Today I am in Cooperstown, New York. I decided it was nearly criminal that I had not seen the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, so today I remedied that. This morning I got up and walked from my motel to downtown Cooperstown. I had breakfast at the Cooperstown Diner. I was the only customer in the diner who had to order off the menu, everyone else who walked in when I did just said “The usual” or gave a little head nod that I suspect means “The usual.”
After breakfast I walked toward the Hall of Fame. The intersection in the middle of town is very cool and slightly bewildering. It is a major four-way intersection with a flagpole in the middle and no lights or signs to regulate traffic flow. I stood on the sidewalk watching cars for a moment—it was entertaining.
I arrived at the Hall before the doors opened. I talked baseball and traveling with several Pennsylvanians, took photos for some visitors from Toronto, and explored the outside of the building.
Once inside I went to the third floor and commenced making my way down. To say it was overwhelming is an understatement. The mixture of memorabilia delighted me. Stadiums and locations. Players renown and obscure. It was great to find an Eric Bruntlett jersey from his unassisted triple play, shoes Otis Nixon wore on his 6 steal day, Eric Gagne’s prescription goggles from his consecutive save streak, Mark Whiten’s batting helmet from his 12 RBI day, the uniform of MLB’s shortest player (3’ 7”)Eddie Gaedel, Curt Schilling’s bloody sock, the final flapless batting helmet allowed in MLB (worn by Tim Raines on the Marlins), and so much more.
Here are some things that captured my attention:
This is the cornerstone of Ebbets Field, which was built in 1912 and demolished in 1960.
People think of Hank Aaron as a slugger, but he won a couple of Gold Gloves. Here is his 1960 Gold Glove Award, along with his 1966 Mel Ott Memorial Award (given to the N.L. home run leader, Aaron had 44 home runs that year).
I don’t know if I never knew or if I just forgot that Johnny Kling and Walt Dropo are tied for the record of most consecutive hits at 12. Twelve! Here is the ball from Dropo’s 12th hit.
I love all the milestone balls and bats. Here is the ball Barry Bonds hit for career home run number 756, eclipsing Aaron for the all-time record. The ball has been defaced, with an asterisk carved into it to denote Bonds’ alleged drug use.
This is the hat Roy Halladay was wearing when he threw his perfect game. I was working on my research while watching that game.
In 1919 some Chicago White Sox conspired to intentionally lose the World Series. It is an event that has become part of baseball lore. The first pitch of that series was made with this ball.
In the 1929 World Series, the Philadelphia Athletics surprised everyone and sent pitcher Howard Ehmke to the mound as their starter for Game 1. He defeated the Cubs. He would never win another game in his career and would retire the following season. This is the glove he wore for that World Series start.
This is the bat Joe Carter used to ruin my dream summer of 1993. I don’t blame Mitch Williams.
During Game 1 of the 1954 World Series Willie Mays made a defensive play that is simply referred to as “The Catch.” This is the glove he was wearing (I just stood and looked at this for the longest time).
The gallery of old portraits was very cool. I liked that it contained stars and average players.
One of my goals during the day was to find Von Hayes in the Hall of Fame. I thought maybe he would get in thanks to hitting two home runs in one inning, but that didn’t do it. I was beginning to lose hope, but then I saw the wall of baseball cards. I scoured that wall. Success! Of course Von Hayes is in the Hall of Fame, anything less would be disgraceful.
Several famous fans have been given tribute. While I was looking at this display an elderly gentleman from New York stopped by and told me that he remembers seeing Hilda Chester (the woman with the bell on the far left of the photo) at Ebbets Field. I had seen footage of Hilda in baseball documentaries before, but it was very cool to talk to someone who had seen her in person.
Babe Ruth wore this glove. (I think the gloves were the most mesmerizing aspect of the Hall to me.)
Robin Roberts wore this jersey for the Phillies. I am so happy that the Phillies have gone back to a look that is similar to this.
The gallery of baseball artwork was interesting. I particularly liked the original of this famous Norman Rockwell picture:
I was surprised that I got through the Hall in just over four hours. I thought it would take longer. One of the reasons this was possible was that it was early on a Monday morning—it was not crowded at any point while I was there, so I was able to move at whatever pace I wanted to. As I was walking out I noticed the line to get in was very long, so I think it would have taken an additional hour or two had I gone in the afternoon.
One very random note from the day. I never realized that Cy Young Awards always depict a right hand (Cy Young was right-handed). I had assumed (I don’t know why) that left-handed pitchers received awards showing a left hand. I realized this was not the case when I saw the Cy Young Awards of Sandy Koufax and Steve Carlton.
Since admission is good for the entire day I might do an encore walkthrough this evening. I love baseball.