Last week, Barack Obama became the first sitting president to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, in Cooperstown, New York. He was photographed viewing an exhibit about Jackie Robinson.
Next month in Pasadena, Jackie's widow, Rachel Robinson, will be honored by what is a sort of West Coast version of the Hall of Fame. The Baseball Reliquary is a very different sort, in fact, one so unusual yet worthy that Northridge filmmaker Jon Leonoudakis was inspired to produce a 69-minute documentary to do it justice.
]Not Exactly Cooperstown is the result, and it screens as part of the Independent Filmmaker's Showcase Film Festival Sunday at BV Screening Rooms, 611 N. Alvarado St., at 8 p.m. Tickets are available online and at the box office.
Like the Baseball Reliquary, the documentary is a fun, at times whimsical (the unique rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” is worth the price of admission all by itself) look at the human side of baseball. Or as Bull Durham director Ron Shelton suggests, “that part of baseball in the culture that can't be quantified in some other way.”
The Baseball Reliquary is an entirely local traveling museum, with all exhibits and events being held in Pasadena, South Pasadena, Arcadia, Burbank and Pomona. In the film, executive director Terry Cannon notes that his unpaid labor-of-love project “was created to foster an appreciation of culture through the context of baseball.”
“Reliquary,” Cannon explains, is “a term that originated out of the Catholic Church,” and the Baseball Reliquary is “a place that would have those sacred artifacts … objects of wonderment that would create a lot of curiosity in baseball … not the kinds of things museums and archives generally have.”
Items in the collection featured in Not Exactly Cooperstown include a piece of skin from the inner thigh of alleged inventor of baseball Abner Doubleday, an official Charley Finley orange baseball, a box of Mother Teresa autographed balls, and a KC and the Sunshine Band broken record of “I'm Your Boogie Man” from the famous 1979 Disco Demolition Night.
Something called the “Babe Ruth sacristy” is included, as is one of the Babe's partially slugger-eared cigars. And talk about wonderment; look for a pair of red panties worn by Wade Boggs' mistress Margo Adams during a particularly hot run of hitting by the superstitious repeat batting titlist in 1986.
Players celebrated in the film include Jim Bouton, Bill Buckner, Doc Ellis, Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, Curt Flood, Minnie Minoso and Bill Lee, which should tell you a ton about the Baseball Reliquary, and about its big yearly event, the “Shrine of Eternals” ceremony.
This year's inductees are Dizzy Dean, Don Zimmer and Rachel Robinson. It is hoped that Rachel, who lives in New York where she oversees the Jackie Robinson Foundation, will be able to attend on what is the day after what will be her 92nd birthday, July 20, 2 p.m. at the Pasadena Central Library.
When asked what he most wanted understood about the project, Leonoudakis offered this: “That I wanted to make a baseball doc that was different and told from a fan's perspective. I got so tired of seeing the same Aaron, Ruth, Williams, DiMaggio and Mays highlights repeated ad nauseam. My take is fans are supposed to be the lifeblood of the game and yet they are always the odd man out (see Dodger TV matter).
“I consider myself a baseball documentarian. My quest is to tell stories about the human side of the game or those that fly under the radar but are the kinds of stories fans love to talk about, argue over, and laugh about with each other.”
Leonoudakis's next work, with the self-explanatory title The Day the World Series Stopped, has its world premiere on the 25th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake and Game 3 of the 1989 World Series, Oct. 14, 2014, at the San Francisco Main Library. The documentary includes original still photography and video taken by the filmmaker at Candlestick Park in the aftermath of the quake.
Cannon adds, “This summer we will be announcing that the Baseball Reliquary's substantial research collection will be housed in a Southern California college, and will be accessible to students, scholars and the general public.” Details are coming soon.
And remember, glove conquers all.
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