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The Baseball Hall of Fame’s Mischievous Cousin

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LOS ANGELES — Now on display at the Los Angeles Central Library through November in an exhibit titled “Something in Common.” There is a San Diego Chicken costume, a half-smoked cigar from Babe Ruth that likely — maybe? possibly? — was spirited from a Philadelphia brothel in 1924 and a baseball signed by Mother Teresa. The real Mother Teresa? Well … maybe not.

The artifacts are on loan from the Baseball Reliquary, a real organization blending wonder and whimsy with deep reverence. Its vibe lands somewhere near the intersection of Cooperstown and Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

The stories these gems tell belong to the ages — as now, poignantly, so does Terry Cannon, the mirthful, thoughtful, masterful doer whose curiosity, energy and passion for his projects was boundless. The nonprofit Reliquary was Cannon’s brainchild in 1996. Then came the Shrine of the Eternals, a sort of distant and mischievous cousin to the Baseball Hall of Fame, in 1999.

The last few years have been difficult. The pandemic hit, followed by Cannon’s death from cancer in August 2020. Then a seismic retrofitting indefinitely closed the Pasadena Central Library, where Reliquary members and fans gathered annually to pay homage to inductees as wide-ranging and diverse as Jim Bouton (2001), Shoeless Joe Jackson (2002), Buck O’Neil (2008), Marvin Miller (2003) and Charlie Brown (2017).

In this baseball summer of All-Stars playing in Dodger Stadium and past greats like Gil Hodges, Tony Oliva, Jim Kaat, Minnie Miñoso and O’Neil being honored in Cooperstown, recent silence stoked concern that the Shrine of Eternals might have been eternally silenced.

“Absolutely not,” said Mary Cannon, Terry’s widow and co-conspirator, noting the beginnings of a stirring comeback. “It is very much in the works.”

The website, dark since January because of technical difficulties, sprang back to life in early July. And the Shrine’s 2020 class will be inducted on Nov. 5 in a public ceremony at the Los Angeles Central Library’s Taper Auditorium that will coincide with the closing of the six-month exhibit the next day. That class — the broadcaster Bob Costas; Rube Foster, known as the Father of Black Baseball; and Max Patkin, the “Clown Prince of Baseball” — has been on pause for nearly two years.

“Fantastic,” said Costas, who, like many others, assumed the Reliquary was lost to the pandemic. “But I’d better show up, because I’m the only one still living. This is the Shrine of the Eternals, and the other two already are in eternity.”

The Baseball Reliquary emphasizes the game’s art, culture and characters over statistics and is financed in part by a grant from the Los Angeles County Arts Commission. Its thousands of books, periodicals, journals, historical magazines, artifacts, original paintings and correspondence now are housed at Whittier College’s Institute for Baseball Studies.

“Terry and I conceived and connived and advanced that,” said Joe Price, who accepted a request from Cannon before his death to take charge and steer the Reliquary forward. With his infectious enthusiasm and impish smile, Price seems a natural choice.

Now a professor emeritus in religious studies at Whitter, Price, alongside Charles Adams, a retired professor of English at Whittier, spent the pandemic organizing and cataloging the collection of more than 4,000 books according to Library of Congress standards.

Within is where history and historical fiction playfully mingle. It is where Moe Berg, the former catcher who later served as a spy for the Office of Strategic Services during World War II, crosses paths with Chicago’s 1979 Disco Demolition Night — with keepsakes from each in the archives. Alas, the yukata jacket that Berg “might” have worn in Japan and a partially melted vinyl record “allegedly” from Comiskey Park appear to have lost certificates of authenticity over the years.

“Academy Awards are always won by movie stars, yet everyone else who carries their water and makes them look good — the character actors, are more interesting than the movie stars,” said Ron Shelton, who wrote and directed Bull Durham. Shelton inducted Steve Dalkowski, the inspiration for the movie’s Nuke LaLoosh character, into the Shrine in 2009. “In a certain way, the Hall of Fame honors the movie stars, though a lot of them are dishonorable characters. The Reliquary is about everything that’s not a movie star.”

Shelton and Cannon became acquainted when each was involved in experimental film groups in the Los Angeles area in the 1970s.

