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Ohr-O'Keefe Museum focuses on Coast's baseball in the past, present

TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD 
 Baseball fans can rejoice with the upcoming Our Love Affair with Baseball exhibit at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD Baseball fans can rejoice with the upcoming Our Love Affair with Baseball exhibit at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art.

BILOXI -- The Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi will cast its spotlight on baseball in South Mississippi with the exhibit "Our Love Affair with Baseball," which begins on Tuesday.

The multimedia exhibit and luncheon series looks at baseball on the Coast, which includes the inaugural 2015 season of the Biloxi Shuckers minor league baseball team; major league spring training on the Coast in the early part of the 20th century; the semi-pro Biloxi Dodgers of the Negro Baseball League; Major League Baseball memorabilia; and college baseball in Mississippi.

"The idea was conceived by Kevin O'Brien and Vincent Creel," said Barry Lyons, guest curator and former MLB player from Biloxi. "They reached out last summer to see if I would be interested in helping them with this. We started the process back in September We want to celebrate baseball.''

The luncheon series, which will begin Friday, will feature guest speakers every Friday at noon. Luminaries such as Rick Cleveland, Dale Murphy, Darryl Strawberry, Jim Howarth,

Tim Bennett, J. Con Maloney, Matt and Marcus Lawton, Gary Sarnoff, Ron Swoboda, Doug Thompson and Cooper Farris are scheduled to speak.

"We have a story to tell and the lineup (of speakers) touches on all aspects of the exhibit," Lyons said. "They will be sharing insights into that time period, that team, that era or that person's career. It's America's Pastime.

"One of my goals in coming back home was to notch up the level of play down here. This is a way to tell the origins and history of baseball on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and shine the light on people who excelled in baseball throughout the whole state."

Did you know, for instance, the Washington Senators conducted spring training in Biloxi in the 1930s at Biloxi Stadium -- which was then where Keesler Air Force Base is now? Gary Sarnoff, one of the guest speakers, has written a book on the '33 Senators, who trained in Biloxi and made the World Series that season.

"Keesler sent us some really cool aerial shots of what the field looked like then," Ohr-O'Keefe curator Rhea Miner said.

The Philadelphia Phillies were the last team -- in 1938 -- to have spring training on the Coast. The Detroit Tigers trained on the Coast before the Senators.

"We are really trying to expand our reach with our community," Ohr-O'Keefe executive director Kevin O'Brien said. "We have a lot of art exhibits. We reach a lot more people when we deal with popular culture and things like sports. We have baseball, and we want to connect with things that are happening in our town. It's a natural thing to happen."

Biloxi-born Peter Roy "Lee" Elder will display his six World Series rings he earned as a scout -- three with the New York Yankees and three with his present employer, the San Francisco Giants.

One of the many bonus events is the Biloxi Shuckers will name their outstanding pitcher and players of the month at the museum May 11, June 1, July 6 and Aug. 17.

Also, the museum has teamed with the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in Jackson for an interactive program that shows bios and interviews of Mississippi's famous baseball players.

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