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Museum exhibit traces local ties to America’s pastime

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A testament to the cultural importance of America’s pastime displays itself proudly at the Morton Museum of Collierville History.
While many potential younger fans have turned away from baseball, explaining that the game is too slow for our fast-paced world, the exhibit on the history of Collierville baseball invites viewers to make time for reminiscing back to their children’s playing days or even their own.
“Baseball holds that special place for so many people,” Museum Director Ashley Carver said. “When we were creating the exhibit and talking to community members, they talk about baseball with such fond memories, nostalgia.”
The impetus for the exhibit came one day about more than a year ago when a visitor to the museum, Mike Watson, mentioned that he liked baseball and that it might make for a good exhibit. Carver and her colleague, Brook Mundee, collections and special events coordinator at the museum, took the idea and ran with it, first trying to find out about Collierville’s oldest baseball team.
They found out about not just the oldest team — the Collierville Athletics, 1874 — but a number of other zesty facts as well. For example, a Collierville factory produced templates for what would eventually become Louisville Slugger baseball bats throughout the 1930s.
In addition, the Museum found out about the inception of Collierville Little League baseball in the late 1950s, as well as a Negro League team, the Collierville Tigers, almost a decade earlier. Charlie Taylor founded the Tigers in 1949 and Joseph Clayton inaugurated the Little League in 1958.
Clayton was a teacher and coach at Collierville High School in the 50s, and by the end of the decade, realized the town was missing something.
“Summer of 1959,” he said, “I was concerned that we really did not have enough recreation for our young people in Collierville.”
So, he made up four teams, scrounged around for old uniforms, and appointed four of his baseball players at the high school as coaches. The teams played round robin schedules Tuesday and Friday afternoons.
After the first year, he said, the league took off.
Taylor was an admittedly flashy player in centerfield and at first base, as well as the team’s manager for 45 years. He said the team played in a pasture or in fields and for a time, couldn’t find any sponsorships. But those hindrances didn’t stop the team from competing.
“We had a real good team,” he said. “For years we had a real good team…We had a heck of a team.”
When asked what his favorite part of the exhibit is, he said it had to be himself, of course.
While there’s a large picture of him and two other Tigers players at the exhibit (he pointed out that in the picture, the other two men [Henry “Shane” Mabon and James A. Cowan] wear cleats while he’s wearing a pair of Stacey Allen dress shoes), there’s a commemorative plaque hanging in the hallway commemorating “Charlie Taylor Day” on Aug. 27, 2010.”
The day was part of “Charlie Taylor Week,” which celebrated him and his contributions to Negro League baseball. On July 27, he went to Autozone Park and threw out the ceremonial first pitch — in Stacey Allen dress shoes.
The Museum is going to have a “lunch and learn” event on the fifth anniversary of Charlie Taylor Day.
Reginald C. “Reggie” Howard, a historian whose focus is on Negro League baseball, will be the keynote speaker that afternoon. Howard played in the Negro League for the Indianapolis Clowns in 1956/57. He’s trying to recruit players from the Memphis Red Sox, a Negro League team, to gather with Taylor at the event.
It will last from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the museum will provide drink and dessert, while attendees are encouraged to bring their own lunches.
After the lunch and learn event on the Aug. 27, the exhibit will be available for two more weeks (until Sept. 12) when a traveling exhibit from the state on the War of 1812 will be installed. The museum will have another half-day symposium that day with three guest lecturers.
Carver is excited not only for the lunch and learn event as well as the upcoming special exhibit, but for local history in general. It is her passion, and she believes she has one of the best jobs in the world.
“I would pick this museum, a local history museum, over a Smithsonian, over the Met any day,” she said. “And I have. I’ve interned in those places,
worked in those places, taken classes—and those are great institutions in D.C. But I love local history, because you get to engage with people.”
And with the baseball exhibit, Carver believes she’s found the crowning representation of why she loves what she does.
“It was my dream to work with community local history,” she said. “This baseball exhibit is why I love working with local history — hearing those different voices, and having that community engagement, people coming together and sharing their stories. To me, that baseball exhibit is the embodiment of why I love what I do.”

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