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MCI sports gallery offers glimpse at presidents’ pursuits

(Published August 14, 2000)

By BRAD MARTIN

Staff Writer

With the presidential election coming up, maybe voters should start looking at which candidate throws the best curveball or has the lowest golf handicap.

The National Sports Gallery, which is located in the MCI Center, is featuring a "Presidents in Sports" section that shows off almost every commander-in-chief in their prime athletic days.

The special exhibit, which opens every day at 11 a.m., has been up since President’s Day weekend and will run until the spring of next year.

This section has everything from a book on boxing signed by Andrew Jackson to Harry Truman’s fishing gear.

Also, the exhibit contains a special diary that belonged to a member of George Washington’s army in the Revolutionary War. Passages elude to a new game known as baseball enjoyed by the troops.

"Our museum is pleased to showcase many extraordinary artifacts commemorating this presidential interest in sports," said Frank Ceresi, executive director of collections and the curator at the National Sports Gallery.

In addition to that exhibit, the gallery — which opened with the MCI Center in late 1997 — also has one of the few original Honus Wagner tobacco cards from the 1909 season. It is considered by many to be one of the most valuable baseball cards in the world, Ceresi said.

The gallery was created to provide something extra for sports fans to do while attending games at MCI Center, Ceresi said. A separate $5 admission to the gallery is charged.

The Honus Wagner card is being showcased at the gallery now and will be auctioned later this year. The card came from Wagner’s estate in the 1970s, found in the pocket of one of his old coaching uniforms. It is now owned by Steve Verkman, president of Clean Sweep Auctions, who will auction the card off in October.

Earlier this summer one of the few other Wagner cards was sold on an Internet auction site for more than $1.1 million.

"The Honus Wagner card is one of the most famous cards in the world," Ceresi said, "but this one has never been publicly displayed."

The Wagner card was a part of the T-206 series of tobacco cards released in 1909 and was the last of its kind. The card contains a white border while each series afterwards had gold borders.

"This is one of the rarest of the rare cards," Ceresi said.

Other items in the gallery include Mickey Mantle’s first home run ball, a signed Shoeless Joe Jackson game bat and a ‘space’ ball signed by the first 30 NASA astronauts. The collection also includes game uniforms worn by such baseball greats as Ty Cobb, Jackie Robinson and Ted Williams as well as boxing robes of Muhammad Ali and Rocky Marciano.

Most of the gallery’s exhibits are on permanent display, but there are always a couple of special limited-time offerings every year, Ceresi said. The gallery also includes a number of interactive features.

Copyright 2000, The Common Denominator