Location: The Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art, American Wing, mezzanine
A selection of 60 baseball cards celebrating many of the athletes who broke the color barrier in American major league baseball is currently on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art. Drawn from the renowned collection of the Metropolitan Museum, the cards trace the integration of baseball from the late 1940s to 1961. Breaking the Color Barrier in Major League Baseball will remain on view through June 17, 2012.
The exhibition opens with a 1914–15 card of Branch Rickey (1881–1965) as a baseball player. Thirty years later, it was Rickey who—as general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers—signed Jackie Robinson (1919–1972) of the Negro American League’s Kansas City Monarchs to the Dodgers. The installation includes six Jackie Robinson cards. Among the other renowned athletes—all of whom began their careers in the Negro Leagues—are African Americans such as Larry Doby, Leroy “Satchel” Paige, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Ernie Banks, and Hispanic players such as Minnie Miñoso and Héctor Rodríguez. The exhibition ends with Elijah “Pumpsie” Green, who in 1961 joined the roster of the Boston Red Sox, the last team to integrate.
All of the cards come from the Jefferson R. Burdick Collection, the largest and most comprehensive collection of American trade cards ever assembled privately in the United States. Burdick (1900–1963), an electrician by profession, deposited more than 300,000 items at the Metropolitan between 1943 and 1963, including thousands of baseball cards, for which he developed a system of record-keeping that remains in use today.
The installation was organized by Freyda Spira, Assistant Curator in the Museum’s Department of Drawings and Prints.
Since 1993, in response to the overwhelming enthusiasm of young collectors and fans, the Metropolitan Museum has put on display groupings of several dozen baseball cards at a time, rotating them with other cards from the collection at six-month intervals. The installation of baseball cards has recently been moved to a prominent position in the Museum’s newly renovated Luce Center.
# # #
January 30, 2012