On Friday, a new exhibition of original pastel paintings by children’s book illustrator Gerald Purnell will go on display at the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History. The paintings were created to accompany the acclaimed children’s book by Richard Andersen titled A Home Run for Bunny. Andersen is currently a professor of writing at Springfield College and lives in Montague, MA. Purnell’s original pastel paintings will be on display through September 14 in a new gallery located near the entrance to the Springfield History Library & Archives.
The book tells the true story of the baseball team from Springfield’s American Legion Post 21 that visited Gastonia, North Carolina for the 1934 Eastern Regional Championships. Included in the roster of talented 15-year-olds was one African-American player, Ernest “Bunny” Taliaferro. When informed that Bunny was not allowed to participate in the tournament because of his race, the team voted unanimously not to play. Upon the team’s return to Springfield, a large crowd was on hand to welcome the players home as heroes for their brave stance.
August 22 of this year will mark the 80th anniversary of Post 21’s withdrawal from the Gastonia tournament. A “Bring It Home” baseball committee already is working on a celebration of that anniversary as part of its Father’s Day weekend activities in Forest Park. A monument in Forest Park titled “Brothers All Are We” celebrates the team’s stand against racism.