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On January 29, 1936, the first five men elected for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame were publicly announced: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson.  However, the official induction ceremony did not take place until 1939 when the Hall opened in Cooperstown, New York.  To date, 297 individuals have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and approximately 350,000 baseball fans make the pilgrimage to Cooperstown each year.

Ty Cobb with Young Boy in Seattle, ca. 1922. Image courtesy of the Museum of History and Industry, made available via King County Snapshots.

Walter Johnson and Babe Ruth during a charity baseball game held in Anaheim, CA in October 1924. Image courtesy of the Anaheim Public Library, made available via Calisphere.

Christy Mathewson in New York, ca. 1914. Image courtesy of the Bain Collection at the Library of Congress.

Honus Wagner, ca. 1910. Image courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art, made available via Historic Pittsburgh Images.

The images above were all culled from collections in Opening History where you can find additional primary source materials related to baseball and the history of sports in America.

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On May 2, 1920, the Indianapolis ABCs played the Chicago American Giants in the first baseball game of the new Negro National League. The league, which had been formed by a meeting of mainly Midwestern team owners during talks in Kansas City, Missouri, provided an opportunity for African-American players to thrive even within a Jim Crow-era environment that barred them from white teams. While professional and amateur black baseball teams had existed since the 19th century, the Negro National League developed a successful structure that led to the creation of other African-American leagues outside the Midwest and proved to be an economic boon for many black communities in the 1920s and 1930s. Ultimately, the demise of Negro League Baseball came only with the integration of white major leagues; in 1945, Jackie Robinson made history when he left the Kansas City Monarchs, a Negro League team, for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Satchel Paige, one of the best-known players of Negro League Baseball, joined the newly integrated major league Cleveland Indians in 1948. Image courtesy of the University of South Alabama

Opening History has several important resources relevant to the history of baseball in America and the integral role African-American team members and fans have played in the success of the game. In particular, the Atlanta History Center Album includes many images of the Atlanta Braves Major League Baseball team, including photographs of Hank Aaron and other well-known players.

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March 31, 1906, saw the establishment of the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States, renamed the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in 1910. President Theodore Roosevelt took a direct role in forming the organization when in 1905 he invited a small group of college presidents to discuss the danger involved in sports such as football as played in the early years of the 20th century. When the IAAUS officially formed the next year, it included a group of 62 colleges and universities from across the country. Since then, the NCAA has grown in scale and scope through events such as the beginning of a men’s basketball championship in 1939, the establishment of a national headquarters that today sits in Indianapolis, and the inclusion of women’s sports in 1980.

BYU baseball players who have heard they will not be playing in the 1958 NCAA World Series because of a university policy not to play games on Sundays. Image courtesy of Brigham Young University

There is a wide array of collections in Opening History relevant to sports, particularly for local high schools, colleges, and universities. The University of Iowa Physical Education for Women collection focuses specifically on a university department that enabled many women to study, train, and participate in athletics.

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