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.