The CC Morris Cricket Library and United States Cricket Museum: Philadelphia's Hidden Gem

Sarai Flores, for GPA -- To many, Philadelphia is known for it’s colorful murals depicting in vivid detail the vibrant life of its inner city neighborhoods. The city is also well known for being home to the most outdoor sculptures in America, spread throughout many of its beautiful outdoor parks.

What many Philadelphians are not aware of is that the most historical sports museum in America lies only ten miles west of the city limits.

The C.C Morris Cricket Library and United States Cricket Museum, an independent non-profit, housed in the in the Main Library on the scenic campus of Haverford College is one of the sport’s greatest archives in the country. Detail upon detail of the world’s most famous matches, teams, players and items since the sport's inception are housed here.

The museum maintains a collection of cricket literature, memorabilia and records that help to not only maintain Philadelphia’s history of cricket dating back over a century, but to keep up the spirit of this popular local and international sport.

“Our role has been trying to foster more cricket awareness in the United States,” said Paul Hensley, president of the C. Christopher Morris Cricket Library. “We provided the founding funding for the U.S. Youth Cricket Association. There’s cricket being played by over 100,000 kids at the grade school level in the United States today because of what that group does.”

Established in 1970, the Cricket Museum has over 1,600 books, journals, DVDs and historic material that can only be found within its walls. The memorabilia and journals displayed decorate the walls in browns, reds, greens, silver, whites and blacks. The museum operates on donations made from cricket lovers and the families of famous cricket players.

Some of the museum’s treasured items include the only complete set of the “Wisden in North America,” the complete set of the “Bermuda Cricketer,” a W.G. Grace Bat, the J.B. King Bowling Trophy from 1897 and a gold, ruby-encrusted cigarette lighter presented to the American cricketer J.B. King by Prince Ranjitsinhji after King took the prince’s first ball in a cricket match.

“We have a tremendous amount of stuff here that is just nowhere else,” said Hensley. “We collect as much history as we can find. It’s not the type of place that’s going to appeal to the average American tourist but for people who have any appreciation at all it’s a really big deal.”

While not known popularly in Philadelphia, the museum has a well established global profile that Hensley says has gotten attention in South Africa, India, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand and the West Indies. The Cricket Museum plays host to international visitors from cricket playing countries every year who come to Philadelphia to visit the museum.

During the first weekend of every May, the museum holds the Philadelphia International Cricket Festival. Cricket teams from countries all over the world are invited to play in friendly competition during the three-day celebration. The festival includes a tour of the museum and a dinner with a guest speaker.

“Everyone always has a great time. You get to meet some really wonderful people,” said Hensley of the event.

The Museum recently merged with the Greater Philadelphia Cricket League and in the past has collaborated with The National Baseball Hall Of Fame and Lords for a hands-on educational exhibit on how baseball and cricket connect.

Next year the museum will be hosting its first American Youth Cricket Festival Weekend, continuing its efforts to raise more interest in the sport in Philadelphia and across America.

Image courtesy of Sarai Flores.