Summer Memories: Baseball Hall of Fame
Baseball, America’s pastime, the great sport that throughout its many years has celebrated triumph, fought controversy, and made us believe. There are many legends that played the sport or took part in it. Many of them are honored in one place in a small town in New York. Growing up, I was lucky to live only a short hour away from that place. I’m talking about The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. I had many great memories of the place and recently paid a visit to this legendary museum.
The Baseball Hall of Fame was started in 1936 and the museum was opened in June of 1939 in Cooperstown. Some of the very best players are in this hall. Great names like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Jackie Robinson, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson, Wade Boggs, and countless others have been inducted. When I was a kid, along with comic books, cartoons, and Star Wars, baseball was one of my favorite things. My favorite team was the New York Yankees and Reggie Jackson was my favorite player. Often I catch the Yankees play on TV in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I collected a bunch of baseball cards and a few caps. So, it was always a treat every summer to go to the Hall of Fame.
Looking back now, I had plenty of great locations to visit when I was kid during the summer months. Enchanted Forest theme park in Old Forge was north of us and Cooperstown was an hour south. Plus there has always been lots of places in all directions around. My mom use to take me to the museum and I was always fascinated with the place. Seeing all the memorabilia from the days when game was first played to current players from that time. Of course being a Yankees fan, all I wanted to see was Yankees stuff, which they had a lot of.
Of course being a kid, a museum only stays interesting for so long. If it didn’t have any rides are no cartoons showing it didn’t stay fun. Although I remember being really always excited about going to the place and was always entertained by it. Also when I got older, the more I appreciated the museum. Plus, I remember they had a great gift shop and I remember always buying a mini wooden baseball bat with a hall of fame flag on it. I also picked up a bunch of baseball caps, I would always pick up a new Yankees one from time to time, but would also pick up some from other teams. I even remember they had little bendie figures of players and I think I picked up a few of those.
Through out the years as I got older, I wasn’t really interested in baseball anymore and didn’t visit the Hall of Fame that much. Once I moved to Florida, my interested in the sport started again a bit. I thought it was cool that the town I lived in now was getting a team, which was of course the Tampa Bay Devil Rays now known just as Tampa Bay Rays. I also thought it was very cool that the Yankees did spring training in Tampa. So, interest for baseball was back for me at that time and still is for me today.
Recently this summer, I was back up in Upstate New York visiting family and I decided to go to Cooperstown and visit the Hall of Fame again. I couldn’t remember the last time I was there, but I think it was sometime in the early 90’s, so it was almost a good twenty years. So, I was very excited to see it again and to see the great town as well. I have heard they remodel and added on to the museum and couldn’t wait to see the new editions.
Walking down Main Street on the way to the museum, the place is filled with baseball themed shops and restaurants. There’s a Mickey Mantle store and restaurant and a baseball wax museum. I was going to check the wax museum out when I was done at the Hall of Fame, but didn’t have time, I’ll have to check it out next year. When I got to the Hall of Fame, the line was down the block, but the wait to get in wasn’t that bad and the line moved quickly. Once in the place, I planned out what I was going to see first.
Now, I’m going to take you on a quick tour of The Baseball Hall of Fame. First, the place has three floors. It’s suggested that you start on the second floor, which starts in the very beginning of baseball. The halls of the second floor take you through the early years during the 19th century where it tells you about how the sport was started, the first teams, memorabilia from the first game played and other items as well. Next up was baseball in the 20th century starting with items from the early Yankees, which actually started in Baltimore and were called the Orioles, then moved to New York and first were called the Highlanders until 1913. Other teams displayed were the Boston Red Sox, Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, and others. Also there, is The Babe Ruth room, which has his jersey, pictures, and there’s even a video of his games playing on a screen. The hall continues through out the century all the way up until today.
There’s also a section called Pride and Passion, which is the Negro Leagues exhibit that also features a Jackie Robinson section. Robinson played for the Dodgers and was the first black player to play in Major League Baseball. They also have a section called Diamond Dreams that feature women in baseball, both ones that played the game, worked behind the scenes, and were sports journalist. Also there is Viva Baseball featuring Hispanic players and teams plus a section for Olympic Baseball. You can also find the Grandstand Theater that shows a 12-minute featurette on the game.
On to the third floor which features sections like Sacred Ground which talks about different baseball fields, a Record Room that has the best stats from the game, a Baseball Card section, and Autumn Glory, a room that features memorabilia from the postseason and many items from past World Series. There’s even a display there now, which features the Rays and the Philadelphia Phillies from last years World Series. Also on that floor is a whole section on Hank Aaron who holds the all time home run record. It features a wall of different pictures of him through out his career and some of his memorabilia.
Back down on the first floor, features the actual Hall of Fame. A huge hall with plaques of all the people in the Hall of Fame, features many of the greats and many of my favorites. You can spend hours just going up and down the hall reading all about the player or person. They do have a chart of players listed in alphabetical order, because all the plaques are under the years the players were inducted. So, if you don’t know the year you can simply look it up on the chart. Also on this floor is a room called Baseball at the Movies, which has pictures and items from popular movies about baseball. There’s also the Bullpen Theater, which features videos and trivia games, Scribes and Mikemen is a section that celebrates broadcasters and sports writers, and there’s a kids section called the Sandlot Kids’ Clubhouse.
At the end of my journey, I couldn’t leave the place without visiting the gift shop, which in my opinion is a way better gift shop then any Disney World gift shop. This place had any shirt or cap from any team. It also had other items such as books and DVDs and of course baseball cards. There were tons of stuff there and I picked up a lot. One of the items that I got was a jersey that read on the back WHO #1, as in Abbott and Costello’s Who’s on First bit. They even have one that reads WHAT #2 and IDUNNO #3, it was great and I’m a big Abbott and Costello fan so I had to get one.
Once leaving the museum, I did venture off into the town, which is a great place to visit in its self. I grabbed a bite to eat over by a restaurant that overlooked the beautiful lake of Otsego. It was a gorgeous sight with a small lighthouse close by the dock. Cooperstown is one of the most beautiful parts of the country. I walked a little around the town before leaving. I even tired to find Cooperstown Ghost Tours, which is some where close to the Hall of Fame, but couldn’t find it. Well, maybe next year.
That’s my trip back to the Baseball Hall of Fame, it was great place to visit as a kid and it’s an even greater place to visit as an adult. I plan on going back sometime in the near future and will also check out the other sites through out the town. If you’re ever in the Cooperstown area and a baseball fan, be sure to check out the Hall of Fame. One cool thing is that it’s open all year long, so it doesn’t have to be summer time to experience this awesome baseball attraction.