By Sarah Berlinger
Being the sports enthusiasts that we are, MTS was delighted to recently receive a collection of baseball memorabilia from the Museum of African American History in Boston.
The twenty items, including shoes, socks, rosin bags, and a uniform, all belonged to Will "Cannonball” Jackman. A professional pitcher for over 25 years, he has been called “the best baseball player you’ve never heard of.”
Throughout Jackman’s career, he played in Texas, Oklahoma, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts. He came to play for the Boston Colored Giants in 1924, and proved his dominance in the Greater Boston Colored League. Jackman played baseball into his sixties; a truly amazing feat. According to Negro League superstar Bill Yancey, later a Yankees scout, Jackman was the greatest all-around ballplayer he ever saw.
The Jackman collection arrived at MTS for assessment to determine the feasibility of display in the upcoming MAAH exhibit, The Color of Baseball in Boston. The first course of action was to send the items to be treated in the anoxic fumigation chamber at Historic New England. Some items, Such as Cannonball's cap, showed damage from past insect activity.
After fumigation, the collection was surface-cleaned with a HEPA vacuum to remove particulate matter. All but four of the clothing items will be washed gently to reduce deterioration products without removing signs of past use.
The shoes have been reinforced for pitching. Photo courtesy of Museum of African American History, Boston and Nantucket, MA, USA.
Stitched repairs will be kept to a minimum but crucial restorations will be undertaken to camouflage insect damage. A custom-built Ethafoam mannequin will then be constructed
to allow the uniform to be exhibited.
Jackman chose to make Massachusetts his home because of how well he was treated here, and he stayed in the area until his death in 1972. While playing, he also held a job as chauffeur. He drove during the day, pitched nights and weekends, and then kept his chauffering job after retiring from the sport.
We’re very excited to have a role in the preservation of artifacts belonging to such an important member of Boston sports history.