In The News

Smithsonian exhibition coming to Union County

This article originally appeared in the Gazette Democrat  

Baseball. Soccer. Hockey. Bowling. Kickball. Surfing. 

People around the country are drawn to compete in these sports and many others. 

Still more gather on the sidelines to cheer for their favorite athletes and teams. Nowhere do Americans more intimately connect to sports than in their hometowns. 

The Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street, MoMS, program celebrates this connection in the new traveling exhibition “Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America.”

A partnership of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, SITES, and state humanities councils, MoMS will present five copies of “Hometown Teams” on simultaneous yearlong tours of Illinois, Idaho, Nebraska, New Jersey and West Virginia. The tours were scheduled to begin in January. 

The Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in Little Falls, N.J., was scheduled to be the first to open on Jan. 29, 2014, just four days and 10 miles away from MetLife Stadium, home to Super Bowl XLVIII, which was played on Feb. 2. 

The exhibition will travel to 180 small towns in 30 states in six years. The full tour itinerary can be viewed online at, and a short video about the exhibition can be viewed here.

Illinois Exhibition Schedule

The “Hometown Teams” exhibition is scheduled to be on display in six Illinois communities during 2014.

The exhibition’s first stop in Illinois is scheduled to be in Union County.

The exhibition is presented through a cooperative effort involving local sponsors along with the Illinois Humanities Council, the Illinois Association of Museums, the YMCA, the Illinois Parks & Recreation Association, the Illinois State Historical Society and the Illinois State Museum.

The 2014 exhibition schedule in Illinois includes:

March 1 through April 13: Union County Museum/Union County Historical and Genealogy Society, Cobden.

April 19 through June 1: City of Mattoon Tourism and Arts Department/Coles County Historical Society, Mattoon.

June 7 through July 20: Bottomley-Ruffing-Schalk Baseball Museum, Nokomis.

July 26 through Sept. 7: Waterloo Museum Society, Waterloo.

Sept. 13 through Oct. 26: Rock Island Public Library, Rock Island.

Nov. 1 through Dec. 14: Friends of Hancock County, Carthage.

Union County Museum Events

The Union County Museum in Cobden is planning to host a full slate of activities in conjunction with “Hometown Teams” exhibition. 

The museum itself is located at 117 S. Appleknocker in downtown Cobden.

The museum is operated by the Union County Historical and Genealogy Society.

A ribbon cutting ceremony is planned at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 1, to celebrate the opening of the exhibition in Cobden. A variety of activies are planned and local dignitaries are scheduled to be in attendance.

“This is not only a great honor for the museum to be selected as a site – but for Southern Illinois,” historical society president Patrick Brumleve said. “I cannot stress the importance of this exhibit and what it means for the region.” 

The interactive exhibit will capture the connection between towns and their sports teams.

The display will feature artifacts and stories that will provide those who see the exhibit with a chance to explore how historical championship runs, rivalries, traditions, individuals and teams can have an indelible mark on a community.

While the exhibit has a national theme, the museum will present displays about local teams and sports.

A variety of photographs and artifacts have been obtained by the museum which feature the history of athletics in Union County and Southern Illinois, from Gorham to Goreville, the 1984 Anna-Jonesboro Community High School football team, African-American basketball teams and girls’ 4-H teams.

All of the winning Cobden High School Appleknocker teams are represented, too.

Many of the items never have been on display. Some date back to the early 1900s.

Union County Museum volunteers have spent countless hours researching a variety of sports-themed topics and the research presents new perspectives on the significance of athletics in the lives of the people of Southern Illinois.

During the exhibition, the Union County Museum plans to have special extended hours: Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

In conjunction with the exhibit, the following programs are scheduled to be presented at the St. Joseph Church parish hall at 103 N. Centennial St. in Cobden. Admission is free.

Here’s a look at the schedule of events:

March 2, 2 p.m., “All Work and No Play? Sports in the CCC Camps,” presented by researcher and commentator Kay Rippelmeyer.

March 9, 2 p.m., “Mixing Business and Pleasure: Independent and Merchant Baseball Teams,” Jeffrey Craig, Clark’s Baseball Team; Louise Ogg, Cairo; Tom Dunn, Cobden; Richard Cerny, Cobden; Will Travelstead, Cobden. 

March 16, 2 p.m., “Black and Invisible: African-American Basketball Teams in Southern Illinois 1924-1954,” Harvey Welch, Southern Illinois University Carbondale Basketball Hall of Fame; Judy and Will Travelstead, Cobden.

March 23, 2 p.m., “The Amazing Appleknockers: 50 Years Later,” members of the 1964 Cobden High School basketball team.

March 30, 2 p.m., “We Can Do It! Before and After Title IX,” women in sports; Diane Daugherty, retired SIUC golf coach; Kelly Burke, sports anchor, WSIL-TV; LaDonna Bachmann, Shawnee High School boys’ coach; Linda Stearns, Lick Creek; and Barbara Bauer, Anna, representing 4-H girls’ teams.

April 6, 2 p.m., “There’s No ‘I’ in Hometown Teams,” building a community through sports; Les Winkeler, sports editor, Southern Illinoisan newspaper.

Neighborhood Stories 

“Hometown Teams” will capture the stories that unfold on the neighborhood fields and courts, and the underdog heroics, larger-than-life legends, fierce rivalries and gut-wrenching defeats. 

For more than 100 years, sports have reflected the trials and triumphs of the American experience and helped shape the national character. 

Whether it is professional sports or those played on the collegiate or scholastic level, amateur sports or sports played by kids on the local playground, sports are everywhere in America.

The project gives communities an opportunity to share these stories, celebrate local legends and collect memorabilia from the community. 

With the support and guidance of state humanities councils, these towns will develop complementary exhibits, host humanities programs and facilitate educational initiatives about sports and ideals such as team work, fair play, leadership and respect.

MoMS invites the public to share their local sports stories through the “Stories from Main Street” website or through the free mobile app available from the Mac App Store or the Google Play Store. 

Both platforms record and map the location reflected in the submission and will accept written and audio stories as well as videos and photos.