Baseball card inspires local sports exhibit

By AUBRIE GEORGE | The Moorestown Sun

When members of the Moorestown Historical Society received a 1920s-era baseball card depicting Walter French — one of the most legendary sports figures to ever hail from Moorestown — they wondered who else from the township might have made it to the major leagues.

In September, members began to do research, talking to Moorestown coaches, soliciting information from ESPN and NFL Films, calling various colleges and universities. Five months later, they turned the fruits of their labor into Sports Legends of Moorestown — an exhibit highlighting Moorestown’s most notable athletes and coaches.

Group members began with a nucleus of about 20 sports figures who came from Moorestown and began to find out about others as they researched those figures, Historical society member Lenny Wagner said.

Now, the exhibit features bios, artifacts, audio and video clips, stats, stories and rare photos pertaining to more than 60 sports stars who, at one time, called Moorestown home.

“There is an awful lot of modesty within this town,” Historical Society President Ann Langerhans said. “I don’t think there is a lot of horn-blowing that goes on, so it’s wonderful that we can celebrate these athletes because they don’t blow their own horns.”

The current exhibit spans the entire historic society headquarters at the Smith-Cadbury Mansion, a historical building constructed in 1738. It features the accomplishments and stories of athletes and coaches from fourteen different sports from generations as far back as the 1920s to as recent as last year.

A self-guided tour through the exhibits holds stories such as those of Al Leconey, the “Fastest Man in the East” who beat England’s Harold Abrahams in a famous 400-meter relay depicted in “Chariots of Fire,” which is about Abrahams’ life.

Guests will find out why Moorestown soccer star Jill Klatt’s jersey is torn and sewn back together and have the opportunity to hear about French’s role on both the 1929 World Series-winning Philadelphia As baseball team and the 1925 Pottsville Maroons football team during their controversial championship run.

Dave Robinson, one of the most famous, multi-talented athletes to hail from Moorestown, is scheduled to visit the exhibit some time this spring.

He will sign copies of a book he co-wrote with teammates from the Green Bay Packers about their experiences and memories with Vince Lombardi, Wagner said.

The exhibit was scheduled to open with a private reception last Sunday, where athletes and members of their families were scheduled to visit and view the exhibit.

Wagner said members hope the subject of this exhibit will expose a whole new group of people to the historical society.

“Our hope is that people will come here to our building that have an interest in sports,” Wagner said. “It will give us exposure to a whole new group of people in town.”

The historical society opens an exhibit to the public every year, but members said this year’s exhibit took more work than others.

“This is our most ambitious exhibit because we started it with the least amount in our possession,” Wagner said. “All we had was that baseball card.”

The exhibit was scheduled to open to the public on Feb. 2 and will remain open until the last weekend of June.

The Smith-Cadbury Mansion is located at 12 High Street. The exhibit is open to the public on Tuesdays, Sundays and every second Saturday for the month from 1 to 4 p.m., but will also be open on other select days.

For more information and for the hours and days that the exhibit will be open, visit the Moorestown Historical Society’s Web site at www.moorestown.com/history.