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Now batting at the Concord Museum: ‘The Art of Baseball’

Doris Kearns Goodwin is honorary curator of exhibit on America’s pastime

An oil on canvas painting by Edward Laning titled “Saturday Afternoon At Sportsman’s Park.”JOHN MAGGIOTTO

CONCORD — The Concord Museum is widely known for its collection of historic treasures, but now it’s hosting an entirely different kind of exhibition: artworks inspired by America’s pastime.

The Art of Baseball,” which opened Friday and continues through Sept. 20, fills the museum’s second-floor gallery with nearly 50 works — including sculptures, paintings, a weather vane, and a pillow sham. There are, too, a handful of Red Sox artifacts on loan from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum: the bat Jim Rice used to hit his 301st home run in 1984 (he would strike 382); a cap worn by Carl Yastrzemski; a catcher’s mask used by Carlton Fisk; and a glove that Ted Williams wore during the 1946 season.

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This is the first time the museum has hosted an exhibition solely devoted to a sport, said curator David F. Wood.

The decision to display baseball art didn’t exactly come out of left field. Most everything on display comes from the Gladstone Collection of Baseball Art, a private assemblage in New York that took more than 40 years to put together. The museum jumped at the chance to exhibit some of the Gladstone material. “We had the opportunity,’’ said Wood, “and it just made sense.”

If the display isn’t perfectly timed to match the flow of the baseball season, it’s close: It opened just four days after the season opener at Fenway Park, and will close on the eve of the final regular-season home stand for the Red Sox.

Wood called baseball Concord’s game as much as it is the country’s, adding that the sport maintains a universal appeal.

“It’s a pop culture phenomenon you don’t have to tinker with at all,” he said. (Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball’s new commissioner, apparently feels otherwise, and is trying to speed up the pace of the game, but that’s another story.)

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It should come as no surprise that a woman who is probably Concord’s best-known baseball loyalist , Pulitzer Prize- winning author and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, is serving as the exhibition’s honorary curator.

Raised watching and cheering for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Goodwin has been a Red Sox fan since the 1960s, and holds the honor of being the first female journalist to enter the team’s locker room. She attends games regularly at Fenway, and was there when the Sox clinched the 2013 World Series at home for the first time since 1918. “It was a great moment,’’ she said, “to win in our hometown.”

Goodwin called the museum a wonderful place that she’s become more involved with since her son, Michael Goodwin, a teacher at Concord-Carlisle High School, began collaborating with it in 2012 for his groundbreaking “Rivers and Revolutions” program.

“They knew, of course, my love of baseball,” she said, and she happily accepted the invitation to be its honorary curator.

Goodwin said before last week’s opening that she looked forward to viewing the Red Sox memorabilia, but most of all the artwork celebrating the game she loves.

On display will be a wooden bat with the word “tickets” prominently painted on it, used as a sign at a ballpark of yore. “You can hear the crowd when you look at that bat,” said Wood.

Other highlights include bronze sculptures of a pitcher (by Douglas Tilden) and a catcher (by William Zorach); “Man on First,” a 1948 oil painting by James Ormsbee Chapin depicting a runner taking a lead off first base; and an Edward Laning oil painting, “Saturday Afternoon at Sportsman’s Park,” showing an exuberant crowd at a 1944 World Series match between the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Browns — a rare occasion when two teams from one city competed for the title.

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Another item of note is a decorative pillowcase, circa 1907, portraying a young woman with a bat resting on her shoulder. She’s surrounded by illustrations of phrases familiar to baseball fans: “a safe hit,” “a star pitcher,” “the home plate,” and “right off the bat.”

Also on display will be three Red Sox championship rings on loan from Red Sox co-owner Theodore Alfond.

Leah Walczak, the museum’s director of education and public programs, said several special events are planned in conjunction with the exhibit. Outdoor screenings of baseball movies are in the works, as well as a sports memorabilia appraisal day with an expert from “Antiques Roadshow” on May 30; a women in baseball program on Mother’s Day weekend; a Father’s Day beer-tasting event; a vintage 1800s game; and a baseball trivia night, to name a few.

Walczak said, “We expect to welcome a lot of new visitors . . . at least we’re hoping to. It can’t help but be fun.”

The Concord Museum is at 53 Cambridge Turnpike in Concord. Admission for adults is $10, seniors and college students $8, ages 6 to 18 $5, and children under 6 free. Hours are Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in June, July, and August). For more information, visit www.concordmuseum.org or call 978-369-9763.

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For a roundup of baseball-themed programs and events the museum will be holding in conjunction with its show, go to www.bostonglobe.com/west.


Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter@emilysweeney.