#GoingDeep: Bracelets have long given fans a chance to express their diamond passion
Within the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s collection there is a small subset of artifacts comprised of baseball bracelets. The Museum’s collection chronicles all of baseball history, including the important role played by the fans who bring the spark and joy to the game. These pieces of jewelry provide a snapshot into the lives of many female baseball fans who wore them and proudly supported their teams in a time before donning a jersey of their favorite player became societal norm.
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As early as the 1860s, ball clubs instituted Ladies Days to attract female fans. These ballpark events helped women foster a connection and interest in the game, while also encouraging the men in the stands to behave in a more civilized fashion (meaning less cursing, booing, drinking, and gambling). These days devoted to attracting women to the game were fairly frequent occurrences up until the 1980s.
The Oct. 10, 1969 edition of The Baltimore Evening Sun quoted an article written by Nancy Seaver, wife of future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, for a New York newspaper in which she talks about her “lucky baseball charm bracelet.” She notes that she already has a charm for her and Tom’s poodle and several related to his then-three-year big league career, including one for his uniform number (41), one representing his 1967 Rookie of the Year Award, and a pair representing his appearances in the ’67 and ’68 All-Star Games. She goes on to say that “pretty soon I’ll be adding a gold pennant. And after that a 1969 World Series charm.”
The article had been published just days after the Mets had clinched the NL pennant and shortly before the beginning of the World Series. Nancy accurately predicted the outcome of the Series with the ’69 Miracle Mets clinching the franchise’s first Championship in five games over Baltimore.
The final group of baseball bracelets in the Museum’s collection are perhaps the most unusual and heart-warming. While not charm bracelets in the traditional sense, these pieces of jewelry, like the artifacts previously mentioned, demonstrate the wearer’s love of the game. These accessories were not purchased from an ad in a newspaper or collected one charm at a time. The facets that make up these bracelets were won – not by the women who wore them, but by their baseball husbands, and thus they represent both a love for the game and for a spouse.
Joe McCarthy never made it to the majors as a player, but for almost a quarter of a century, he successfully led three franchises as a manager. Spending most of his career in New York, Joe skippered the Yankees from 1931 to 1946. In those 16 years, he piloted greats such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio as the club captured eight American League pennants and seven World Championships. McCarthy had his World Series rings refashioned as charms and placed them on a bracelet created especially for his wife, Elizabeth “Babe” McCarthy.
When Eleanor wore this piece in the years following Lou’s death, this collection of his awards no doubt provided her with more memories than a “traditional” charm bracelet ever could.
The bracelets in the Museum’s collection tell the story of women who were a part of baseball – some as fans, some as employees, and some as wives - from a time when it wasn’t conventional to broadcast one’s favorite teams or players by donning jerseys and caps in public. Instead, in the form of jewelry, women found more delicate, and often more personal ways to express their special connection to baseball.
From team-specific bracelets to more personalized charm choices, these accessories in the Museum’s collection shed light on the female fans of our National Pastime. In more ways than one, the old adage is true: Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.
Gabrielle Augustine is a curator at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum