Cooperstown Day 2: The Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame, Part 1

Seriously, get yourself a cup of coffee or something…

Alright so it’s just coming up on 9am EST as I’m starting this, and I’ve got a cup of coffee, a blanket, and I’m settled into the couch for as long as it takes to finish this up. I feel I must post a bit of a disclaimer here, though, because there are so many pictures. I want everyone reading this to know that for every photo I took yesterday at the Cooperstown Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame, there were 15-20 photos that I did not take. I took pictures of what was significant to me, things I have read about, players I like or am interested in historically, and the occasional display that I found visually appealing. But there were so many other things that I did not take any photos of, simply because there were so many other things. If I could have, I would have taken pictures of all of it; but there is no way to sum this wonderful place up in photos, and my pictures do not do justice to actually seeing these items in person. I think I must have stood there looking at Eddie Cicotte’s watch for at least a good 60 seconds, if not more. There was nothing to read, it was just a simple item in the case, something the player owned, and it was fascinating to me. I did the same thing with Charles Radbourne’s hat. Every baseball fan will find things like this, historical wonderful things that helped create the history and present of the game that we love. I took pictures for myself, I took pictures of things I thought others might enjoy, I took pictures even when there was a near-impossible glare on the glass (and everything was under glass); I tried to bring the experience to life as much as possible via photos, without detracting from the actual experience one might have if one actually went there (and you all should). I hope I succeeded.

I also want to just say, if there is a chance that anyone who works at the Hall of Fame might see this post, I was on my honor in the Baseball and Cricket section, and did not take a single photo, even though Tom and I were the only ones in there, and you people put a near-400-year-old cricket bat in the exhibit, something I would have loved to get a photo of, just to have a picture of it. I was good, I promise.

And now, the pictures. I will be posting some verbiage to explain some of these, but a lot of them speak for themselves, and some even have plaques that come with them. Enjoy.

The drive from the hotel. It had been snowing a little, and was pretty cold and miserable outside.

The sign that greets you as you enter the town proper.

These three greet visitors at the front door, before you pay entry. Entry tickets look a lot like a baseball ticket, and feature a player’s name. Mine was Cy Young. I still have it, and plan to maybe put it in a frame because why not.

The whole thing starts of – or should start off – with a little 15 minute introductory movie, just a little bit about what all of us already know; how awesome baseball is. The theater you watch it in is decorated like a stadium, and the seats are actual stadium seats. It’s pretty cool. The movie starts every hour on the hour, so if you can time your visit right, you should start off with this. There is a room of stuff to look at about the beginnings of the actual museum as you wait, as well.

At the end of the movie, there is an usher who comes out and gets the room involved in singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”. I am only mentioning this here because it was early for me, and I was completely unprepared for audience participation. I sang, but quietly. I think it took the other people in the room by surprise as well. I also think it would work much better with a room full of people. Next time I will sing louder. After the movie, you get rerouted to the start of the museum.

An early trophy of the Eckford Base Ball Club, a team out of Brooklyn in the mid-1800s. The balls were all hand decorated by the players.

An early trophy bat. This photo doesn’t properly display how gorgeous this thing actually is. The craftsmanship  and metal etching is just marvelous, and it is really beautiful. We noted as we went through the exhibit that as time went on in the sport, the trophy bats all got less and less appealing. None of them were as pretty as this one.

Trophy bats and balls.

A homemade trophy.

Cy Young’s Cleveland Spiders jersey, along with a cane given to him, and (I believe) his bat.

Baseball trophy case.

This is a baseball converted into a lighter signed by Babe Ruth and others, from a tour to Asia in (obviously) 1934. There were several other items in this particular case from other significant baseball trips to parts of Asia, but you’ll just have to go there to see those.

Joannes “Honus” Wagner’s locker, uniform, and bats. Like the real thing (without the glass, of course). If you go around the side, the wall is made of a strong steel mesh.

Babe Ruth of course gets his own room to himself. Here are a few photos from it.

The finger holes in that ball are massive.

There was a lot more in the room, including a video reel on a loop that was short but interesting. Ruth’s shoes, incidentally, were the first shoes in the exhibit that far that actually looked like they could be worn by athletes today. He was truly a giant among men.

