Heads up, sports fans, here's the lineup: Babe Ruth's bat, a bronzed Joe Louis glove, a hot red 1938 Maserati, Duke Kahanamoku's surfboard, saddles, trophies and enough prints, posters and photos to put the meanest trading-card collector to shame. The National Portrait Gallery, making no pretense of high art, has assembled the nation's scrapbook of sports memorabilia in a fun exhibition of pop history. "Champions of Sport," brought to you by Philip Morris Inc. and the Miller Brewing Co., is on view through the summer.
Jack Dempsey, Billie Jean King, Joe DiMaggio and others perform heroic feats on videotape. In a film tribute (running repeatedly), Jesse Owens goes for it at the Berlin Olympics, Babe Didrickson sinks a putt or two and Bob Mathias works out in the decatholon. Sheet music to "Slide Kelly Slide," a late-19th-century hit, and sports photos by Neil Leifer and others line the walls. Norman Rockwell's "Weighing In" oil of a jockey barely tipping the scales and a snappy poster of Mark Spitz in star-spangled trunks, seven gold medals hanging on his bronzed chest, Joe Namath covered with mud and Willie Mays pitching Topps Bubble Gum Cards -- the roster stretches on in tribute to 100 champs. Clearly, gallery historians have put together a popular show: Just as the Greeks had gods and Homeric heroes, Americans worship athletic all-stars.
Champions Of American Sport -- At the National Portrait Gallery, Eighth and F Streets NW, through September 7, 10 to 5:30 daily.