Alum donates World Series memorabilia collection

Earlier this month, Kurt Cerulli ’78 donated his personal collection of baseball memorabilia containing over 300 signed baseballs and around 350 other items, including game programs, tickets, and photographs, to Colby College’s special collections. The collection is centered around the World Series, and took Cerulli 15 years to put together. Most of the autographed memorabilia was acquired by Cerulli through the agents of players. “What makes this collection unusual are the inscriptions written by the players,” Cerulli to The Echo. He asked players not only to sign their name, but also to write down important statistics either from their career of from the World Series that they played in, making the collection quite unique.

Another exciting aspect of the collection is the historical context of the artifacts. “I was really interested in what was going on in the backdrop,” Cerulli explained. “There are programs from the 1940s when World War II was going on, and from the 1960s with the social issues, and the Vietnam War protests.”

Cerulli obtained a National League program, an American League program, and a ticket stub from as many World Series as possible, putting each set of three items together in a frame. These items are considered to be the core of the collection. For the years in which the two leagues did not have separate programs, or if Cerulli could not obtain one of them, a photograph was substituted for the missing program.

Prior to donating the collection to Colby, Cerulli kept the collection in his house, but decided not to bring it with him when he and his wife moved. Cerulli said that Colby was very interested and responsive when he mentioned the possibility of donating the collection, and that they had “very interesting ideas about how to use it,” including displaying portions of it at the new athletic center and at the new hotel in downtown Waterville, as well as potentially using the artifacts as primary sources in American Studies and other classes.

Cerulli is the founder of Cerulli Associates, a financial services firm in Boston. He also founded the Cerulli Award for excellence in sports writing in 2012, and the PEN New England Sports Writers Hall of Fame at Fenway Park in Boston.

Professor Ben Lisle, an American Studies professor and author of Modern Coliseum: Stadiums and American Culture, a book about baseball stadiums that was published this past summer, said he “used a lot of ephemera, such as programs, in writing that book.” Lisle explained that “using programs as sort of cultural documents of a certain time period, as expressions of ideas about, say, masculinity and gender, or class, reading through the advertisements, and doing visual analyses of the stories that those advertisements tell, makes them really valuable sources.” Lisle was more skeptical of how some of the other artifacts would be used for learning purposes. “The fact that there’s a signed baseball, I’m not really sure how I’d use that in an academic setting, but I can see how it would be exciting to baseball fans,” he told The Echo.

When asked about the collection,  Associate Professor of American Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Lisa Arellano said that “primary objects like that, cultural objects, can tell us an enormous amount about political ideologies of the time, and I think they’re some of the most effective things we can use in class…Those kinds of primary documents can be so much more effective than a secondary source.” Arellano believed that sports artifacts are particularly useful in learning about the past. “Sports in general are such an important American form,” she explained, “more even than a very technical form of literature or art, a popular culture form can tell us a great deal about a period in history, sports especially so. Sports have so much to do with American popular culture and zeitgeist, they really connect us to how everyday people are living and thinking, and baseball in particular is such an iconographic American sport.”

In addition to being a valuable learning resource, many members of the Colby community have gone to view the collection simply because “it’s really cool,” as Matt Jones ’20 said. “I was impressed with the size of the collection and was told that what was on display was only about 1/6th of the entire thing. I also thought it was amazing how old some of the World Series programs were. The oldest one I saw was from the 1950s,” Jones said.

The collection will be showcased at Miller Library from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday for Homecoming weekend.