A trophy given to Cy Young. I am sad that it did not come out as shiny in the photo as it was in person. But you can see my dress reflected in the trophy itself, and my hair and hand reflected in the case. The museum is truly a photographic challenge, for sure. The thing to the right there is a bat that was carved for Young. Also very pretty.

I love John McGraw because from all accounts I’ve read, he sounds like the very definition of “ornery”. I also like the he is pretty much responsible for the long belt loops on uniforms today, due to his penchant for grabbing the belts of opposing runners to delay their advancement from his base.

Christy Mathewson’s uniform!

Before they were from Oakland, they were the Philadelphia Athletics, and they spent a lot of money on player contracts for the time. They were referred to as a “white elephant” due to their overspending, and the club’s owner decided to reclaim the phrase for the team. The elephant patch is, of course, still on the Athletics’ uniforms to this day, and the whole thing is made a little ironic by the Moneyball phenomenon. History can be funny that way.

A word about pocket watches. The museum is full of them. In the 1800s and early 1900s, a pocket watch was an important part of mens fashion, and the proper pocket watch could be a status symbol. Watches were regularly given to players by club owners, as awards, and for other occasions. Most of the watches in the museum are in good condition, though their ability to keep time may be long in the past.

Lou Gehrig’s jersey and locker.

Joe DiMaggio’s jersey.

Stan Musial’s locker, and below, some balls he hit around…

After this, came the Women in Baseball exhibit, which I was happy to see was still up – I thought it might have just been a temporary installation for some reason, but it is a permanent spot in the building.

This is 10-year-old Edith Houghton. She played professional baseball on a women’s team. Did I mention she was TEN?!?

Some uniforms from the war days. I should also mention something I put up on Twitter yesterday, as we were going into this exhibit; I overheard a conversation between a man and his son as they were headed into this section. The man was explaining to his son that women were allowed to play baseball because of the war. His son’s response: “Were they bad?” Ah, youth. Of course, we’re all well aware of the story of this period in American history due to the movie A League of Their Own, and they did address in that movie the hazards of sliding into base in skirts this short. A photo to the immediate left of this case demonstrates this clearly, as a player shows her hip to a nurse, with a dirt rash on it the size of a dinner plate. Ouch.

A set of woolen bloomers, a uniform that was developed due to complaints about having to wear the original uniforms for women’s baseball, pictured lower right.

Bernice Gera fought a legal battle that lasted five years to win the “privilege” of umpiring minor league games. She umpired one, but resigned immediately after, the fight for her rights having taken its toll.

And there’s no way I could pass up this picture of Geena Davis’s costume from A League of Their Own.

Ted Williams’ stuff!

Ted Williams was apparently a consummate statistician of…himself. He designed this chart of his own strike zone, with what his batting average would be if pitches were thrown to those areas within it. This display hit me between the knees and shoulders, so either Ted Williams and I share an approximate strike zone, or this thing was a bit too close to the floor.

Mickey Mantle’s number 7, accompanied by one of the many words of wisdom of Yogi Berra.

After exhibits and exhibits of old baseball history, finally a bunch of stuff I can relate to! (Just kidding) A little fun fact, though, that I did not know until our visit yesterday – the New York Yankees were actually the Baltimore Orioles for the season of 1900-1901.

I took this picture for my friend Su, the littlest biggest Clemente fan.

At this point, the exhibit turned to Latin Baseball, where the explanatory plaques were written in both English and Spanish. There were even Spanish-only informational recordings that one could press buttons for, but my Spanish is pretty nil, so I didn’t press any buttons. I think it’s great, though; these countries have contributed so much to the game, I like the fact that there is something specifically for Spanish-speaking fans to come and see.

The next two photos, again, for Su:

Manny Ramirez was wearing this helmet when he did this against Section 331 favorite Chad Bradford. This is as close as Bradford gets to “being” in the Museum.

There was of course an autographed Albert Pujols jersey in this section, and I took a picture of it, but have decided to leave it out of this post. Pujols is great, and his role in the game today is undeniable, but the jersey is nothing technically special, since he is a current player in the game. If you think I’m leaving this one out, though, you’re nuts:

Pete Rose may never get into the Hall of Fame, but there is a lot of him in the Museum itself. For the record, I am in the camp that he should be allowed in. His affront to Major League Baseball had nothing to do with his actual playing career. He set many records and was an excellent player, and has never been accused of using PEDs. I don’t find this a controversial decision at all, but I’m not the MLB.

