ONEONTA _ The Oneonta History Center's major exhibit for the summer examines the community's history through the lens of baseball.

And that history is a reflection of American culture as a whole, said Andrew Marietta, a co-creator of Baseball in Rural America: A Community's story.

The Greater Oneonta Historical Society owns and operates the center at 183 Main St. Marietta worked with fellow GOHS exhibit committee members Dory Brown, Bob Brzozowski, Susan Plantz, John Pontius and Art Torrey for about a year in anticipation of the exhibit's opening Sunday.

Through graphic-filled, storyboard displays and memorabilia, the exhibit traces the history of baseball from the first report of a game in Oneonta on May 21, 1867, to the 2008 New York-Penn League season of the Oneonta Tigers, who played their first home game Saturday.

The display features Babe Ruth and Micky Mantle-related memorabilia. The two legends played exhibition games in Oneonta in 1920 and 1973 respectively. There also is a strong focus on the professional teams that played here.

The walls and storefront of The History Center are adorned with New York-Penn League championship pennants won by Oneonta teams.

"It's a treasure," said Karen Anderson, who was one of dozens of Oneonta-area residents who stopped by the center for the exhibits opening reception Sunday. "It's really a national treasure."

Anderson said the volunteers of GOHS have done a tremendous job with the exhibit, which includes memorabilia from the GOHS collection and from Brzozowski and Torrey.

But much of the material comes from the private collection of Albert "Sam" Nader, former Oneonta mayor and co-owner of the Oneonta Tigers.

Nader, working with the Oneonta Athletic Corp., brought a Red Sox farm team to the city in 1966. The next year, Oneonta became a Yankees affiliate. The Yankees era ended in 1999 when the Oneonta team switched its affiliation to the Detroit Tigers.

Memorabilia from Nader's collection includes everything from autographed baseballs to a golf scorecard, shared by Nader and Hall of Famers Bob Doerr and Ted Williams. It also includes Don Mattingly's first professional baseball check _ for $292.

Nader said he never had any intention to preserve the items for future, public display when he first started stashing them away.

"I'm just a pack rat," Nader said.

Marietta said the items on display are just a fraction of Nader's collection and were selected to go along with the theme of the exhibit.

"We pulled a lot of the highlights," Marietta said. "I think we are trying to come up with something that will be an attraction for that tourist crowd."

Having a baseball-themed exhibit is a chance to draw in an audience, such as area baseball-camp visitors, that might not otherwise venture into a center focused on local history, he said.

The hope is, that once inside, the visitors not only enjoy the baseball exhibition, but that they also peruse the local history exhibits and learn a little bit about the community in general, Marietta said.

The History Center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesdays.

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