“He was weirdly brilliant,” said Shelton, whose book about the making of Bull Durham, “The Church of Baseball,” was published this month. “I use weirdly in the most positive way. He not only had his own drummer, he had a kind of vision that went with it. The Reliquary really is a work of imagination. The archive lives in your mind and sometimes in your heart.”

The Shrine’s inaugural class in 1999 included Curt Flood, who took M.L.B. to court to challenge the reserve clause preventing player movement; Dock Ellis, perhaps best known for claiming to have thrown a no-hitter while high on LSD but who was also a civil rights advocate; and Bill Veeck, the maverick owner who was a master showman.

At the ceremony, Cannon read a letter Ellis had received from Jackie Robinson praising his civil rights work that warned him that people in and out of the game eventually would turn against him. Ellis was moved to tears. Afterward, he donated a set of his hair curlers.

Those are authentic, as is the burlap peanut bag that held peanuts “packed for Gaylord Perry’s peanut farm.” The sacristy box “reputedly” used by a priest at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York to administer last rites to a dying Babe Ruth in 1948? The jock strap “purportedly” worn by Eddie Gaedel, the smallest person to appear in an M.L.B. game at 3 feet 7 inches? Eyes twinkling, Price allows that the provenance of some of these items “is certainly questionable.”

“You know what was really hard to find was a child-sized jock strap,” said Mary Cannon, who added a few touches to make it seem as if it came from the 1951 St. Louis Browns. “We went to so many stores to find that thing.”

By definition, the word “reliquary” means “a container for holy relics.” To Terry Cannon and his disciples, more important than the actual authenticity of these “holy relics” is the idea of them.

A visual as simple as produce from a grocery store can be a powerful force to ignite the imagination. As a prank when he was at Class AA Williamsport in 1987, catcher Dave Bresnahan heaved a potato into left field during a fake pickoff throw to trick a rival into running from third base into an out at home plate. A distant nephew of the Hall of Fame catcher Roger Bresnahan, Dave was waiting for the runner with the ball at home plate. He was promptly released and never played again. In memoriam, Mary Cannon carved two potatoes — at least one of which lives in the archives here in a Mason jar.

“We didn’t realize formaldehyde would turn them dark brown,” she said, adding: “There are all of these wonderful stories but nothing there, so we tried to create tangible things for people to see.”

Even within the baseball industry, some are unfamiliar with the Reliquary. Nancy Faust, the retired Chicago White Sox organist who created walk-up music for batters, had to look it up when she got the call for induction in 2018.

“My husband, Joe, said: ‘What is this, some kind of joke? A baseball aquarium?’” Faust said. “I said, ‘There’s nothing fishy about it.’ When I knew who was going in with me, I thought, ‘Wow! That’s some pretty good company.’ I felt honored to be remembered.”

Faust was inducted in 2018, along with Tommy John and Rusty Staub.

“Rusty Staub’s a perfect one, right?” Costas said. “He’s not quite a Hall of Famer, but he’s a significant player. There are other players who aren’t as significant, but you put Rusty Staub in before you put Chet Lemon in because Rusty Staub is ‘Le Grande Orange.’”

Dr. Frank Jobe, the inventor of the Tommy John surgery, preceded the pitcher into the Shrine in 2012. There is a Spaceman (Bill Lee, 2000) and a Bird (Mark Fidrych, 2002). There also is rich diversity in Jackie Robinson (2005) and his widow, Rachel (2014), the first female umpire, Pam Postema (2000), and several Negro leagues representatives.

Bouton once referred to the Shrine as “the people’s Hall of Fame, and inductions traditionally started with Terry Cannon leading the audience in the clanging of cowbells in tribute to Hilda Chester, perhaps the most famous fan in history.

As Cannon noted at the 2018 ceremony, Chester’s fame began to fade when the Dodgers left Brooklyn for Los Angeles and “while she may have died in relative obscurity in 1978, in our community of fans, Hilda is royalty. And through our annual remembrance, we can be assured that the final bell has not yet rung for Hilda Chester.”

Nor, as it turns out, has it for the Reliquary. To Shelton’s memory, it was the poet W.D. Snodgrass who, when speaking, often would tell his audience that every time he tells a story, it’s true.

“Then he would pause,” Shelton said. “And say, ‘I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s better than true.’ That’s what the arts do. It’s better than true. And that’s where the Reliquary lives.”

