The Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

The signage covered in ivy outside the factory

I stopped blogging for a short time in the winter of 2009-2010. I came back probably stronger than ever, but I left out a few of the features that I enjoyed writing. One of them was the Interesting Sports Destinations feature that I used to write. I just found a few places that were not covered in other segments, but that I felt deserved to be talked about a bit. I would like to re-launch the feature with a look at the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory that is located of course in Louisville, Kentucky. Continue reading

Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse

Right in downtown Chicago is a great little restaurant that shows what is great about being in the big city. On my way to Wisconsin this past fall I spent the night in Chicago. Without even thinking I was walking around town wearing a Green Bay Packers hat. I never really took any heat except when I was eating dinner. That may be because I picked Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse to eat at. This great little restaurant/bar is located just off the Chicago River on Kinzie in downtown Chicago. As soon as you walk in you are greeted by the bust of Harry that is shown to the left. What makes this place so great is the atmosphere while you are eating. I was there the day that the Cubs sale was finalized so I missed seeing Frankie O the bartender doing his weekly bit for Comcast Sports Net. They filmed the show earlier that day so of course I just had the locals to talk sports with. Sitting in the bar you can talk sports until you are sick to your stomach. Beware though. These people are passionate sports fans.

Another great thing about Harry’s is all of the memorabilia that is on display. In addition to the bust as you walk in they have all kinds of artifacts from Harry’s career along with other Chicago sports celebrities. As you walk into the main dining area you see two Hall of Fame baseball jerseys on each side of the entrance. The jersey on the right is the famous #23 of Ryne Sandberg, and on the left is the black and white #72 of Carlton Fisk. Both jerseys are autographed, and have been in place for years. I probably spent 30-40 minutes just walking around looking at everything. One of the highlights of the tour is the famous Bartman ball. We all know the story about how Steve Bartman cost the Cubs the World Series. We all also know that Alex Gonzalez actually did that booting the ball later that inning. Nevertheless the ball has become famous. In 2003 Grant DePorter bought the ball in an auction for the Harry Caray Restaurant Chain. After much public debate the ball was blown up in 2004. The next year the ball was boiled in water, and the steam used in pasta sauce. So now you may have eaten pasta that had remnants of this ball in it. I am a ball collector so of course I wanted to see the ball. It is located just to the right of the Caray bust as you walk in. Budget some wandering time into your schedule if you decide to eat here.

As far as the restaurant goes it is very good food. I have eaten at Harry’s several times, and I have never been dissapointed. The prices are a little steep, but you get what you pay for. The last time I went I spent $25, and walked out very full. you may come in for the sports, but you will leave full. If you are in Chicago give this place a try. You will be glad that you did.

Target Field Construction Site

This July I was in Minnesota as part of our yearly baseball trip. We wanted to see the Metrodome one last time before it was torn down. We also wanted to see the new Twins stadium Target Field. Through a friend we learned that you could go to the top of a parking garage to get a great view of the stadium. We picked the wrong garage, but we still got a great view. We would have had to break down some barriers to get to the top of the other garage. From what we could see around the stadium, and the little inside the stadium this place is going to be nice. From the conceptual drawings you can see that this 40,000 seat stadium is going to look very nice. It has really taken shape even more since I was there. Looking at some photos online I would say that the outside is nearly complete. Just seeing the outside of the stadium is not enough. I will have to see a game here when it opens. Maybe my White Sox will have better luck here than they did in the old Metrodome. The stadium will have an exhibition on April 2nd, 2010, and will officially open on April 12, 2010 against the Boston Red Sox. My only question will be how much snow will be on the field that day.

Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame and Museum

A week ago today I was walking around Lambeau Field. One of the highlights of the day was revisiting Packer history in the Hall of Fame. On gamedays you need a ticket to get into the Hall of Fame as it is located inside the Lambeau Field Atrium. The museum costs $10, and it is well worth it. As you walk in the first thing that you see is the Green Bay Theater. As you can see in the picture to the left they were showing ‘The Road to Glory’ the day I was at the Museum. The video is not very long, and gets you ready to visit the museum. You learn all about the history of the Packers, and really seemed to get me geared up to tour the rest of the museum. After the movie doors open behind you, and you come face to face with the scene at the goal line of the famous Ice Bowl. As you can see to the right you can look over Bart Starr’s shoulder to see exactly what he saw on that cold day. Just off from this display is a room dedicated to Vince Lombardi. They take you through his life on one wall, have a room dedicated to his quotes in the middle, and on the other wall they show you what he meant to his players. The highlight of the room is a recreation of the man’s office. I have put a picture of the office below. Notice the ash tray in between the players seats. It was a different time for sure. From here you are taken through the years on a historical tour of the Packers. They have kiosks at each display with a short audio presentation that takes you a little further than the display would. Towards the end of the exhibits you get to peer into the lockers of the Packer greats. They have a locker set up for each member of the Packers that has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The highlight for me of course was seeing the locker of Paul Horning. He is after all the reason that I am a Packer fan. It was his trip to Green Bay from Notre Dame that made the Packers my father’s favorite team. It was that simple decision that led me to become a Packer fan. Years later I was finally able to walk on hallowed ground. Seeing the locker of the ‘Golden Boy’ was a great way to start off the day. Just before you enter the actual Hall of Fame they have a little room off to the side where you can watch clips from great games in Packer history. All over the museum they have these little rooms where you can watch different clips from the Green Bay archives. These little rooms add to the experience. I watched most of the clips including the three Super Bowl wins, then went into the Hall of Fame to see the three trophies. It was really cool to see the trophy named after Lombardi in the Hall of Fame. The first two I had heard about. The last one I lived through. It was a great time for me, and it was a great way to leave the museum. After that I was ready to walk out, and see Lambeau Field for the first time.

Bart Starr guards the entrance to the museum

They even have a display of items that the fans have brought to games. I thought the Favre sign was very apt for the day

The mock up of Lombardi’s office. Note the ash tray in between the yellow seats. They also have his film projector on the desk where it was
Brett’s jersey is on display with the other Packer greats

Reggie’s jersey on display as well

A helmet signed by all the members of the 1997 Super Bowl team

The Original Baseball Hall of Fame Museum of Minnesota

This is another of the destinations from the book Roadside Baseball that I visited while on my recent baseball road trip. This museum is located in the Dome Plus store located across from Gate A of the Metrodome on 3rd street. As you can see from the picture it is not much to look at from the outside. I imagine since the Metrodome will no longer be hosting baseball games next year this museum will take a hit. It will either have to move, or become a relic to the old Metrodome. At first glance from down the road I wondered if it was even still open. Once inside the museum though you can see very easily that Ray Crump the owner is a huge Twins fan. Ray was a batboy for the Washington Senators, and then later was the equipment manager for the Minnesota Twins. Both of these jobs gave him great access to the players of the game. He has bats and balls signed by some of the great players of his day. He also has many objects from the glory days of the Twins. The teams of 1987 and 1991 are also well represented. The jersey of Kirby Puckett that is shown to the right is one of the jerseys shown in the museum. He has a small display of various Twins uniforms from throughout the years. Being the equipment manager that would be an easy task to do. Just think this was the guy who gave Kirby Puckett his first uniform in the pros. Did he suggest the number 34? I don’t know. Ray works in the store, and that would have been a great question to ask him, but I never thought of it. The other side of the store is a huge Twins/Vikings store with some good deals. I got the Twins Metrodome commemorative ball for $6 cheaper than I found it anywhere online. It was way cheaper than it would have been inside the stadium. This is a great stop for the baseball fan on the way to the Metrodome. The museum is free, and you can pick up some cheap souvenirs before you go into the stadium.

Ray is also a huge country music fan who has attended many concerts with backstage passes. He has many of them on display along with many pictures of him with various celebrities. He really has met many famous people in his time. Just looking through all of the pictures could put you in the museum for a while. I included a picture of one of the pictures that I really enjoyed. Ray has met people like Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. This picture of Ray with Hank Williams Jr. caught my eye. Apparently the backstage section of Ray’s tour included a visit to watch him nap. This just looks awkward for everyone involved. They must have posed the Crumps in the right spot, then woke up Hank. There is also a great pic of Ray with a young Hulk Hogan. He has met so many famous people that you have to see the pics to believe them. He also has a great Elvis display from his touring days as well as a case for the Beatles visit to Minnesota.

