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Memories of America's pastime
Ruth ... Cobb ... Honus Wagner ... Cy Young.
Each are legends, players whose names have echoed through the decades and whose feats are etched in baseball lore.
They were some of the first icons to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., but to view handwritten letters and autographs of those legendary players from baseball's early years, you don't have to fly across country.
All you have to do is head down Butte House Road in Yuba City.
On Friday, an exhibit opened at the Community Memorial Museum of Sutter County, and for those who love America's pastime, it's a must-see.
"Baseball Memories" features the rare collection of Live Oak resident Joe Griffin, whose grandfather assembled letters and autographs from some of the most iconic players from the game's Golden Age.
Griffin's grandfather, Joseph B. Kennedy, was a U.S. Post Office employee for 43 years and a huge baseball fan. As a gift to his newborn grandson, he wrote letters to some of the biggest names in the sport and, surprisingly, got an almost immediate response from each one.
The collection started in 1938, when Kennedy wrote a letter to pitching great Cy Young asking him for an autograph and a short note on his favorite baseball feat.
Young replied to the letter right away, writing to Kennedy: "The outstanding feature in my Base Ball Career no doubt were My no hit games. Especially the Perfect game where no man reached 1st base. The other one a 20 inning against Rube Waddell here in Boston. Yours, Cy Young."
And so the collection began.
"He wanted to start a stamp collection for his grandson — me," Griffin said. "My grandfather had such success, and Cy Young responded so quickly, so he thought 'Why can't I get all their autographs?' And that's what he did."
The letters were mailed out and baseball's immortals replied.
The rarest find in the collection is a signed piece of paper with 11 of the greatest baseball figures of all-time.
There they are, in their own distinctive penmanship: managing legend Connie Mack, Cy Young, Ty Cobb, Larry (Nap) Lajoie, Tris Speaker, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson, Eddie Collins, George Sisler, Grover Cleveland Alexander and, finally, Babe Ruth — all on one piece of paper.
"My grandfather was quite a guy," Griffin said. "He had a way with words. He always knew who he was writing to when he wrote."
Was that ever true.
In the letter to Cy Young, Kennedy wrote that he wanted his grandson to grow up to be a pitcher. In a letter to Ruth, on the other hand, Kennedy said he wanted his grandson to be a slugger like the Babe.
"If you go on the Internet, they're getting $3,000 for a Babe Ruth autograph," said Griffin, "and I've got several of those,"
Many more autographs are included in the collection, which spanned 31 years from 1938 to 1969. He even has signatures from Joe DiMaggio, Casey Stengel, Lefty Grove and Luke Appling, among others.
"I took (the collection) to a lady for appraisal and she gave me a ballpark figure of $100,000," Griffin said. "I think it's a little more than that, but I'm a little biased.
"Cooperstown would take it, but they won't give me a nickel for it."
Of course, local baseball history is also on display. Photographs of the early days of Mid-Valley hardball fill the walls, including a shot of the Marysville Baseball Club from 1884-1885.
There's a flier for the historic visit that Ruth and Lou Gehrig made to Marysville while on a barnstorming tour in 1927, unique memorabilia from the early years and vintage photographs of local teams from the 1880s up to the 1960s.
Photographs of the 1907 Marysville High and the 1912 Sutter High baseball teams are on display, along with pictures of several professional teams that called the Yuba-Sutter area home during in the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.
The exhibit will be on display through Aug. 3.
CONTACT Andy Arrenquin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4790. Find him on Facebook at /advarsitysports or on Twitter at @ADaarrenquin.