Thurmon Munson’s glove and Reggie Jackson’s bat. Everything in this case is important, but I took the photo because I liked the way the display was set up.

These things were enormous. The photo does not convey the weight they must surely be.

We realized at this point that the Museum path did not go into the Negro Leagues section like we thought it did, so we had to wind our way back through an increasing amount of people to get back to the room that showcases this particular time period. This section of the Museum was much smaller than it could be, but I would hazard a guess that all the really super cool stuff from the Negro Leagues is located here, in Kansas City. Some day, I’ll get there, too.

The one and only Satchel Paige’s jersey.

Jackie Robinson still went out to play, in spite of numerous death threats and other horrible things that were said about his presence on the Dodgers roster. Robinson was a brave brave man. A note to parents; the above letters were put up above the line of sight of children, which I found very tasteful. Even I, at five foot eight inches, had to hold the camera a bit above my head to get the first picture. The room was educational without being assaulting; marvelously done.

Cool Papa Bell’s hat, jersey, and sunglasses.

The tone of the letter attached to this picture notwithstanding, this is an unidentified player and his wife. Portraits were not inexpensive back in these times, and required the person having their photo taken to stand or sit for lengthy periods of time while the film was exposed. It surely must have been important to this couple to have their image taken, with him in his baseball uniform. I found the photo touching, so I took my own.

An early integrated team.

After the Negro Leagues section, we went back to where we had left off, a room full of “lockers” and memorabilia from teams as they currently stand. I took a few shots, even though all of this stuff is pretty much within my own personal baseball timeline.

Yes, that is Chone Figgins’ photo there to the right. Figgins was also featured in the Angels locker; if memory serves, a ball he hit that helped the Angels in some way back in 2007. If I was a gambler, I’d say those sorts of things will never be in our locker, not from Figgins.

And that, ladies and gents, concludes…the second floor. Seriously. It’s 1pm here, and all of that just took me four hours. But wait, there is more! Oh yes, much more…

A flight of stairs or short elevator ride up, and you are sent onto the third floor, with it’s fan section and Hall of Records. If you have two days to be there, this is where that sort of time would come in handy, because there is a lot of reading to be done. A lot. We didn’t have that kind of time, of course, and I don’t know that my back or feet could have handled it anyway, but wow, the information contained on that floor! Here are just a few things; and again, I didn’t even scrape the surface.

This one needs no introduction, but it is worth noting that I had Tom take a picture of me standing next to it, which I won’t bother you with. I look terrible after a week’s worth of eating holiday and restaurant foods in an elevated climate. It’ll be nice to get back home to my salads and sea level.

One of eight light pinwheels that used to adorn the “exploding scoreboard”, a Bill Veeck invention for his newly-purchased White Sox in Comiskey Park.

A turnstyle from the Polo Grounds.

When Ebbets Field was dismantled in 1960, there was a time capsule behind this cornerstone containing artifacts from 1913. You can touch this, by  the way, it was not under glass.

Hank Aaron also has his own section there, with plenty of artifacts and even bricks and a porch post from his childhood home. I have a few more photos on my cell phone, which I may be using to make a more in-depth post of my live-Tweeting experience from yesterday, if I have the time tomorrow morning before we leave for the airport back home.

Another one for Su.

It is at this point where you enter the Hall of Records. Trust and believe that if I didn’t get much from the fan section where the Phillie Phanatic resided (there were bobbleheads, tickets, signs from the crowd and so much more there that I didn’t get committed to “film”, I really didn’t get much from the Hall of Records. I didn’t even get most of what I wanted to, and I got quite a few. I will let them speak for themselves, as they should…

Of course, no Hall of Records would be complete without the Yankees being able to rub in their multitude of World Series wins.

A horrible picture of every World Series ribbon, button, or ring since about 1900-something, the early oughts. I did not use a flash (nor did I use it on any of the pictures I took), the glare comes from the track lighting above. There was no way for me to get a truly great picture of this. Suffice to say, it’s fun to look at and very shiny.

There was a small section featuring the trials of the St Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers during the 2011 World Series. Beltre’s jersey worn during the Series was part of it. Of course I would take a picture!

