There's no debate that baseball is an American original.
Baseball at an art museum, however, is Niagara's invention.
The Castellani Art Museum at Niagara University opened its doors Sunday to about 100 people who were there to enjoy "A Celebration of America's Pastime." The event marks the opening of the museum's exhibit, "Field of Dreams: North American Baseball Stadiums," which features panoramic photographs of some of baseball's most beloved ballparks.
The 26 photographs featured in the exhibit, which runs at the Castellani through Aug. 2, were taken by American photographer Jim Dow between 1980 and 1981 and are now part of the museum's permanent collection. They depict hallowed halls like Fenway Park as well as some fields that have been lost to time, such as Veterans Stadium and the recently demolished Yankee Stadium.
"What makes these photographs exciting is, when you look at them, they're completely empty, devoid of all people," said Michael Beam, Castellani's curator. He said that these photographs document both architectural and cultural heritage. "Each of these stadiums has its own culture, its own character."
According to Beam, the exhibit will be shown at the Louisville Slugger Museum in Louisville, Ky., between March and September 2012.
The cultural heritage of baseball is a source of inspiration for many. Nine local writers, recruited by local freelance writer Ed Adamczyk, gave readings of personal writings and works by other authors on the topic of baseball.
"You can learn so much about the history of America just by prowling around baseball's history," said Adamczyk.
The price of admission also earned patrons a hot dog, chips and a soda, which many enjoyed outside. Inside, along with the Dow photographs and readings, many people bid on a baseball bat donated by the Louisville Slugger Museum bearing the engraved signature of Joe McCarthy, a Niagara University alum, manager of the New York Yankees from 1931 to 1946 and a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
About 2,000 baseball cards also were donated, which those in attendance were able to keep. Those looking to complete a set of 1989 Fleer or 1992 Topps might have been able to finish their checklists.
Plaques along the wall of the exhibition's main room celebrated past Niagara University baseball players who turned pro, players such as McCarthy and Sal "The Barber" Maglie, who pitched against the Yankees during Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series.
Near those plaques, two gentlemen sat discussing baseball's halcyon days. Bernard Mullane, 81, of Lewiston, and Joe Norwin, 77, of Williamsville, discussed today's exorbitant player contracts, their issues with publicly subsidized ballparks and the exploits of players named Fidrych, Spahn and Mazeroski.
"Baseball is like religion -- it's very complicated," said Mullane. "A good manager in the second inning is thinking about what's going to happen in the seventh."