Baseball Heroes: Works from the Jay H. Baker Collection is now being showcased for public view for a limited time at Artis—Naples, The Baker Museum in Naples, Florida. Artis—Naples, home of The Baker Museum and the Naples Philharmonic, is the premier destination for the visual and performing arts in Southwest Florida.
These works from the Jay H. Baker Collection, on display now through May 15, 2022, might well be the most prominent display of important New York Yankees memorabilia ever on view in a single exhibition, with the exception of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, which covers all of baseball.
Baseball Heroes celebrates five Yankees legends—Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Derek Jeter—boldface names indeed, who in their eras were the “face of baseball” to the American public. Presented together in this eye-opening exhibition, they cover nearly a century of the national pastime with rare treasures, many previously unseen by the public.
The collection ranges from the historically significant—Ruth’s sale document from the Boston Red Sox to the Yankees—to the whimsical: Marilyn Monroe’s U.S. passport (as “Norma Jeane DiMaggio”) and Joe DiMaggio’s vaccination card, quite topical in this moment. The exhibition is dazzling in its array of objects, beautifully displayed in an immersive multimedia installation for museum visitors. This remarkable collection will be especially appealing to a large number of visitors who typically visit Florida during spring training season.
The exhibition also includes historically significant uniform jerseys from all five featured Yankees: DiMaggio game-used bats from 1939 and from the 1951 World Series (his final games); the Mantle and DiMaggio plaques from Yankee Stadium that were on display in Monument Park before their current monuments were erected; DiMaggio’s Hall of Fame ring; a heavily worn Babe Ruth glove; a Ruth World Series pendant; Ruth’s earliest known game-used bat; a baseball signed by Ruth and Brother Matthias, his mentor at St. Mary’s Industrial School in Baltimore; a bat signed by Ruth and given to New York Governor Al Smith in 1924; and a signed pair of Ruth’s spikes.
Also included are Ruth’s uniform from the first All-Star Game (in which he hit the first home run), World Series pocket watches presented to Ruth and Gehrig, Mantle’s first professional contract and his 1953 and 1962 World Series rings, Jeter’s pinstripe jersey and the dugout lineup card from his last home game, Jeter’s road jersey from his first game in 1995 and his final game (in Boston) and the hat worn by Gehrig the day he gave his iconic “luckiest man alive” speech.
The display also includes the uniform worn in 1956 by Don Larsen when he pitched the only perfect game in World Series history, a Tiffany-designed police medal, the first use of the interlocking NY which was adopted by the Yankees and other rare items. Also on view is the home plate from the original Yankees Stadium, an iconic piece of Yankees history.
All five featured players are in the Baseball Hall of Fame:
- Babe Ruth (1895-1948) was the greatest drawing card in the game’s history, a man who changed the way baseball is played (power) and who became recognized the world over, popularizing our “national pastime” as never before.
- Lou Gehrig (1903-1941) was the “Iron Horse” who played 2,130 consecutive games and was a role model for young fans everywhere, but who tragically developed Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS—“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”—) and died at 37.
- “Joltin’ Joe” DiMaggio (1914-1999) was considered the perfect player who never made a mental error and who became an American cultural icon, sealed when he married movie star Marilyn Monroe.
- Mickey Mantle (1931-1995) was the most popular player of his era and the game’s first television star, appearing in 12 World Series in his first 14 seasons.
- Derek Jeter (b. 1974) was the only Yankee to play in 20 seasons and is sixth in all-time Major League career hits.
“Artis—Naples’ theme throughout our multidisciplinary 2021-22 season is Esprit de Corps, and Baseball Heroes is certainly a prime representation of the value of teamwork,” said CEO and President Kathleen van Bergen. “We are thrilled to welcome visitors again to experience communal cultural activities and to enjoy this unparalleled collection of baseball memorabilia that truly helps explain the grip that ‘America’s game’ has on the world.”
Museum Director and Chief Curator Courtney McNeil said she hopes the exhibition will inspire visitors to reflect on baseball’s influence on American identity. “These five players—Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle and Jeter—are seen through the exhibition as not just baseball heroes, but also as figures who transcended the sport of baseball to become cultural icons,” McNeil said. “This exhibition celebrates both their talents and their humanity.”
Jay H. Baker has been a prominent figure in collecting for decades, and this collection has been sourced by Pete Siegel, CEO of Gotta Have It! Collectibles for the past 22 years. The Baker Museum exhibition has been guest curated by H. Nichols Clark.
A series of guest appearances related to the exhibition, including one by Derek Jeter, is planned with dates to be announced.