Field’s “Baseball As America” videos put visitors in box seats

This is the Position Menu, one of six enabling visitors to find a subject. By selecting a particular position, a scorecard is presented with a list of all Hall of Fame members that played a large portion of their career at that position. Photograph courtesy of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc.

The “Baseball As America” exhibit, presenting the great feats and stuff of legends, is hitting a home run at the Field Museum, aided by videos that bring the past into focus.

Fresh from a stint at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, “Baseball As America” incorporates clips from “A League of Their Own,” “The Natural” and “Field of Dreams,” to emphasize the power of the sport in the life and dreams of the nation.

“It’s a great exhibit. I think it really matches interactive technology with the ability to give all the statistics about the inductees in the National Baseball Hall of Fame with a great artifact collection,” said multimedia producer Steve Gregory of Boston’s New England Technology Group, which partnered with the NBHF to create the interactivity.

The Group spent about ten months to organize and produce and edit the video clips sent on standard data SP format by the NBHF to Gregory.

The Cooperstown, N.Y. Hall of Fame invested many hundreds of thousand dollars to develop the traveling exhibit. It utilizes five videos with looped presentations, and a touch-screen component with industrial flat panel LCD screens.

The touch-screen computers let visitors to dig even deeper into the thousands of stats and biographical highlights of the star players of America’s signature sport.

“It was an immense but fun project to gather all the information and visuals,” Gregory said. After searching through 12,000 hours of video and thousands of digitized photographs, Gregory’s tech team transferred the videos to a Sigma-designed M-peg board for assembly. They then wrote the software and designed the graphics.

The finished videos were installed in basic off-the-shelf Dell PCs and programmed in MacroMedia Director. “It uses a database that we created for the exhibit so we could keep track of all their statistics of all the inductees,” noted Gregory.

Only a CD is needed to update the computerized information.

Because traffic flow was a consideration with a huge exhibit like this, “we needed to limit the length of the videos,” said Kristen Mueller, the Hall of Fame’s lead curator. “Of course, we want people to enjoy the video segments, but we did not want them to have to linger or have to install seats because of their length.”

Four of the videos are two-minutes long, the last is four-minutes. One segment deals with how baseball has been incorporated into popular culture through films, theatre and television, with clips culled from national archives. The four-minute piece deals specifically with movies and TV shows, even including “The Simpsons.”

Various NBHF staff members voiced the narratives, although a professional was hired for two segments. “We wanted to get a feel of community, because the videos talk a lot about being Americans and we just took different voices,” said curator Mueller.

Five hundred of the most precious artifacts are on display. There’s Babe Ruth’s bat and the Sammy Sosa’s record-smashing bat, Jackie Robinson’s jersey, Harry Caray’s signature glasses and Ryne Sandberg’s glove, and the shoes worn by “Shoeless Joe Jackson” of the 1919 Chicago Black Sox.

Some of the artifacts are delicate items, such as President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s letter giving Major League basement the green light just weeks after Pearl Harbor, and baseball’s most valuable trading card, a T206 Honus Wagner, encased under glass and lit by fiber optic connections to preserve them by keeping temperature and humidity levels even.

“Baseball as America” plays through July 30. Free lectures Tuesdays at 6 p.m. through April 22. Visit Pennie Layne