Your weekend: Alameda Sports Exhibit
The Second Annual Alameda Sports Exhibit opened at the Alameda Museum this week. Co-sponsored by the museum and curated by Alamedans Dewey St. Germaine and Brian McDonald, it features a collection of sports memorabilia that documents over 100 years of the Island’s sports history, from golf and rowing to the big three (baseball, basketball and football).
The exhibit highlights the accomplishments of athletes who were either raised, lived for a time, or attended high school in Alameda. Featured are a Dick Bartell 1933-34 Louisville Slugger game-used bat, Willie Stargell 1976 Bicentennial game-used bat, a 2009 Jimmy Rollins World Series game-worn road jersey, and an Isaiah Rider Minnesota Timberwolves rookie uniform. Former Encinal Jet Junior Tautalatasi’s 1989 Dallas Cowboys game-worn jersey is also on loan for the exhibit.
An expanded college athletes section rounds out this year’s display selection.
Alameda has a long tradition of fostering youth sports, both through its parks and recreation leagues and at its high schools, with the perhaps predictable result that many young players growing up on local fields, courts and diamonds would nourish hopes of major league careers, and some would actually achieve them. Visiting it is an inspirational detour, and one likely to score points with a young slugger or hoopster with such star aspirations.
There are the requisite card collections, including ones featuring former Hornet Chris Speier and Encinal Jet Tommy Harper, and a small but proud wall of Sports Illustrated covers featuring, among others, St. Joseph Notre Dame’s former Pilot and 1992 graduate, Jason Kidd. Young ball players will likely get a kick out of Dontrelle “D-Train” Willis’s Alameda Little League player card, and secretly hope to have a real pro one someday, too.
While Stargell, Kidd, Rollins, and Willis are names familiar even to the most sports-challenged, many more Island-grown athletes thrived in college, minor or semi-pro leagues – or simply had a ball playing ball – and items documenting the solid tradition of support for local sport are distributed nicely among the exhibit. The quaintest are two framed, heather-colored wool baseball jerseys, circa 1931-1937, with Hayashi Florist and Alameda Kono logos on the front, which curator St. Germaine discovered in a neighbor’s basement when he was a kid. Hayashi Florist (the precursor to Towata’s Flowers, an Alameda landmark which only closed its doors last year) sponsored semi-professional teams in Alameda in the ’20s and early ’30s, and the Kono jersey was worn during exhibition games the team played in Japan in 1931. The jerseys’ home-grown flavor stands in nice contrast to the more recent collectibles surrounding them.
Two local teams who went on to make World Series championship history are highlighted in the exhibit. The 1985 Babe Ruth World Series team’s trophy and banner are on display (find future Timberwolves/Laker bad boy J.R. Rider in the photo), as are photos, trophy and an original uniform of the Alameda J.J. Krieg’s women’s fast pitch softball team, which won the title twice, in 1938 and 1939.
With exceptions, women weren’t exactly making the sports headlines prior to the 1972 passage of Title IX (which equalized federal education funding for boys and girls and had a major effect on sports). But there are a few locals worth knowing the names of, among them Dorothy Head Knode, an Alameda High School graduate, who ranked among the world’s top 10 tennis players for six years, from 1952-1958.
More recently, two Alameda women gained a spot at the California State University East Bay Athletic Hall of Fame – Robyn Crispi and Trini Sanchez-Blumkin (Encinal and Alameda High graduates, respectively) – Sanchez-Blumkin in 2002 for softball and Crispi in 2004 for women’s basketball and softball). Their Hall of Fame plaques are on display this year.
An Island sports retrospective would be remiss if it did not mention the Neptune Beach era, with its colorful history of boxing, swimming and diving, and a corner near the entrance pays homage to that time. How many knew, for example, that a local baseball game between two semi-pro teams at Washington Park in 1886 drew a tree-top hanging, rooftop-clinging crowd of 18,000 not because of the teams’ lineup but for the celebrity ump, prizefighting champion John L. Sullivan, who lived and trained with other world-known fellow boxers at the West Coast hub of 19th-century boxing, Croll’s Gardens, across the street?
The exhibit will run through the end of September, with the sponsors on hand to answer questions on the weekends. Concurrent with it, at 1 p.m. this Saturday, August 21 there will be a reception and special recognition of the 1985 Babe Ruth World Series Championship team, during open hours.
The Alameda Museum is located at 2324 Alameda Avenue, and is open from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and Sunday, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free. For more information on Alameda sports history, visit www.alamedasportsproject.com.