Baseball Reliquary founder Terry Cannon died at his home in Pasadena Saturday, following a long battle with bile duct cancer, according to a longtime friend.
Cannon was born August 31, 1953, in Dearborn, Michigan. His contribution to the game of baseball, at least locally, was legendary.
Cannon, who studied at San Francisco State University, created the Baseball Reliquary, an oddball mini-museum, in 1996.
He created the Reliquary—more of a concept than an actual museum at first—before going to work as a staff assistant librarian at the Pasadena Public Library Allendale Branch.
The Reliquary eventually grew into the Institute for Baseball Studies, a humanities-based research collection at Whittier college, in what is essentially an attic room on the third floor of the school’s Mendenhall Building. The Reliquary, long a museum in name only, finally found its permanent home.
According to its website, “The Baseball Reliquary is a nonprofit, educational organization dedicated to fostering an appreciation of American art and culture through the context of baseball history and to exploring the national pastime’s unparalleled creative possibilities”
Since its founding, the Reliquary held exhibitions on various odd and sundry baseball projects, including “Legacies: Baseball from Flatbush to the City of Angels,” interpretations of the 1958 move of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ move to Los Angeles; the photographic exhibition “Another Trip in Baseball’s Time Machine: Photography at the Field of Dreams,” and the 2019 musical, “A Swinging Centennial: Jackie Robinson at 100.”
The Reliquary also instituted The Shrine of the Eternals, an annual alternative to the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, honoring lesser, but still bright, lights in the baseball world. An induction ceremony has been held every year, save 2020, due to social gathering restrictions.
Cannon’s reach spread far throughout the baseball world.
As author/playwright/poet and baseball fanatic Tomas Benitez recalled,
“I had an idea in 2004 to create an exhibit to honor the influence and impact of baseball on the Mexican-American community.”
One of the first people he contacted was Cannon.
They took their idea to Cal State L.A. librarian Cesar Caballero, who loved the idea, and asked about their collection.
“We got nothing,” said Cannon. And they were off and running, driven by Cannon’s love of everything baseball, his attention to detail, and his own sheer determination.
“You know how you meet someone and you realize that they’re going to be your friend for life?” said Benitez. “That’s how it was with us, from our first meeting.”
The idea became the Mexican American Baseball History Project which was born at Cal State LA in 2005, and eventually moved to a permanent location at Cal State San Bernardino in 2015. It was rededicated as the Latino Baseball History Project, when Caballero accepted a dean’s position at the university.
Occidental College professor Peter Dreier said in an email Saturday, “I’m not sure that Terry knew how many people loved and respected him, but he was the guru for baseball fanatics around the country. Terry had a wonderful sense of humor and a great sense of whimsy.”
As Dreier acknowledged, “Terry didn’t run the Reliquary alone. He had a big network of friends and allies who helped him, including his closest ally, his wife Mary. But it was Terry who inspired and sustained the Reliquary, with his single-minded enthusiasm and his genius for networking.”
Dreier said his upcoming book, “Baseball Rebels: The Radical and Rebels Who Shook Up the Game and Changed America,” was inspired by Terry’s spirit, and will be dedicated to him.
“The Reliquary will go on, but it won’t be the same without Terry,” Dreier added.
“Terry was very very special to me,” wrote longtime friend Emma Amaya on Facebook. “I was always learning from him. I could not stump him when it came to baseball or any historical question. I used to go see him at the Institute for Baseball Studies at Whittier College on Fridays and help out and shoot the breeze, but most times we worked in silence.
“Terry enriched my life,” Amaya continued. “I treasure his friendship and the friendships I have made because of him. He was a true gentleman, a scholar.”
Benitez said Friday, “Terry understood the weirdness of baseball,”. “He also understood what made it so great was its imperfection, and that hitting a round object with another round object was going to create an imperfection, a parabola of imperfection that was almost impossible to predict, and a lot of things both positive and negative, about the American culture.”
Last year’s “Shrine of the Eternals” ceremony can be viewed here.
Cannon is survived by his wife, Mary.