The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum……baseball’s mecca……..the history of the game and all those who made it great preserved and displayed for future generations! Walking through the front doors gives you a feeling of pride in America’s game……continuing on through the building brings a sense of awe and emotion that can’t be described……it conjures up memories of every baseball game you ever played or attended and every dream of meeting one of your heroes! Being there is an education and an affirmation of all the joy that baseball has to offer.
I admit I’m not a fanatic when it comes to baseball, but I do love the game. I remember being at bat on the field at Waterport school during gym or recess, hitting the ball as far as I could, and running the bases with all my might. I remember the feeling of accomplishment whenever I was able to make it to home plate. I remember cheering on my brother at his little league games – he played for the Carlton Clippers – and going along when the coach took the team to the Tastee Freeze for ice cream to celebrate a win. I remember sitting in the cheap seats with a dog and a beer watching the Rochester Red Wings play a double header on a warm afternoon. I remember my first major league game – it was on a business trip in Pittsburgh and I got tickets to see the Pirates play at Three River Stadium – I remember entering the stadium and thinking that this was not just any baseball game. I remember a very different feeling when I watched the Orioles play at Camden Yards in Baltimore. And, then, the absolute thrill of a lifetime when I saw the Yankees play at Yankee Stadium – the old stadium before it was closed. I don’t watch a lot of baseball on TV – I think it loses some of the excitement on TV – but, I follow the Yankees and catch their games every now and then. Yes, I’m a Yankee fan – loyal in good and bad years!
So, visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame has been a dream of mine for many years – it was on my bucket list and, when I moved back home, I put it on my “things to do and places to see” list. This week, I was able to cross it off both lists! I drove to Cooperstown, NY with the main goal of fulfilling this dream. I did it. I walked the hall looking at the exhibits, reading the stories, feeling the emotion well up inside me. One of the brochures has a quote that sums it up nicely: “[The Hall of Fame} is a place of grace and class…You arrive expecting to tour baseball’s past. What you discover is your own…It is pictures of places you’ve never been and belongings of people you’ve never met. Yet you are drawn to its scuffed baseballs and gritty photographs as if they were your own. And in a way, they are.” ~ Bill Pennington, The Record (NJ)
The museum motto is: “Preserving history. Honoring excellence. Connecting generations.” Says it all!!!
The Hall of Fame was founded in 1939 by local hotel owner, Stephen Carlton Clark to provide a permanent, safe place to preserve baseball’s history and to attract tourists to Cooperstown – a town suffering after the Great Depression. The first inductees were actually elected in 1936, but they and approximately 20 others chosen after them were formally inducted at the June 12, 1939 opening. The Hall boasts a collection of 38,000 bats, balls, uniforms, gloves, etc. 130,000 baseball cards. 2 million research files. 500,000 black and white and color photographs. 12,000 hours of recorded media. And counting….. I spent about an hour and a half on day 1 and only made it through the first of three floors. On day two, I was there for almost 3 more hours touring the second and third floors and revisiting some areas on the first floor……and, I’m sure I missed something!!!
So……on with the photos and my personal experience at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum:
The main entrance
Looking down the street across the front of the building
As you enter the hall on your way to the ticket counter, you see this amazing exhibit of Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson, and Roberto Clemente called “Character and Courage”. I was struck by the photos behind each bronze statue of the men posing with children – each one wasn’t just a photograph of him playing baseball, but doing something with a young fan – the true spirit of a baseball hero!!! This one exhibit set the tone for my entire experience!
The plaque beside the “Character and Courage” exhibit.
Just beyond the ticket counter is a display honoring the current year inductees – Hank O’Day, Jacob Ruppert, and Deacon White. Along with these three inductees, the 2013 ceremony also formally recognized 12 members who were elected to the Hall of Fame during WWII and could not attend due to travel restrictions during the war – most notably, Lou Gehrig and Rogers Hornsby.
John J. “Buck” O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award display – in 2008, this bronze statue was dedicated and the “Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award” was created with Buck being the first honoree for his career and contributions that spanned eight decades. The award is given out not more than once every three years – the second honoree was Roland Hemond in 2011.
