Rosengren: The irreverent relics of the Baseball Reliquary

From SABR member John Rosengren at VICE Sports on August 26, 2015:

It’s hard to say where the Baseball Reliquary began. Maybe it started with a drop of Juan Marichal’s sweat or Bill Veeck’s autobiography. It might also have been a pubic hair purportedly belonging to St. Nick. Pinpointing its beginnings is as difficult as defining the Reliquary itself.

It’s been called “the fans’ Hall of Fame,” “the antithesis of Cooperstown,” and “the motherlode vein leading to the heart and soul of baseball.” It calls itself “a nonprofit, educational organization dedicated to fostering an appreciation of American art and culture through the context of baseball history,” but that doesn’t really capture the Reliquary’s unique nature. “It’s hard to categorize,” admits Terry Cannon, 62, a part-time librarian in Pasadena, California, who founded the Reliquary in 1996. “It’s an amazing living organism in all of the directions it has moved into, but it retains the vision I started with.”

Cannon’s vision, to create an organization that embraced his dual passions for art and baseball, has evolved over the past two decades into a nomadic Hall of Fame that celebrates all that is wacky and wonderful about the national pastime. It stages four to six annual exhibits, mostly in Southern California libraries, from its collection of artifacts, ranging from Eddie Gaedel’s jock strap to a portrait of Dave Winfield constructed with chewed bubble gum. The Reliquary counts 51 honorees in its Shrine of the Eternals, including expected mavericks like Bill Lee, Marvin Miller, Pete Rose, Jim Bouton and the San Diego Chicken as well as lesser-knowns such as Steve Dalkowski (the hardest throwing pitcher never to play in the major leagues) and Lester Rodney (the journalist who advocated for integration of organized baseball but was ostracized as a communist).

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Originally published: August 26, 2015. Last Updated: August 26, 2015.