Four years to the day after the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic, the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center is announcing the opening of a new exhibition, HANDLING THE CURVE: COVID-19 and Major League Baseball,  on Wednesday, April 17th, 2024. The exhibition leverages our national pastime, and specifically the 2020 baseball season, as a means of exploring individual stories and our collective social experience from a year that powerfully impacted us all.

 

2020 was a season unlike any in baseball history. With only 60 games played instead of the usual 162, it was the shortest regular season since 1878. But MLB’s abbreviated 2020 schedule doesn’t begin to describe the enormity of impact that COVID-19 exerted on America’s national pastime. As in countless other areas of life that year, the pandemic transformed baseball into a funhouse version of itself: upended, unfamiliar, often heart-breaking. At the same time, the game offered comfort to many, even from a mandatory distance, in its recognizable rhythms and human connection.

 

While ballplayers, coaches and managers endured health risks and isolation inside fan-free stadiums, outside those stadiums COVID-19 powerfully affected our communities, some more than others. As if bright stadium lights had been refocused onto the streets just outside our ballparks, the pandemic illuminated systemic health inequities long prevalent within earshot of the home crowd’s cheers.

 

HANDLING THE CURVE will include artifacts and photographs from major league teams, oral histories, 3D models and cutting edge data visualizations presented in mixed reality to investigate Covid’s impact on our national pastime during the 2020 season, as well as public health consequences of the virus for the communities surrounding the stadiums where baseball is played.

 

The focus of the exhibition will be on Yankee Stadium, where Yogi Berra made his name, situated in the Bronx, the New York City borough described in 2020 as the “ground zero of ground zeroes” for COVID-19. Through the ballpark and its surrounding community, the exhibition will closely examine systemic health inequities laid bare by the pandemic, including how and why COVID-19 disproportionately impacted low income communities of color.

 

“Just as sports represents a shared culture that connects us all, the global pandemic connected us in unprecedented ways,” said Eve Schaenen, Executive Director of the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center. “The Museum is committed to leveraging the common ground baseball offers to create a safe space for the challenging conversations we hope HANDLING THE CURVE will inspire.”

 

HANDLING THE CURVE: COVID-19 and Major League Baseball was made possible by a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.