I got a big chuckle out of this cow in pinstripes with catcher’s mitts on his horns located just under the massive sweeping staircase.
The Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery is an impressive oak and marble lined room with section after section of inductee plaques – each section is marked with the induction year and the bronze plaques of those elected to the Hall of Fame in that year. The very first induction class and the most recent classes are at the head of the gallery in the Rotunda.
I arrived late the first day and only had time to do the first floor, which included this gallery. There were only about 8 or 10 people viewing the plaques. I was such an emotional experience – there was no sound, except for the foot steps of those walking from section to section – no one spoke, except for an occasional whisper from someone who found one of their heroes. It was really quite humbling.
The first class of inductees was in 1936 and included Christy Matthewson, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, and Walter Johnson.
Along with the many stunning bronze statues, there were also wax figures – this one is of Babe Ruth, who can be found in many different formats throughout the museum!
Here is a testament to exactly why he is still considered the greatest in baseball history!
This is the entrance to the Babe Ruth room – a room dedicated to his memorabilia and stories!
In “Chasing the Dream”, another room dedicated to a specific player – Hank Aaron – you can follow his career and contributions to the game.
The following photo is his Atlanta Braves # 44 uniform.
Adjacent to “Chasing the Dream” is “One for the Books” – a room dedicated to all the records set throughout history – here are a couple photo from this inspirational room:
Most consecutive games played set by Lou Gehrig and beat by Cal Ripkin, Jr.
Records were also set in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League – Sophie Kurys set the record for most stolen bases!
And the most unbeatable record of all………The Yankees for most World Championships!!!!
The Pride and Passion room is dedicated to the history and contributions of African American ball players with special recognition to Jackie Robinson!
Movie clips and memorabilia from the recent movie of Jackie Robinson’s life – “42”
There is a room honoring the women who kept the game going while the boys were off serving our country in WWII – Diamond Dreams
Memorabilia from the Women’s Leagues
A nod to the movie, “A League of Their Own”
More memorabilia from the All American Girls Professional Baseball League
And you can’t ignore the movies that glorified baseball — many, many, many movies with baseball themes over the years! There is a room dedicated to movies – displays, items from the movies, and clips – lots of clips! This display includes information on “A League of Their Own” and “Field of Dreams” – two of my personal favorites!
Aside from the specific exhibits and displays, there are rows and rows and rows of displays from each and every team in baseball history. I, of course, focused most of my photos on anything associated with the Yankees, but here are some examples of the displays that can be found throughout the hall:
The Orioles – the second team I sometimes follow, if the Yankees aren’t involved!
And, then there are exhibits featuring players – like the next two photos of actual lockers from Yankee Stadium with uniforms and things from Mickey Mantle and Lou Gehrig
And then there were statues of the game, in general…….just outside in a small courtyard, there is a sculpture of a pitcher and catcher at regulation distance showing the action of a pitch
This shot from behind the catcher
And this shot from behind the pitcher
In the same courtyard – one commemorating women in baseball
And one winding up for a throw!
This display is outside the “Sacred Ground” room – an exhibit dedicated to reliving the experience of going to the ball park!
If you ever make a trip to the Hall of Fame, don’t miss seeing “The Baseball Experience” – I almost skipped it because the line was long and the wait was longer than the 13 minute film! I am so very glad I didn’t give up and leave!!! It is a short 13 minute film all about experiencing baseball – it starts out with silhouette figures of sandlot kids and their excited voices and their mother’s calling to them in the background and goes on to everything I mentioned earlier that I (and likely everyone who ever experienced baseball) remember! It tugs at the old heart strings and warms the heart! And, the session ends with the entire audience singing “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” and cheering!!! You wouldn’t want to miss it!!!
So……that is the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum…..in a nutshell!!! There is so much more to it than I could possibly ever capture, here! All I can say in closing is that I truly enjoyed this adventure – it made me feel good!!! How amazing is it that we have such national treasures like these that touch our lives and stir up wonderful memories and personal experiences and emotions!!!??? If you ever have the chance, go…..experience…….enjoy…..feel!!! You won’t regret it!