Former Site of Metropolitan Stadium

I would never purposely go to the Mall of America. I am not much of a mall person so the worlds biggest mall has no appeal to me. One thing that actually had me excited to visiting the mall was the fact that a Major League Team actually played there. On the site of the mall the Minnesota Twins once played baseball. In 1961 the Washington Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Minnesota Twins. They played at the Met from 1961 until the end of the 1981 season when the team moved to the Metrodome. One of the highlights of the Twins time here was in 1965 when the All Star game and World Series was played in the stadium. On June 3, 1967 Harmon Killebrew hit a 520 foot home run. The shot was the longest of Harmon’s career, and was also the longest home run hit in Metropolitan Stadium. Today the seat that the home run landed in can still be found in the Mall of America. If you go to the Nickelodeon Universe section of the mall you will find a red chair on the wall over the log water ride. A picture of the chair can be found to the right. It is hard to gauge how far this shot must have went while in the mall. One thing that can help you is if you look across the Nickelodeon portion of the mall to the Sponge Bob inflatable. The old home plate can be found just beyond the inflatable. This is your best chance to try and picture how the old ball park was laid out. That chair was in center field, and of course we know where the plate was. Home plate as I said is found near the base of the Sponge Bob inflatable on the other side of the Nickelodeon Universe. It is in the middle of the walk way without much fanfare. You really have to be looking for both of these items from the old stadium to find them. It does make the mall experience more fun. A couple of great memorabilia shops also make the trip a little easier to take. If you have to go to a mall you might as well go to one that is on the site of a former Major League stadium.

Former Site of Lexington Baseball Park

Lexington Park was located in St. Paul, Minnesota. We came across this historical marker for the stadium while driving to the St. Paul Saints game last Friday. I have always liked the Saints for the way they make baseball fun for everyone. After visiting the monument I have yet another reason to like them. They were the begining of the White Sox franchise. In 1897 Charles Comiskey (yes the same one) had this park built for his team the Saint Paul Saints. Comiskey bought the Sioux City team after his managing contract with the Reds was up, and brought the team to St. Paul. The was part of the Western League at the time. In 1899 the league changed its name to the American League to gain Major League status. Before the club could play its first Major League game Comiskey moved the team to Chicago where it was re-named the White Sox in March of 1900. Comiskey kept leasing the park for about ten years after the move before selling the team. The Saint Paul Saints played in the park until 1956 when the team moved to Midway Stadium. All that remains of the park now is a stone monument and a couple of pictures. The front of the monument can be seen to the left, and the back of the monument can be seen to the right. It can be found in front of the TCF bank branch on Lexington Avenue not far from the current Midway Stadium. We stopped to get a look at some baseball history. What we found was the beginings of our favorite team. Sometimes the little things like this can really make a trip special. If you are in the area take a look at the site. You can see where the Old Roman first put his mark on baseball.

