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TO OCT. 3
John McGraw never had to worry about QuesTec. Good thing, because if such a device for judging an umpire’s effectiveness had been in place around the turn of the 20th century, Christy Mathewson—the ace of McGraw’s 1905 New York Giants—would likely have gotten his strike zone squeezed. Not only might the Giants have lost that year’s world championship, but the legendarily feisty McGraw almost certainly would have killed the official. Baseball has changed (a photo depicting a 1909 stickball game is pictured), but not nearly as much as the country that birthed it 30-plus years before the Civil War. The National Museum of Natural History’s “Baseball as America” is an ambitious exhibition, ultimately with too lofty a goal for its scope. The only way to really document the enormous social, political, and economic transformations in America and their reflection in the game of baseball would be to tell large portions of both stories, an impossibility given the show’s limited space. And so, without a guide thicker than the exhibited notebook used to solicit teams during A-Rod’s free agency, the memorabilia collected in “Baseball as America” remain as esoteric to the layperson as the names Mathewson and QuesTec—or for that matter, the Easter Island statue in the hallway outside the exhibition’s entrance. Which, come to think of it, bears a striking resemblance to John McGraw. The show is on view from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily, to Sunday, Oct. 3, at the National Museum of Natural History, 10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 357-2700. (Mike Kanin)