A special exhibition will be held to recognize the AAABA Tournament and celebrate the event’s 75th anniversary.
“Johnstown’s Game: 75 years of AAABA Baseball in the Flood City” will be on display Tuesday through September on the third floor of the Johnstown Flood Museum, 304 Washington St., downtown Johnstown.
The display will feature the shifts in baseball and the parallel shifts in Johnstown culturally and economically over the past 75 years.
“This is a big anniversary for the AAABA, and it’s rare for an amateur baseball tournament, or any amateur sports tournament, to have this type of longevity and connection to the community,” said Andrew Lang, Johnstown Area Heritage Association’s curator. “This exhibit will be a good opportunity for people, when they’re visiting town during the AAABA and afterward, to really get a sense of how much this has meant to the Johnstown community over the years.”
The display is a joint effort of JAHA and The Tribune-Democrat.
Exhibit designer Vaughn Burnheimer, a Tribune-Democrat graphic artist, said the display was designed to look like a baseball field.
“We have three different eras that we’re representing and a section on Martella’s (Pharmacy’s) win from last year, so each has its own unique design,” he said. “The main portion of the exhibit is going to be based around a baseball diamond, with each area on one of the four base lines.”
There also will be a section of painted artificial turf in the middle of the exhibit and outfield fences.
“It’s really going to have a baseball feel to it as you’re walking through,” Burnheimer said.
The exhibit follows three 25-year periods of the AAABA Tournament – 1945 to 1969, 1970 to 1994 and 1995 to 2019.
Lang said the first 25 years showcased the golden years of amateur baseball.
“Those were really popular years for the AAABA, where it was getting a lot of attention and it was one of the premier tournaments in the country,” he said. “A lot of notable players came through, and the Point Stadium was packed during those years.”
The second 25 years cover the period when Johnstown was confronting a number of different challenges.
“During these years, the tournament remains popular, but it also runs into some challenges of its own, which is the diminishing popularity of baseball, and it kind of gets superseded by football and other amateur sports,” Lang said.
“Not as many people are playing it, and not as many teams are eager to make the trek to Johnstown to play. Those years also are a story of resilience on how the tournament managed to remain strong.”
The last 25 years explore how the tournament has adapted and changed to remain relevant.
“There’s been the shift from high school to college-aged players during these years, and changes in game formats and tournament and playoff structure, all with a mind toward keeping the tournament relevant and making sure that people want to come to Johnstown,” Lang said.
“Even with all the changes that have taken place over the 75 years, the tournament has managed to maintain a very strong presence in Johnstown and the community.”
A final section will be dedicated to Martella’s Pharmacy’s championship win last year, which gave Johnstown its first-ever tournament win.
“That was a great payoff for all these years that Johnstown has been a gracious host and provided a wonderful environment for so many different teams to play,” Lang said.
Many of items in the exhibit – trophies, gear, programs and photographs – are artifacts that have been collected over the years by the AAABA Hall of Fame.
The display also will include memorabilia donated from former AAABA players Pete Vuckovich and Ross Kott; managers Dee Dee Osborne, Chris Pfeil and Chris DelSignore; D.C. Nokes, of the Cambria County Sports Hall of Fame; and the Scheuermann family, of New Orleans, among others.
The exhibition will highlight the history of Sargent’s Stadium at the Point and its significance to the community with a series of images and artwork.
There will be a video series featuring Mike Mastovich, sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat, and George Arcruio III, president of the Johnstown Oldtimers Baseball Association, talking about the tournament and its history, the community and the 75th anniversary and beyond. The videos were shot and produced by Burnheimer.
“We also will have a space where visitors can contribute content to the exhibit,” Lang said. “Baseball is something that creates so many different memories for so many different people, and the AAABA Tournament is no exception. We want to have space where people can reflect on what the tournament has meant to them and leave their thoughts.”
The goal of the exhibition is to educate people – both locals and visitors from out of town – on the tournament and how significant it has been to Johnstown.
“We want this exhibit to be a jumping off point to talk about and remember the tournament and what it has represented to people,” Lang said.