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum: Cooperstown, New York

This goes without saying. If you are a baseball fan, then you need to get to Cooperstown. Much like the Reds Hall of Fame and museum I am not going to be able to hit everything. I don’t think that I should anyway. This is a place that you must see for yourself. That being said here are a few of the highlights of the museum.
Right as you walk into the museum you are confronted with the statues of Ted Williams and Babe Ruth. Right away you know that you are in for a special time. You get to see lifesize statues of two of the best before you even pay. From what I have read these two statues are the most photographed items in the museum. I added to that number. I took some pictures on the way in, and then took some more on the way out. These two men are two of the bigger figures in the sport, and provide a great jumping off point to get you inside. From this point you will start your museum tour. The museum is open from 9 AM to 9 PM from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend, and from 9 AM to 5 PM the rest of the year. The admission is not too bad either. It is $16.50 for a day which is pretty good considering how long you can spend inside the museum.
The first thing that I would like to highlight inside the museum is the Grandstand Theater. The theater is made up to look like a ball park with the screen located behind the scoreboard. What makes the theater so special to me is that it had the old Comiskey scoreboard. Then as I looked around I realized that the room was painted up to look like you were looking at old Comiskey from the press box. This wasn’t the same color scheme to the stadium that I grew up with, but it was that stadium. They showed a short movie that I thought would get me pumped up to get into the museum, but all that I really thought that it did was waste 10 minutes that I could have been walking through the museum. It might be a great film, but I really wanted to get inside. I had no patience for movies at that point.
The game is one of the highlights of the museum. This is where the good stuff resides. This section takes you step by step through baseball history. You see artifacts from the invention of the sport up until the present time. I was like a little kid here. I was able to see pieces of the game that I could not even imagine. In the confines of this blog I could never describe everything in this portion of the museum. I enjoyed seeing artifacts from the Cincinnati Reds the first pro team. Reading a little on them made me understand what I was seeing a bit more. From here you take a walk through the timeline of baseball. Pictured above and to the left is a glove and uniform worn by Shoeless Joe Jackson. Here is someone that has only existed as a myth to me. I have just seen pictures of the man until that day in the Hall. The pieces that meant the most to me dealt with the heroes of my childhood. Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Stan Musial all had full size lockers similar to the locker in the Babe Ruth room. Being Polish Stan Musial has always been a man to look up to. He was number six which was my first number in baseball. He also played the game the way that it should be played. For my money he is one of the most underrated players in baseball history. He just never seems to get his just due. Of course the Jersey worn by Carlton Fisk when he hit his famous home run in the 1975 World Series was a photo opportunity. On the right I have shown Tom Seaver’s jersey from his days with the Mets. I would get to know Tom better during his short stay with the White Sox. I would have loved to see Tom’s jersey from his 300th win. That was a great day in Sox history for me. The jersey of Louis Aparicio shown to the right was another great part for me. This White Sox jersey was one that I had not seen very much. I am used to seeing Louis in his 50′s era uniforms. When I went to the Civil Rights game in June this is what I expected to see the White Sox come out in. I have also read many books on Mickey Mantle. When I was a kid I loved the myth of the man. Since then I have come to find out all of the things that plagued him as well. For some reason that makes him even more special to me. He had problems just like everybody else. He had the world on a string, but still had doubts. Seeing some of ‘the Mick’s; items was a big thrill. One thing that is not shown, but has to be seen is the batting zone chart that Ted Williams made. He had colored baseballs to show himself where his hot and cold zones were. This was in a time that had no clue about half of the stats that we keep today. I have included five pictures of this exhibit. This is just a small sample of what awaits. The Hall rotates memorabilia as well so you may see some different things when you go. As I said before nothing I write can do this justice.
Just off to the side from the Game exhibit is the Babe Ruth room. What baseball player is bigger than the Babe? I don’t think that there has ever been a bigger player in the history of the sport. His name still comes up on a regular basis to this day. In his room you see artifacts spanning his career. In the corner is his locker from old Yankee Stadium filled with his gear. This may be the point in the museum where you realize that you are in for something special. I mean all that separates you from the great Bambino’s uniform is a piece of glass. I am sure that it is a very sturdy piece of glass, but it appears that you could almost touch it. The room has various contracts, balls, bats, and other items that take the Babe from his childhood days to the last days of his career. If ever a man deserved a room of his own in the Hall it is the Babe. Hank Aaron has his own room as well. They have a great room showing the history of the Negro Leagues too.
After the Game exhibit you come to the Today’s game exhibit. This room is built like a clubhouse, and has a locker for all thirty baseball clubs. Of course the highlight for me was the White Sox locker. They had Joe Crede’s glove, Jermaine Dye’s jersey, Freddy Garcia’s hat, Juan Uribe’s bat, Scott Podsednik’s bat, and other memorabilia from the White Sox World Series win. Mark Buehrle’s cap from his no-hitter was also displayed alongside the 500th home run ball that Jim Thome hit as a member of the White Sox. They also had artifacts from the Red Sox 2004 World Series win including the bloody sock. I also noticed former Sox players had items in the other cases. Ken Griffey Jr. was the newest member of the Sox, and he had a few items in the Reds case. For some morbid reason this room was also made special by the asterisk ball. This is the ball that Barry Bonds hit for his 756 career home run. The ball was bought, and an online poll put up to determine the fate of the ball. Would the Hall of Fame get the ball unblemished? Would an asterisk be placed on the ball? Or would the ball be launched into space? The fans picked the asterisk, and the Hall accepted the ball anyway. I think that this is a fitting way for Barry to be honored here. That may be the only way he is honored in the Hall. This is a great room because your team is represented just as much as any other team. You can see some great items from today’s stars all in one place.
Of course the part of the museum that everyone wants to see is the plaque gallery. This is the portion of the gallery that comes to mind right away when you think of the Hall. Every kid imagines what his plaque will look like. In 2001 the Hall decided that they are the ones who decide what team a player will go into the Hall as. Until then it was up to the player. In 1936 five men were inducted into the Hall as the first class. Those men were Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson. It was a no brainer then what team those five would go in as. From those five the inductees have grown. As we walked around the room we had good natured debates as to who should be in, and who should not be in. This is the beauty of baseball. If it were up to Joe Morgan though he would be the only plaque in the room. Those five plaques can be seen on the left. I went around the room in awe of the talented men that have been honored. Anyone who knows me though knows that I saved the class of 2000 for last. I took a few pictures of the Fisk plaque, and even posed for a few in front of it. The current class has its own section in the middle, as well as a special room with their memorabilia. It is impossible to be in this room and not get the chills.
If you have not visited the Hall yet and you are a baseball fan then you should. I waited 32 years to do it, and if it is up to me it will not be that long before my next visit.

