Yesterday, I was lucky enough to check something off my bucket list. On the way to Lake Erie for some downtime, my wife and I stopped in Cooperstown to enter the hallowed halls of the Baseball Hall of Fame. As we drove into this little town in Upstate New York shops sprang up on both sides of the street selling memorabilia for teams from Boston to Seattle. As we walked toward the Hall of Fame, we passed many people sporting the colors of their favorite baseball teams. Nowhere is it more evident that America’s pastime is alive and well than here.
Upon parking the car, I was giddy with excitement. To be in Cooperstown, the historic birthplace of baseball, made me feel like a kid again. Upon entering the Hall, I was overcome with a feeling of awe. I was finally here. I was in the same building as Roger Maris’ 61st home run bat, the “Bloody Sock” and the most expensive baseball card in history.
Touring the facility is impressive. There is so much baseball history in this one building. There are balls and bats from games that took place in the mid 1850s, jerseys from the earliest heroes of the game, seats from long since imploded stadiums, and paraphernalia from this season’s many no-hitters. It took several hours to make our way through the museum. Obviously, I was the most excited about the Red Sox and Phillies memorabilia that was on display. It was almost overwhelming the amount of memorabilia on display, and what is displayed is a fraction of the objects the Hall possesses.
There were several interesting displays, including ones on the impact of Latinos on baseball, the Negro leagues, and women’s baseball. The display on Latinos in baseball was one of my favorites. There were jerseys from teams in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Venezuela and elsewhere, and such interesting items as Roberto Clemente’s first pro contract and a scouting report on a young Venezuelan lefty names Johan Santana. A display like this was long overdue in my opinion, as Latinos have had a huge impact on the game and continue to impact the game today.
Following the Latino display, the Negro League display was my second favorite. I wish that there were more space devoted to the Negro Leagues at the Hall. Some of the greatest players to run the bases or toe the rubber were not able to play in the Major Leagues. Early baseball did not have a color bias, but it quickly developed in the late 1800s. It wasn’t until Jackie Robinson finally re-broke the color barrier that African-Americans were allowed to once again compete on the highest levels of baseball.
The Hall has clearly made an effort to show the impact of people other than white males on the game of baseball. They also had a display on women’s baseball that showed the impacts of women on baseball, both on and off the field. Most people will likely think of A League of The Own when they think of women’s baseball, but the impact goes far beyond that. Women have played an integral part in the game, ranging from owner to writer to player.
One of the coolest things I was able to do was sit in seats from Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium, the former baseball stadium that housed the A’s (during their time in Philly) and the Phillies before Veteran’s Stadium. My father went to games in this stadium, but I was never able to, as the stadium was demolished in 1976 (5 years before I was born). It was exciting for me to see jerseys worn by some of the Phillies and Red Sox greats, from Mike Schmidt to Ted Williams.
One thing I wish the Hall would do is expand the area devoted to writers and broadcasters. I was looking forward to seeing some artifacts from the greatest writers and broadcasters who have covered the game. I had hoped that there would be something from Harry Kalas, the Phillies late, great announcer, but all that was on display was a small plastic plaque mentioning that he won the Ford C. Frick award. Perhaps the Hall could expand this section, because without the writers and broadcasters, the game lacks a voice.
I am glad that I was able to make a trip to Cooperstown. It is every little boy who loves the game of baseball’s dream to make it to the Hall and I finally fulfilled that dream.
For more photos from the Hall, check out my Flikr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/therallycap/