for National Geographic News
Babe Ruth's bat is back in the Big Apple. So is Jackie Robinson's Dodgers jerseythe one he wore while smashing baseball's color barrier.
They're on display, along with "Shoeless Joe's" shoes and hundreds of other cherished relics of America's national pastime of baseball, at New York's American Museum of Natural History.
Nearly 500 objects from the permanent collection of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum are going on the road for the first time in an exhibition, Baseball As America, that will travel to ten U.S. cities over the next four years.
"This tour is really going to be great," Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson said during a recent interview in Washington, D.C. "I had a chance to see the exhibit and they must have really dug into the archives. I've never seen half of these artifacts before, and they are really incredible."
The exhibition offers a chance for people across the country to enjoy the rich legacy that has made a visit to Cooperstown, New Yorkhome of the Baseball Hall of Famea pilgrimage for 400,000 visitors a year.
Besides housing prized artifacts of the game, the museum is a gathering place for baseball's living legends. "I love going back each year, love seeing the guys," said Robinson. "There is no place more beautiful than Cooperstown, New York, in August."
Among the artifacts included in the road show is the so-called Doubleday ball, from baseball's first official game in 1839. But the Baseball As America exhibition is more than just a collection of historic balls and bats, because baseball has always been more than just a game.
The country and baseball evolved together, and the exhibit examines this linkthe shared history and culture, such as baseball's role in immigration, patriotism, and technology.
Baseball had been played in the United States for years before it exploded in popularity in 1855, beginning in the New York area and spreading throughout the country.
By 1860, the craze was so widespread that the famous lithographers Currier and Ives produced a print portraying Abraham Lincoln's 1860 presidential election as a baseball game and describing the event in the vernacular of the game. Lincoln was a ballplayer and ardent fan of the game.
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