Piazza DiMaggio

Nestled in the heart of Chicago’s Little Italy is the Piazza DiMaggio. The plaza is a shrine to Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio. As you can see the centerpiece of the plaza is a statue of Joe finishing his beautiful swing. Why on earth is this shrine located in Chicago you may ask. DiMaggio was born in California, died in Florida, and was buried in California. He spent his entire playing career in New York playing for the Yankees. The closest he came to playing in Chicago was when the Cubs turned down a no risk tryout when Joe was a San Fransisco Seal. Joe really has no ties to Chicago. He did however have ties to the people that lived in and around Taylor Street. I found this gem thanks to the Sporting News book “Roadside Baseball.” It is a great book that shows you some cool baseball sites in each state. Continue reading

Bob Feller Museum: Van Meter, Iowa

 

The Feller Museum from the street

I always saw the sign for the Bob Feller museum as we drove through Des Moines on I-80 going west. When I finally moved to Iowa I finally got my chance to visit the museum. The museum is set in the small Iowa town of Van Meter. It is located on the corner of Mill Street and Elm Street. Bob Feller meant so much to this small town that they gathered the funds necessary to build this museum. It started off small, but has grown up in no time. From when I first went in 2004 to the pictures they have online today you can really see the difference. This museum showcases what one man can mean to a town. There is no real allotted parking so you just find a spot on the street around the museum. Follow the steps up into the museum and you are on your way. The admission is only $5 so go and see it if you are in the area.

 

The museum mural

 

The famous bat the Babe Ruth held

The museum inside is not very huge, but they pack it full of memorabilia. The museum has the main hall with a north and south wing on each side. One of the highlights for me was to see the bat that Babe Ruth was leaning on when the now famous photo of him was taken in Yankee Stadium. Before I visited Bob’s museum I never knew that the bat in the picture was actually a Feller model. Babe needed something to lean on when he came out, so he grabbed Bob’s bat as he exited the visitor’s dugout. A picture of the display is shown to the left. Before I visited the actual Hall of Fame in Cooperstown this was the closest I had been to anything touched by the Babe. The bat is showcased at the museum, but also makes its way around the country in a travelling exhibit. I was lucky enough to be there on a day it was as well. The rest of the museum is filled with glass cases full of items from Bob’s career in baseball along with other items from his life. A good example is shown to the right. A jersey of Bob’s and some baseball memoribilia is displayed in one case while his Navy Uniform and his wartime acheivements are shown in the case next to it. As a baseball fan I was amazed at some of the items in the museum. Bob Feller had a great relationship with Ted Williams, and some of the other Red Sox players of that day. A lot of their memoribilia can be found in the museum. They have done a great job of collecting items from Bob along with other great players of his time.

 

Baseball and History collide insdie the museum

 

Feller signing the White Sox ball for me in 2005

In the short time I was in Iowa I made a few trips to the museum. I was able to meet Vida Blue, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Bert Blyleven, and Bob himself during some of the autograph signing days they had. I was also able to get balls autographed by Harmon Killebrew, Bobby Doerr, and Buck O’Neill through the museum. I became a member of the museum so my frequent visits would be free. The photo at the top of the post was taken during a signing day when Bob was present. In front of the museum was the car that took Bob to his first major league game. A signing day is a great day to meet some heroes of the game, but it is too crowded to visit the museum. The picture to the left shows Bob signing a ball for me. Most people just asked for his autograph, but I asked to inscribe the date of his Opening Day no hitter against the White Sox. (I am a Sox fan, and yes I like punishment.) He not only put all that on it he inscribed the score, and wrote “Opening Day No Hitter” on the ball. That baseball is one that will always be at the forefront of my collection. I wish we had something like this close to here so that I could experience this again. They have a great lineup of guests this year, and from the looks of the web site for the museum it will only get better. If you are in the area give the museum a try. It is worth the price of admission.