edited with respect and care by Kaden
Written by Lucille T. Lasky-Nuzzi
On May 3, 2002, my nurse co-workers had thrown a surprise 50th birthday party for me and had gifted me a goodly amount
of cash, their intention being that I would use the proceeds for tickets to see my beloved Yankees play. That would have been
a perfect plan, except Yankee tickets are impossible to come by. My husband, who works in Manhattan, had seen an advertisement
on the subway for the Baseball as America exhibit [at the American Museum of Natural History] and, upon telling me about it,
I knew I needed to visit this exhibit. I decided to use some of my "found" money and off we went that Wednesday [May 8], my
husband, Joseph, our teenaged son, Joey, and myself.
Living in New Jersey less than 20 miles south of Manhattan and having been born and raised in Greenwich Village, I have
had no fear of going to the city and have visited it many times since September 11, but this was the first time we drove in
since then (all my other treks in had been by train). This driving was a shock--the traffic was "good Jersey traffic" and
the Lincoln Tunnel was surprisingly devoid of its usual 30-minute backups. We actually made it through the tunnel from our
home in less than 30 minutes, unheard of during the rush hour (we have left home shortly before 7 A.M.).
. . .
At 9 A.M. or so we hopped on the subway for a quick nonstop ride straight to the museum (it has its own subway stop). It
was still quite early so we walked up and down the lovely, quiet residential area of Central Park West and took in the sights
of the beautiful park and the gorgeous artwork of the apartment buildings in this upscale neighborhood of the city.
. . .
[When it opened at 10:30] it was time to enter the massive museum--the doors wide open to the most elegant, huge lobby,
home to the famous dinosaurs. Security was extremely tight and we all had to have our pockets emptied and our bags searched,
plus we went through a metal detector, airport style.
The museum is not an inexpensive outing by any means. They give three "options," A, B, and C. For our purposes, C was the
best choice, as our main focus was the baseball exhibit. This option cost $41 for three and included general admission, the
Rose and Planet Center, and Baseball as America. A very kind volunteer guide directed us to the right elevator and suggested
we spend the morning at Baseball as America, then have lunch, then tour the rest of the museum. We took her advice and off
we went to the third floor to the "main event."
As the building is huge and can be confusing, they have ingenuously placed a series of colorful baseballs on the floor,
and this path leads directly to the Baseball as America exhibit. At the entrance, you must present your tickets, and they
encourage you to watch the short video (7 minutes) before entering the main hall. I did watch the video, but my husband and
son decided to skip it and proceeded directly to the main exhibit hall.
As my main purpose was to see anything Lou Gehrig related, I stopped to inquire at the ticket booth if I should approach
any specific area. This young lady was not helpful at all, so I decided to take things into my own hands and just see every
We really lucked out because Wednesday is not a big day for school field trips (and being early [helped]); there were only
a handful of people, which meant we had the whole place to ourselves. One very nice surprise was that they actively encourage
picture taking and videotaping! (I had left my camcorder home, thinking it wouldn't be allowed, but my husband had our [35mm]
camera at the ready).
As I approached the long entrance hallway lined with exhibits on both sides, I noticed my husband frantically pointing
to a window about 100 feet ahead of me. I couldn't imagine what was so important, but I went to that window and, lo and behold,
it was the original box housing the First Reel of Pride of the Yankees, addressed to Mrs. Gehrig at "the estate's" Park Avenue office. Out came the camera and a good feeling came over me that
this trip was going to be well worth it.
I cannot emphasize enough that this whole traveling exhibit is amazing. I was in all my glory. I took in each piece with
a reverence usually reserved for church, state functions, and funerals. I, having seen a television program on the exhibit,
was (other than the Gehrig things) especially interested in a scrapbook two brothers had put together in the early part of
the last century--it was just wonderful. The baseball found at Ground Zero sent chills through me and [brought me] to tears
(my husband came home safe and sound from the American Express building that hellish day). The hate letters to Hank Aaron
drew from me a visceral anger, in seeming that someone could smear an American icon in such a hateful manner. So un-American,
so shameful; not a pretty chapter in baseball lore.
If I thought all that was emotional enough, I was mistaken. I came upon a young California man who told me he was born
and raised in the same town as George Brett and was at the exhibit feeding his Brett obsession by videotaping anything Brett
related, including the famous pine tar bat. I told him about my idol, Mr. Lou Gehrig, and he pointed me in the direction of
the "Lou Gehrig corner."
This corner far exceeded my hopes. As you enter the room, you are greeted by a continuously running tape of Mr. Gehrig's
farewell speech. They call it the "saddest day in baseball." The exhibits were perfect. Wonderful pictures of Lou and, to
my everlasting joy, the two pieces I've always wanted to see were right there in front of me.
First, the beautiful Trophy Presented to Lou by his Yankee teammates on that same sad day [as his farewell speech]. It is said that he cherished this trophy more than
any other because it came from his co-workers and the poem by John Kieran [inscribed on the trophy] is famous now. More tears
The other piece that took my heart is The Bracelet Lou had specially made for Eleanor on one of their wedding anniversaries (they sadly didn't have many). This piece of jewelry
is astounding for all his reputation as a tight-fisted with money; he spent plenty on this, no doubt about it. I, personally,
am not a "jewelry person" so for me to say this piece did me in is saying a lot. It is gorgeous and very meaningful--all his
Yankee career awards are represented in that bracelet, truly heartfelt.
If he thought this up himself, which I have no reason to think he did not, he had quite the romantic side to him. As a
wife I can say Eleanor must have been the most important person in his life, and she was quite a lucky lady.
The pictures were being snapped at a quick pace at this point, and I roamed through all the exhibits a few more times (meeting
up with the Brett fan quite a few times). But I kept returning to the Gehrig corner time and time again.
I must not lessen the scope of the rest of the exhibit by my Gehrig interest. The entire Baseball as America exhibit transformed
me into a dream world of which I thought only Yankee Stadium or Cooperstown were capable. Being a historian at heart, the
entire experience was exhilarating. I had my reservations going in, especially at the high prices, but now I would recommend
to all that when this exhibit comes to your town queue up quickly. It is not to be missed.
The Baseball Hall of Fame and the American Museum of Natural History have done an outstanding job in putting this "road
show" together; no detail has been left unattended, including that the entire luncheon menu is all ballpark food. Of course,
I had a "New York Deli Dog," but every major league town is represented in the extensive menu.
Just amazing! So much fun, so memorable--a wonderful day I will never forget and I am hoping to visit the exhibit again
before it hits the road to its next destination.
As Charlie Steiner so aptly put it, "Baseball as America could have just as easily been called Baseball is America."