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As the World Focuses on Soccer, a Women’s Team in Exile Aches to Play

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“We must address a message of hope that sports is possible for women when it is quite difficult or impossible now in Afghanistan,” Lappartient said. “I just want to give this idea that the light is still on.”

Without similar support from FIFA, the Afghan women’s soccer team is now looking for somewhere to play as an official national team. It’s considering joining the Confederation of Independent Football Associations, or Conifa, said Popal, the longtime Afghan women’s football program director. According to Conifa’s website, the organization “supports representatives of international football teams from nations, de facto nations, regions, minority people and sports isolated territories.”

But the level and depth of competition at Conifa is not what the Afghans have been used to at the FIFA level, where 187 women’s teams compete. In comparison, Conifa’s website listed only three women’s programs in its rankings from July: FA Sapmi (from the Indigenous Sami people who inhabit part of Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia), Northern Cyprus and Tibet.

For the Afghan women, the goal is to return to play under FIFA’s umbrella. To get there, Popal, who lives in Denmark, has sent multiple emails to FIFA officials asking them for help reinstating the Afghan team. For months and months now, she has yet to receive an answer.

Last month, she also filed an official grievance with FIFA, writing, “All the coaches and players need to have their right to play respected and FIFA has the responsibility to guarantee our right to represent Afghanistan, even in exile.” At least a half dozen current and former players have also filed grievances, she said.

Again, no response.

“Men took away the players’ right to play football in Afghanistan, and now FIFA is taking away the right for the players to play football anywhere else,” Popal said. “I’m so frustrated that women have no voice. Why do the women of Afghanistan always have to pay the price?”

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College football Saturday predictions: TCU vs. Kansas State, plus more picks

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Here are Pigskin Profit’s college football picks for Saturday’s games:

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Ohio (+1.5) over Toledo

Ohio, looking for its first MAC title since 1968, has exceeded expectations all season, going 9-3 — both overall and against the spread — after being picked to finish fourth in its division. The Rockets enter with back-to-back losses as heavy favorites. The fact Toledo lost quarterback Dequan Finn last week in a season-low 14-point effort will be too much to overcome. 

Quarterback Max Duggan #15 of the TCU Horned Frogs
Quarterback Max Duggan #15 of the TCU Horned Frogs
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Running back Deuce Vaughn #22 of the Kansas State Wildcats
Running back Deuce Vaughn #22 of the Kansas State Wildcats
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Kansas State (+2.5) over TCU

A perfect record means TCU deserves to be in the playoff regardless of who wins the Big 12 title, but the Horned Frogs’ penchant for slow starts and late sweats makes them difficult to trust against the streaking Wildcats, who held an 18-point lead over them in a game during which Kansas State’s top two quarterbacks were both injured. After TCU’s 12-0 regular season — including a 9-2-1 record against the spread — Vegas is still begging you to take them. 

TROY (-8.5) over Coastal Carolina

The Post’s deadline means I have to make this pick now, but there is no need for you to pull the trigger until Grayson McCall’s status is revealed. Right now, it looks like the Chanticleers will be without their star quarterback for a third straight game. A meeting with the Sun Belt’s best defense doesn’t bode well for an offense that scored 7 points in a 40-point loss to James Madison last weekend. 

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Fresno State (+3.5) over BOISE STATE

Ignore the Broncos’ 40-20 win on Oct. 8, when the Bulldogs played without future NFL quarterback Jake Haener. Since that loss, Fresno State has won seven straight games, averaging nearly 40 points over the past six games. An overrated Boise State defense has suffered its three losses to the highest-ranked offenses it has faced this season, while the blue field isn’t what it used to be. Boise State has dropped five home games over the past three seasons. 

Georgia (-17.5) over LSU

The Bulldogs have predictably fallen victim to the lulls attached to most repeat efforts, but they have been at their best in their biggest games — most memorably dominating Oregon and Tennessee — and an SEC Championship would hold extra meaning after Georgia lost the crown last year. Coach Brian Kelly may want to print out the bevy of clips praising him after his Tigers’ win over Alabama. In a few weeks, he’ll be staring down his fifth loss of the season. 

