Little League through the years on display at The Gallery at Penn College
Guests from all regions of the world have arrived in the Williamsport area for the 2022 Little League World Series, but as the series celebrates its 75th anniversary, there is a rare opportunity to see some of the photos and artifacts from past series at The Gallery at Penn College.
Located on the third floor of the Madigan Library, The Gallery is featuring a collection of photos, artwork and memorabilia illustrating the history of the series which began in Williamsport in 1947. The collection was curated by the director of the Little League Museum, Adam Thompson, and contains items which are not usually on display at that museum.
Penn College decided to partner with Little League in presenting the exhibit, not only because of the Diamond Jubilee celebration of the series this year, but also because earlier this year a thousand people visited the city during the Little League International Congress, explained Penny Lutz, The Gallery’s director.
“We decided to partner with them so that we could show more Little League photos because the museum has limited space, they can’t put everything out,” Lutz said.
“They went through their archives and pulled a lot of photos that just showed the celebration of Little League,” she added.
Over the years, Little League has accumulated several thousand pieces of memorabilia and photos. Much of the memorabilia in the museum’s collection consists of
baseballs from championship games and uniforms. During the pandemic Thompson said that he had worked at digitizing
“We started digitizing our collection or photo collection in particular, about 10 years ago. Then over the span of 2020, obviously we were closed to the public and I was kind of working from home so I ended up digitizing the second half of the collection,” Thompson said.
“When the opportunity came up that we can have a photo exhibit at Penn College, I had basically thousands upon thousands of photos to choose from,” he added.
Admitting that it was a problem to choose from so much content, Thompson called it a “good problem.”
The main areas that I was focusing on, or the main kind of goal was to use photos that we haven’t used in the past. We wanted to make sure that we had something that you wouldn’t see in our museum or we haven’t used on social (media). That was one of the big things about it,” he said.
“As I was kind of going through, I looked at thousands of photos and I was also trying to think of what would also be a good theme and kind of go with it,” he stated.
In light of the special milestone being celebrated this year by the World Series, Thompson decided to display photos of kids celebrating and celebrating as a team.
“The past two years many of us have been separated, so I liked the idea of getting together-players together celebrating on the field,” Thompson said.
Through the process of putting together the collection under that theme, Thompson realized there were similarities between some of the photos taken from the 1950’s and what we see today.
“It was also trying to find like mirror images in a way. So, it is kids celebrating a home run in the 1950’s, it’s one from the 2000’s that showed that as well as the 1990’s,” he said.
“That was kind of the goal. A, to show a celebration, use photos that we’ve never used before and also kind of show that thing over the past 75 years at the end of the day, it’s children playing baseball, the sport that they love. Showing how, yeah, the film has changed-black and white photos, uniforms have changed-but at the end of the day the game is till the same,” he said.
When entering the exhibit, which is arranged chronologically by decades, you’re treated to a photo from the very first series in 1947, which consisted of 12 teams, most of them from Pennsylvania. Photos along the walls carry you through the different decades. Glass cases house memorabilia given to Little League as a remembrance of the teams who have played on the fields there. Black and white photos gradually transitioning to color photography as the decades progress, many of the photos displaying the work of local photographer Putsee Vannucci.
With so many pieces in the collection at the Little League complex, what stands out for Thompson as perhaps the most unique piece of memorabilia? Actually he said that it’s one of the pieces on display at the Gallery.
“It’s kind of a good luck charm from Japan,” Thompson said.
“It’s kind of a mask-I don’t have the proper name for it offhand. What it is, the eyes are blank when the kids receive it and they fill in one of the eyes. Then they set a goal, for instance, that team’s goal was to win the Little League World Series.Then when they achieve their goal, they circle the other eye. It’s kind of a neat thing,” he said, noting that the team had presented it to Little League.
Thompson said he has always been fascinated by the good luck charms that teams use.
“Baseball is a game of superstitions and that’s one of the things that was kind of fun to show off, because it’s showing off another culture as well,” he said.
He noted that he had a great experience working with Lutz and The Gallery to put together the exhibit.
“They made everything so much easier, especially when you’re gathering thousands of photos,” he said.
Paul Herman and his son Matthew, visiting the city from the Cleveland, Ohio area, were in The Gallery to see the items on display.
Baseball enthusiasts, both Hermans have been coming here to watch the Little League series in person for several years.
“We were here for the first time eight years ago-he saw the coverage on ESPN-so we came and we’ve been here every year since, except for the last two,” said Paul Herman.
Matthew Herman shared that the first year they visited the Little League World Series was when Mo-Ne Davis played.
Prior to coming to the exhibit, the Hermans had visited the Original Field and had walked around the Crosscutters’ field to see the preparations for the Classic game, which they plan to watch on television this weekend.
Although he’s never played baseball, Matthew announces for games for the Miracle League in his hometown of Eastlake and also for other sports.
When asked what was his favorite thing about Little League baseball, Matthew Herman replied, “Everybody gets to play.”
His father too shared what he likes about major and minor league baseball.
“Basically they have a game every day so you don’t have to worry about yesterday’s game where you know, it might have gone good or it may have gone bad. Every day starts anew,” he said.
Hours for The Gallery are online at ww.pct.edu/gallery and for the Little League Museum at https://www.littleleague.org/world-of-little-league.