Resurrecting the Uniform and Memory of William Cannonball Jackman

Throughout the history of Baseball’s Negro Leagues during the early 20th century, virtually every player had a nickname, such as “Cool Papa” Bell, Bullet Joe Rogan, and Scrappy Brown. These colloquial names given to ballplayers by fellow ballplayers, added some flair to the league’s brand of baseball. The man nicknamed “Cannonball,” William Jackman, is perhaps one of the sport’s most talented, yet unknown legends. His nickname derived from his blistering fastball, and his career statistics showcase over 200 victories, nearly 800 strikeouts, and 48 shutouts during a 20-year career. His talents saw sportswriters compare Jackman, who was once dubbed “The Greatest Player You’ve Never Heard Of”, to big league Hall-of-Famers like Walter Johnson and Grover Cleveland Alexander. During his career, Major League Baseball was segregated and remained so until second baseman (and future Hall-of-Famer) Jackie Robinson broke in with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. Some baseball historians believe that Jackman had the talent necessary to succeed in the big leagues, had the league integrated earlier. Jackman pitched into his mid-50s until retiring from baseball in 1953. He died in 1972 at the age of 74.

Uniform of Boston Royal Giants player William "Cannonball" Jackman after conservation. (Photo courtesy of Museum of African American History, Boston and Nantucket, MA.)

A uniform worn by Jackman in his playing days with the Boston Royal Giants, has been given a second life by our friends at Museum Textile Services in Andover, Massachusetts. Included in the entire uniform package is a jersey, pants, belt, cleats, socks, stirrups, two rosin bags, and some pads. The uniform is being preserved and stabilized by MTS in an effort to have it included in the Museum of African American History‘s “The Color of Baseball in Boston” exhibit opening on May 19. With any fabric item, insects are a concern. After the initial insect damage was attended to by placing the object in an anoxic fumigation chamber, these items were subsequently cleaned with a HEPA vacuum. Using Ethafoam, conservators carved out a head mold to be used as a display piece for Jackman’s hat. This mold will be used to display the piece during exhibition. Conservators also used a Preservation Pencil which relaxed the fabric and released old adhesives. This tool directs hot or cold water vapor from an ultrasonic humidifier.

University Products has an all-star lineup of products that can help you complete a similar project. We carry the proper conservation tools such as HEPA vacuums, Ethafoam planks and rolls, foam saws and knives, as well as preservation pencils to bring your prized memorabilia back to life. We also offer ready-made display products including  conservation suit forms and head mounts to help you showcase your collection.