There's a mural on the ceiling of the Great Hall in the Library of Congress
that very nearly blends in with the many others found in the room
. But when you look closer, you'll notice something peculiar: It depicts a bunch of naked guys holding baseball equipment.
Considering that baseball is played in uniforms and the Library of Congress is a government-owned entity, this seems more than a little strange. The surprising image is one of about 350 you'll discover in HarperCollins' stunning coffee-table book, "Baseball Americana: Treasures From the Library of Congress
Asylum called up Susan Reyburn, a staff writer-editor at the Library, to find out more about this book and the amazing mural. Click through to learn more about the image that she and her colleagues refer to as "the naked 19th-century baseball team."
According to Reyburn, who also co-authored "Baseball Americana
," the mural has been around since the Library of Congress opened in 1897
. "It's one of about five images depicting ancient games, showing the Olympic ideal," she tells Asylum.
As far as we know, though, they didn't play baseball in ancient Greece. Nor did they play American football, another anachronistic ceiling mural found in the Great Hall. As Vince Lombardi once shouted
, what the hell's going on out here?
Of the five images depicting games, the naked baseball and football images are the only ones showing men playing American sports. They were painted by the same artist, Frederick C. Martin, in the late 19th century.
"Martin was called in to make murals when the building was being decorated," says Reyburn. "There's areas of the Library where they hired artists to do filler work, and some of it is gaudy. That's where these sports murals came in."
That explains the what, where and who, but not the how -- or, most importantly, the why.
"We're not aware if there was a group of models for the image," says Reyburn. "He could have used a few models, but we just don't know." It's entirely possible that Martin just liked baseball and football and had a sense of humor.
"I always point the mural out to people," says Reyburn, who also gives tours of the Library. "People get a kick out of it -- not because they're naked, but [because they depict] Olympic heroes transposed into American sports."
That may be true, but we know that our readers are definitely laughing because they're naked.