Cooperstown: My Trip To The Baseball Hall Of Fame

[Pictures] And the greatest discoveries I uncovered while visiting the baseball mecca.

Josh Helmuthby Josh Helmuth

I died and went to heaven this past Sunday.

Okay, so it wasn’t quite heaven. It was more like central up-state New York. And I certainly didn’t die. But let me profess, going to the National Baseball Hall of Fame for the first time was like experiencing a re-birth.

From my family’s perspective, I’m sure it was like witnessing a child’s first visit to Disney World: full of energy, gobs of pictures and full of magic — only without the constant cacophony of toddler cries nearby.

Cooperstown is a small town that rivals Pleasantville. A berg with a population of less than two thousand people. It lies beautifully next to a lake, wedged between gentle rolling hills of the greenest kind. The drive from New York City was close to four hours yet it was totally worth it.

As a side note, it’s easy to tell you’re getting closer to Cooperstown as your cell phone service fades. But as the bars on your phone get weaker, so does the attachment to your 4G life-line. As soon as you actually get to Main Street, you see what is clearly the pinnacle of baseball and the history that built it.

I felt like a little kid again, lost in an oxytocin-riddled haze of America’s greatest past time.

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Dozens of restaurants and shops line Main St in Cooperstown, all of them baseball themed.

 

Just east of the shopping on Main Street lies the Hall. As I approached the building I felt as if I were in the baseball version of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind — simply awestruck.

 

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But now it’s time to show off what I saw inside. Below are some of the greatest, most surreal artifacts, and, well, facts, I gleaned over while inside the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

First, in case you ever wondered what Abner Doubleday looked like, here he is in all his glory. Turns out he was a general, and although it can’t be proven, he gets credit for inventing baseball soon after the end of the Civil War.

abner doubleday

After a brief walkthrough, as you are introduced to the beginning of baseball, you walk into an intricate theater structure that emulates a real ballpark. The audience watches a short film — which is almost patronizing but great for kids —  that gets you hyped up to enter the museum. After watching the short retro Sandlot-type preview, here is what I saw entering the smorgasbord of baseball greatness.

We started on the third floor where one enters “Sacred Ground.” The volume of interactive gadgets (again, great for kids) and information that let’s you relive the greatest ballparks in history was tremendously overwhelming. Here is a quick snap shot to give you an idea as to what it looks like. What you see is about 10 percent of the exhibit.

Sacred

Now for my favorite discoveries…

#1 The Braves experimented with satin jerseys.

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… in 1946, “designed for better visibility under the artificial lighting.”

 

#2 Who says Pete Rose isn’t in the Hall of Fame?

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Although he’s not an inducted member, the Hall has a nice display, recognizing him as the game’s all-time greatest hitter.

 

 #3 Mark McGwire’s bat lies next to Roger Maris’.

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*61 is my favorite baseball movie. In it, director Billy Crystal replays McGwire’s press conference following his record-breaking 62nd home run in which he emotionally declares his bat is going to the Hall of Fame to lie next to Roger’s and that “he’s damn proud of it.” Here it is.

 

 #4 Before championship rings there were championship watches.

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The Red Sox won the first World Series in 1903 and were given this dazzling watch fob.

 

#5 Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig went ‘Barnstorming.’

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In this amazing photo, you see Lou Gehrig (left) and Babe Ruth (right) with a few members of the Fresno Athletic Club team in 1927. Following the Yankees’ World Series win, the two stars barnstormed across the country, playing 21 games in nine states over three weeks.

 

#6 Jackie Robinson’s hate mail was beyond awful.

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Rightfully so, there is a Jackie Robinson section within the “Pride and Passion” exhibit. Hanging here are real letters threatening Robinson while he was busy breaking the color barrier and other meaningful MLB records.

 

#7 Babe Ruth released a line of underwear.

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Yup, you read that right. Babe Ruth released a onesie in 1927. Ahhhh the good ole’ days.

 

#8 The Cubs won the 1908 World Series with the help of a Boner.

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Turns out the Cubs got a little help from a ‘stupid mistake,’ otherwise known as a ‘boner,’ from this Giants rookie who failed to touch second base. You can’t make this stuff up.

 

#9 The first baseball ever used in organized play looks like this.

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The caption below this encased artifact reads, “Ball from the first series of games at which admission was charged, September 10, 1858.

 

#10 A “League Of Their Own” was real.

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Yup, our favorite Geena Davis and Tom Hanks baseball dramedy was factually based. The ‘All-American Girls Baseball League’ flourished from 1943-1954. Here is a fascinating picture of what these women went through while playing in skirts.

 

#11 The Hall of Fame bronze plaques are as beautiful as advertised. 

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Solid bronze set in front of oak, the Hall of Fame Gallery is a sanctuary on the first floor of the museum that features all 306 members, Mickey Mantle one of my favorites. It’s as close to meeting them as you’ll ever get.

 

Additional memorable photos

Related: How To Make Baseball Less Boring 


Josh Helmuth is the editor of CraveOnline sports. His favorite teams are the White Sox (AL) and Cardinals (NL) and tried to do his best to make this piece as non-bias as possible.

P.S. Ozzie Smith is the greatest defensive player of all-time.

All photos by Josh Helmuth