Wild, weird side of baseball

BURBANK — A mask with a baseball still lodged in the face guard that was used by one-eyed umpire Max McLeary; Ron Santo's partially burned toupee; the costume head of the San Diego Chicken and a box of balls with the forged signature of Mother Teresa.

The items are only a small representation of the unique, interesting and often bizarre collection of memorabilia that is featured in the exhibition, "Not Exactly Cooperstown," that is currently on display at the Burbank Central Library. The collection will be featured in the library's entrance lobby until Sept. 29.

The exhibition is hosted by the Pasadena-based Baseball Reliquary, under the direction of executive director Terry Cannon. Cannon said his organization strives to stage displays that include memorabilia and baseball-related items that catch the attention of fans, even if they are a little off-beat like those featured in the "Not Exactly Cooperstown" collection.

"This is what we like to collect," Cannon said about the current display that is free to the public. "What's different about the Baseball Reliquary from other sports or baseball museums is that we look to collect what I like to refer to as curiosities or oddities; things that are kind of off the beaten path of collecting. But I like items like these because many of them are eye-catching and different."

Cannon said when the Baseball Reliquary puts on a collection, it isn't just a hodgepodge of items thrown together.

"Everything that we do collect, like these items, I like to make sure it's representative of an interesting story related to the game," he said. "The artifact then becomes a kind of way of illustrating a story."

Most of the items displayed in the "Not Exactly Cooperstown" display have separate signage cards that give information and background about the memorabilia piece.

Some of the other items in the collection include:

•A humanitarian award given to Ty Cobb, one of baseball's most caustic and continuous personalties.

•Pitcher Dock Ellis' hair curlers, which he wore during pregame workouts, and Joe Pepitone's 1960s Chic model blow dryer, as part of a salute to hair.

•Memorabilia from the House of David, a talented barnstorming religious team that was one of the first integrated squads.

•A psychedelic, peace-and-love jersey worn in 2010 by the Stockton Ports for a "Salute to the Beatles Night."

•Paintings depicting the most valuable baseball card in history, the Honus Wagner T-206 tobacco card, along with a selection of artist-designed and defaced baseball cards.

"One of the things about the Baseball Reliquary that I think is unique is that we span the gambit form the silly and irreverent to the scholarly," Cannon said. "And having the head from the suit of the famous San Diego Chicken really represents the fun side of baseball, which is all too lost nowadays on the game."

The Baseball Reliquary has been using the Burbank Central Library to stage its exhibitions for 10 years.

Library assistant Joan Cappocchi, who is in charge of programs and publicity for the facility, said the Baseball Reliquary's displays are always a hit with patrons.

"We always like working with the Baseball Reliquary because of their unique spin on baseball," she said. "There are some things that you just can't find anywhere. What they do bring attracts a lot of people to the library, people who might not normally come to the library."

Cannon pointed out that along with the exhibition, the Baseball Reliquary is working out the details for a program at the library, tentatively set for Sept 17. The program would include a panel discussion, a book signing and feature former baseball players.

Priding itself as a museum without walls, the nonprofit Baseball Reliquary travels across Southern California presenting exhibitions and programs in a variety of public settings.

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