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Wexner Center for the Arts rings in baseball season with rare films

The Newsreels,' is scheduled to be featured at 7 p.m. April 6-7 at the Wexner Center Film/Video Theater.

Even the Wexner Center for the Arts is getting in on Major League Baseball’s Opening Day Thursday with the return of one of its baseball exhibits.

It will reintroduce some of baseball’s most notable figures with its Rare Baseball Films program. This year’s edition, “Rare Baseball Films: The Newsreels,” is scheduled to be featured at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Wexner Center Film/Video Theater.

Drawing material from the Hearst Metrotone News Collection at the University of California, Los Angeles Film & Television Archive, the program will contain about two hours of theatrical newsreel footage. Babe Ruth’s first day with the Boston Braves, Stan Musial’s 3,000th  hit and Jackie Robinson relaxing at home with family will be among the material presented.

Prominent before the widespread use of television, newsreels were once a source of information and entertainment for the public. Shown in movie theatres around the world, newsreels covered a variety of topics, including baseball.

“The game was already very popular,” said Melvin Adelman, associate professor of sport and exercise sciences and history at Ohio State. “What the newsreels did was allow many people who never went to Major League Baseball games, particularly if they were not in large cities, to see for the first time people who they’d just heard of. At a time when radio had just (begun) to come in, this made it very visible and very exciting.”

In charge of selecting footage for the program, David Filipi, director of film and video at the Wexner Center, said he looked for what, in his opinion, were the most interesting pieces covering a broad period of time.

“We have clips as far back as the late 1920s, during the silent film era, all the way up to the most recent one, I think, is 1969 – that’s quite a timespan,” Filipi said. “Obviously you want to show clips with the most recognizable, well-known players. That certainly applies to Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson.”

Ruth, who will be shown in three separate clips, was one of the major beneficiaries of the attention attracted through newsreels.

“Since the newsreel tends to take place at the movie theater, which is very dark, it gives it a larger-than-life kind of situation,” Adelman said. “That was particularly the case for Babe Ruth, who had an incredible popularity. It made people who never saw Babe Ruth in the live thing, only in newspapers, have a feel for him.”

Along with the film, a collection of memorabilia from baseball historian Tracy Martin will be on display in the lobby.

With items ranging from a check Ruth signed to baseball gloves from the 19th century and beyond, Martin’s items have been featured in venues such as the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and the Smithsonian Institution.

“I always loved history and realized that baseball had this amazing history about it,” Martin said. “There was a progression, evolution to the equipment in baseball as well as the game, so I had this dream of creating a collection that would show a time line of baseball history with the equipment.”

Hoping to attract an audience that might not ordinarily visit the Wexner Center, Filipi said Martin’s memorabilia will be a welcomed addition to the event for newcomers and veterans.

“People love looking at stuff like (memorabilia),” Filipi said. “It makes it a little bit more tangible to be able to see a display of historical artifacts. You get to see Babe Ruth up on the screen then come out and see these objects that, even sometimes indirectly, had something to do with him.”

Tickets are $7 for the general public and $5 for members, students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased at the Wexner Center box office or by calling 614-292-3535.

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