By: Claude Solnik
September 21, 2016
It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a baseball.
The Cradle of Aviation Museum is taking a moment to go beyond the aircraft that it typically showcases, presenting a collection of objects that take flight in a very different way across baseball stadiums.
Randy Kaplan’s collection of baseballs autographed by world leaders – as well as presidential candidates such as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton – is being exhibited at the museum as “World Leaders on the Ball: A Collection of Autographed Baseballs” Sept. 27 through Nov. 8.
The exhibit of 180 baseballs is being presented to coincide with the World Series and the presidential elections.
Baseballs on exhibit include those signed by late South African President Nelson Mandela, President Barack Obama, Mikhail Gorbachev, Margaret Thatcher and many others
You can also see baseballs signed by 2016 presidential candidates Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz and John Kasich.
Kaplan said his “passion for knowledge” about aviation and “love of history” makes the Cradle of Aviation Museum “the perfect venue to share my collection with its visitors.”
While some people buy autographs, Kaplan doesn’t shop for autographs online, but gets presidents and other leaders to sign on or near the dotted line – the stitches on the baseball.
“The unique thing about my collection is that I don’t purchase anything for it,” Kaplan said. “All of the signed baseballs I possess are obtained directly from the individual or through the help of a top government official.”
The Cradle of Aviation, with its focus on other types of air power, may not be the first museum that comes to mind as a repository for baseballs. Kaplan has some other places that he hopes will also show the signed baseballs.
“My goal is to have my collection exhibited at the United Nations visitors center in New York City and the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown,” Kaplan said.
The collection has been shown at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa; the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum in Austin, Texas, and the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, Calif.
The collection also was shown at William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich..
The Cradle of Aviation is home to more than 75 aircraft and spacecraft, a full dome theater and planetarium, on Charles Lindbergh Boulevard in East Garden City. Hours are Tues.-Sun. from 9:30 am-5:00 pm.