The NationalPastime.com is a virtual museum set to open on opening day of the Major League Baseball season. This baseball, which must be one of the oldest in captivity, is a preview of what must be a fascinating collection. So you can't buy it at an auction. Not yet, anyhow.
Via Slate, here is the tale of how it came to be salvaged:
This ball was found and retrieved in 1862 in Shiloh, in southwestern Tennessee, on the grounds of one of the Civil War’s bloodiest battles. The ball is inscribed: “Picked Up on the Battle Field at Shiloh by G.F. Hellum.” Giles Hellum was an African-American who worked as an orderly for the Union Army at Shiloh. He later enlisted as a soldier in the 69th Colored Infantry.
The artifact is a “lemon peel ball,” looser and softer than today’s baseballs, and it is hand-stitched in a figure 8 pattern with thick twine.
One thought: Good thing he picked up the ball. Can't have somebody slip on it and fall while they're trying to have a war in the meadow. It could be dangerous!
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Second thought: It's remarkable how much and how little baseballs have changed over the past 150 years. The ball just isn't all that different.
It's also neat to consider the comfort baseball must have given troops (to either side) during that time. Even by just passing the time. Despite all that is fractured among us, baseball has a way of keeping us together.