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.
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.
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.
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.
Now for my favorite discoveries…
#1 The Braves experimented with satin jerseys.
#2 Who says Pete Rose isn’t in the Hall of Fame?
#3 Mark McGwire’s bat lies next to Roger Maris’.
#4 Before championship rings there were championship watches.
#5 Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig went ‘Barnstorming.’
#6 Jackie Robinson’s hate mail was beyond awful.
#7 Babe Ruth released a line of underwear.
#8 The Cubs won the 1908 World Series with the help of a Boner.
#9 The first baseball ever used in organized play looks like this.
#10 A “League Of Their Own” was real.
#11 The Hall of Fame bronze plaques are as beautiful as advertised.
Additional memorable photos
Related: How To Make Baseball Less Boring
P.S. Ozzie Smith is the greatest defensive player of all-time.
All photos by Josh Helmuth