After the Hall of Records and a pinstriped room with many photos of the New York Yankees’ heydays in the 40s, 50s and 60s, there was a sign saying “Please No Photography”, and a room containing baseball and cricket items both. Old and new cricket uniforms and equipment, a timeline of the games, bats and balls, and names unfamiliar to non-cricket fans; but a feature still worth taking one’s time in. It concluded with a massive wall of baseball cards both old and new. And that is the third floor. I feel I must reiterate that there is so much ground to cover there, I didn’t even bring a footnote here to the blog. So much information and so many artifacts. Just incredible.

So we headed downstairs to the actual Hall of Fame. Under the staircase, is this:

I believe the title is “Phil Rizzuto’s Sacred Cow”. If you’re from Seattle, then you’re aware of the multiple decorated pigs that we used to have around the city, some of which are still at various businesses and sites around the city. New York did the same thing with cows (they probably did it first, but my modern art timeline is hazy), and this one found its way to Cooperstown.

Next to it was John Fogarty’s notes on the song “Centerfield”, along with a specially-built guitar. I don’t care much for this song or Fogarty’s music in general, but again, it’s a pretty major part of baseball since its release.

Just after that, there is a room showcasing some of the art of baseball. I took a few shots of the sculptures and paintings there, and there was a relief sculpture of Fenway Park made of paper that a photo would not have done much for; but again, I will try and post these other photos I took with my iPhone in a separate post tomorrow.

I did not catch the name of the artist that did this painting, but it was massive and I loved the movement that the brush strokes conveyed, and the capturing of the moment, just like a snapshot.

Honus Wagner, captured in bronze.

From the art wing, you walk down a hall with several photos of players accepting their Hall of Fame awards, on your way to the actual Hall.

You almost get the sense that just out of your line of sight, there is a bronzed middle finger sticking out of his belt loop.

These two sculptures of Babe Ruth and Ted Williams are remarkable in that they are made entirely of wood. That doesn’t seem like a great feat, until you’re standing right next to them, and you see what you think is leather, wool, or cotton; but it isn’t.

Five of the all-time greats.

The upper rotunda area, where a lot of the more recent inductees can be seen.

The Hall itself, decorated for Christmas. It was quiet when we were there, and I would not have wanted it any other way. I am actually glad we didn’t go in the summer, as the whole place would have been crowded and noisy, and there would not have been the opportunity to get the kinds of photos that I was able to get here. And it was nice to just sit on one of the benches with Tom for a few moments and enjoy the Hall just a little bit longer before we had to go…but there was one more thing I had to do, and that I was not leaving without.

I walked up the ramp past the Hall, and saw that it was still snowing out:

And just past where this picture was taken, I found what I was looking for…

It’s not a massive hall filled with bronze plaques, or a reverent space of any sort, really; and the broadcasters/writers area is really quite small because of course most fans focus on the players and the game itself. But Dave is there, and that’s important to us as Mariners fans.

And now it’s just after 3pm EST, and I have to make some salsa and have a beer or possibly congratulatory cocktail. This bad boy took me over 6 hours to put together, and boy are my arms tired. I hope to have part 2 up tomorrow, but it will be shorter, and most of the photos will have already been Tweeted. There will be some more explanation for them, though, so stay tuned. For now, hope you enjoyed this post, and hope the trip was as good for you in this extremely condensed form as it was for me in all its unabridged glory.









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6 Responses to Cooperstown Day 2: The Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame, Part 1

  1. eric says:

    Thank you for this. I want to visit here so bad now.

    • Megan Shear says:

      No problem. It was a lot better than I had imagined, actually. I did not know what to expect. It really is at least an all-day thing. I will definitely try and go back again some day. 🙂

  2. Blaine Wright says:

    Thanks for all your hard work posting this. I haven’t been there and this is probably as close as I’ll get. Thanks especially for the pictures of the Jackie Robinson exhibits. He and Jesse Owens are two of my all-time heroes.

    Did you get a picture of you at the museum or anywhere in the town? That reflection in the glass was a bit hard to see.

    Looking forward for tomorrow. Why don’t my family holiday visits ever have anything this great?

  3. Section 36 says:

    Thanks for a wonderful post. It’s like I was back there myself.

  4. Bart's Evil Twin says:

    Thanks Megan, really well done!

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