop over the median and into the path of another vehicle. He was just 20.

Olney reported the Mets two months later asked for resignations from Bombers manager Doug Mansolino, pitching coach Dave Jorn and coach Tim Leiper.

Olney reports that a “high-ranking official in the Mets' front office,” told him the three men did not appropriately address whether players had been drinking on the team bus before the crash.

Frank Thomas, from the original Mets team, also is in the Sports Legends hall, along with baseball players from lesser teams, like Ron Kittle, Don Larsen, Kenny Lofton.

Sadly, the display was taken down this month and is looking for a permanent home. That’s a shame, because it will make it more difficult for fans to learn about player like Bishop. And I'd rather learn about people like him and Frank Thomas as I stretch my legs and buy a post card than some outlaw.


Anonymous said...

I wanna see the needle that Brian McNamee used to shoot up Clemens and his wife!!!

And if the Disco Demolition album was signed by Steve Dahl, instigator, I'm pledging total allegiance. Disco still sucks!!

Anonymous said...

By the way, that last post was courtesy of YKW, as if you didn't know.

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