WATERBURY, CONN. – With a unique blend of art, history and sports, “The Red Sox or Yankees: America’s Greatest Rivalry” art exhibit is a triple threat.
The display, which is located at the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, Connecticut, is 85 miles from Yankee Stadium and 129 miles from Fenway Park, making it an ideal location to hold a Yankees and Red Sox art exhibit depicting the greatest rivalry in sports history.
That was the exact thought of art curator, Neil Scherer, when he pitched the exhibit idea to the Mattatuck Museum. By combing his love for art, sports and history, Scherer helped curate “Connecticut’s Cooperstown.”
Inside the museum
The eloquent and elaborate memorabilia inside of this exhibit would not only appeal to the those who are fans of baseball, but fans of the past. The exhibit is rich in history and art that drastically exceeds the simplicity of a single bat or ball from a significant moment.
While walking up the ramp into the exhibit, your eyes are drawn to the massive projection of some of the most heart-wrenching moments in Yankees/Red Sox history. Within the repeating 10-minute loop includes, the 1978 Bucky Dent home run that continued the Curse of the Bambino, Aaron Boone’s 2003 ALCS walk-off off of Tim Wakefield and it even shows a portion of the Red Sox overcoming the 3-0 deficit in the 2004 ALCS.
You are then met by an interactive display explaining the deep-rooted rivalry and the role Connecticut, especially Waterbury, has played throughout the years. If you weren’t already jumping out of your socks in excitement, seeing the blue and red dots scattered over Connecticut, shows proof of just how divided the state is between the two clubs.
The most intriguing piece was of the collection of memorabilia remembering 61 in ’61. This of course was when Roger Maris, on the last game of the season, broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record of 60.
The piece includes the signatures of the 44 players who Maris homered off that season. It also includes six photographs of Maris from the season, this series of pictures shows the rollercoaster of emotion Maris had throughout the year. He was consistently booed at Yankee Stadium, no one wanted to see the Great Bambino’s record broken, even if it was a member of their beloved Yankees. But, in the picture (below) it shows him with a rare smiling holding his 61st home run ball next to 19-year-old Sal Durante, who railed in the ball.
Maris wasn’t the only one attempting to break the Bambino’s record that season. His teammate and M&M Brother Mickey Mantle left that year 54 times in ’61.
Mickey Mantle and his No. 7 may be one of the most publicly recognized players in MLB history. He could be considered in the category of a Derek Jeter or Jason Varitek in the sense he will be loved be any fan of baseball because of his dedication and love for the game.
Inside the art
To appeal to the art crowd, there are a few gorgeous paintings in the exhibit to go along with the authentic memorabilia. Lou Gehrig will forever be solidified in baseball history and his “Luckiest Man on the Earth” speech would still send chills down anyone’s spine. What will also send chills down your spine is the incredible life-like painting of the memorable speech. Adam Port’s photorealistic painting will have you doing a triple-take as you try to tell if it’s a photograph or not.
Historic downtown Waterbury
Not only was the Yankees or Red Sox art exhibit a riveting experience, but Downtown Waterbury, Connecticut is as mesmerizing and as rich in history as the Mattatuck Museum itself. The newly refurbished green is surrounded by the beautiful St. John’s Episcopal Church on the west side and the Carrie Welton Fountain that rests on the east side.
Welton was daughter of wealthy Waterbury resident Joseph Chauncey Welton. She was educated, an animal activist and was an active horse rider and mountain climber. She was a rather active individual and died doing something she loved, descending down Longs Peak in the Rocky Mountains. It was the first recorded death of a white women on that mountain. In her will, she left $7,000 to the City of Waterbury to build a fountain for horses and people. A bronze life-sized statue of her trusty stead Knight.
Pipeline to MLB
Waterbury has also groomed four major league ballplayers including: Roger Connor, George LaChance, Johnny Moore and Jimmy Piersall. The most recognizable name in the bunch was “the Waterbury Wizard” Piersall, who may be remembered more for his actions than his statistics. Piersall openly battled with bipolar disorder that became the subject of his book and film, Fear Strikes Out.
Connor is a forgotten name in baseball, he played from 1880-1897 and held the home run record until Ruth came along. Connor was also the first major leaguer to hit a grand slam.
Neil Scherer and the whole Mattatuck staff provided tremendous information thorough out my tour of the museum. Many fans travel through Connecticut to get to either Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park, so next time they make the trip, the “Yankees or Red Sox” America’s Greatest Rivalry” art exhibit should be a must stop.
The exhibit will remain open at the Mattuck Museum, located at 144 West St. in Waterbury, until Nov. 12.