LSU head coach Brian Kelly
LSU head coach Brian Kelly
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UCF (+4) over TULANE

The Green Wave own the better story — flipping last year’s 2-10 mark to move one win from their first conference championship since 1998 — and the momentum after ending Cincinnati’s 32-game home win streak last week. The Knights own a head-to-head road win from three weeks ago, the 11th-ranked offense in FBS, and most importantly, a few extra points in their pocket. 

North Carolina (+7.5) over Clemson

The Tigers enter another title game as favorites against an undeserving representative from the Coastal Division, but DJ Uiagalelei’s latest shaky performance (8-for-29 for 99 yards in a playoff-killing loss, which doubled as Clemson’s first home defeat since 2016) — and coach Dabo Swinney’s stupidly stubborn decision to keep the struggling quarterback as his starter, gives the Tar Heels an important edge in sports’ most important position. By rule, one team must be declared the ACC champion. 

Michigan (-17) over Purdue

Don’t be concerned about a letdown after the Wolverines won their first game at Ohio State in 22 years. An even more emotional win over the Buckeyes wasn’t an issue last year in the Big Ten title game — a 42-3 demolition of Iowa — and won’t have an impact against the third unranked Power Five team to play in a conference title game in the past decade. A Big Ten championship is plenty of motivation. 

Best bets: Fresno State, Georgia, Michigan 
This season: 92-97-6 
2014-21 record: 1,030-970-19

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United States vs. Netherlands prediction: World Cup picks, odds

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The United States men’s national team has a golden opportunity on Saturday morning in the World Cup. With the entire country behind them, the Yanks could qualify for the quarterfinals for the first time since 2002. 

Team USA is an underdog against the Netherlands (they’re +375 to win), but the Americans relish the role of being outsiders going up against a very vulnerable favorite. 

As we saw against Wales and Iran, the USMNT can struggle to break down defensive teams. The Yanks are an athletic, creative and quick team, but they’re not all that comfortable in possession. Against Wales and Iran, they dominated possession and struggled to break through enough times to feel comfortable. 

U.S. vs. Netherlands pick: U.S. +375 (PointsBet)

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But against England — easily its best performance of the tournament — the USMNT was able to use its athleticism, team speed and talent to give the Three Lions a lot to think about. England tore through both Iran and Wales, but struggled mightily against the Americans because it couldn’t dominate the midfield. 

Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah and Weston McKennie have turned into one of the best midfield trios in the tournament. Their ability to make life difficult on opposing midfielders is a huge factor against a Dutch midfield that should be terrific on paper, but has struggled through the first three matches. 

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In fact, outside of Cody Gakpo, you could say that about the entire Netherlands team. Even though they won Group A with two wins and a draw, Clockwork Oranje have been relatively disappointing compared to their pretournament expectations. 

Drawn into a soft group with Qatar, Ecuador and Senegal, the Netherlands posted a +4 goal differential, but its expected goal difference was -0.4 and it was -1.8 before its 2-0 victory against Qatar on Tuesday. In other words, the Netherlands was a bit fortunate to post the results it did. 

Christian Pulisic of United States
Christian Pulisic of United States
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That doesn’t mean that the Dutch can’t grow into this tournament. The history of the World Cup is littered with teams that started slowly and went on to do big things, so there’s no reason to count them out just yet. 

That said, it’s also hard to feel confident about backing them as an odds-on favorite against a team that punches up in competition very well. England is a stronger team than the Netherlands, with a better midfield, and the USMNT gave it fits in a nil-nil draw. 

Winning the battle in the midfield would give the USMNT a serious chance to win this match, and it’s a fair argument to make that the Yanks have the edge in the middle of the field with Adams, Musah and McKennie going up against some combination of Frenkie de Jong, Davy Klaassen, Teun Koopmeiners and Marten de Roon. 

The Netherlands may have advantages in other parts of the pitch, and the U.S. defense has looked a bit vulnerable at times against less talented attacks than the Clockwork Oranje, but the Dutch, aside from Gakpo, just haven’t really looked all that threatening. The Netherlands only created 0.8 expected goals against Senegal and Ecuador. 

Sportsbooks around the country will be a little tepid about how they price the USA, given how much money will come in on the Yanks, but this number is still well worth a bet on a team that profiles extremely well as an underdog. 

U.S. vs. Netherlands pick: U.S.A. +375 (PointsBet)

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