Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame

Situated in Cooperstown, New York, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum stands as the ultimate monument dedicated to America's favorite pastime. As its motto suggests, the Hall of Fame strives to "Preserve History, Honor Excellence, and Connect Generations." Earlier this month, I took a road trip, or a pilgrimage, as some die hard baseball fans might say, to visit Cooperstown for the first time. It was truly a memorable trip as I got to experience the historic culture of baseball as preserved by the Hall of Fame.

Since the age of ten, baseball has been a recreational part of my life. As a child, I would sit in front of the TV cheering on my favorite team through thick and thin. Most of my summer vacation days in the city were comprised of playing stick ball with the neighborhood kids from morning until dark. Outings to the stadium to catch a game were always a treat for me, especially wen I would have the opportunity to cheer on my distant cousin, Frank Catalanotto who played ball in the majors for 14 seasons. Not only did I collect baseball cards in my youth, I would go on to eventually design them in my adulthood as a professional graphic designer.

Honus Wager's Uniform and Bats
You're probably thinking that my visit to the Hall of Fame was long overdue. Perhaps it was, but I can assure you it was well worth the wait and an experience that I will cherish. Walking through the memorabilia-filled halls of baseball's historical institution made me feel like a kid again. I was very excited to see the artifacts of the game’s greatest players-- the legends of  yesterday and more recent greats, some of whom I have seen play first hand. I was most appreciative that the Hall of Fame honored all the diverse aspects of baseball's history.

The Hall of Fame presents a historical recount of the sport, from its sport infancy through modern times, including its most frowned upon moments. Yes, even Peter Edward Rose, a man forever banned from the sport amid gambling allegations, has a glass case in the Hall of Fame which pays homage to his record of 4,192 hits. If it happened in baseball, you can be sure it is documented within these hallowed halls. The Hall of Fame contains 295 inductees-- a roster that includes Negro League players, managers, corporate executives and baseball pioneers in addition to major league players.

For me, one of the more enjoyable aspects of the Hall of Fame was seeing how the game of baseball evolved over the years. Seeing the primitive equipment quite fascinating. It's amazing how primitive the equipment was when compared to modern protective gear. Baseball gloves were simply made of thin leather and offered minimal protection to a hand that would have caught a 90 mile per hour fastball behind the plate. It is also hard to believe that catching the ball in the outfield on a single bounce was considered an out at one time. Also chronicled is these Supreme Court case Flood v. Kuhn. 
Curt Flood's challenge of baseball's reserve laws eventually led to the free agency system, one of the most important labor advances in of all sports. Baseball has truly come a long way.

Hall of Famer Bill Veeck
Of course the infamous area of the Hall of Fame would be the Plaque Gallery, containing all of the member induction plaques. I made it a point to take photographs of the Hall of Famers for whom I have the most respect. Among them are Ralph Kiner and Bill Veck. I grew up with Kiner as the voice of the New York Mets. In my opinion, no one tells a better baseball story than Ralph Kiner who hit 369 home runs throughout his career. Bill Veeck is probably a name less familiar to fans. I remember reading up on him as a kid. Veeck was well known for the innovations he brought to the game of baseball which include the first ever exploding scoreboard at Comiskey Park. Bill Veeck also was the first to add players surnames to the backs of their uniforms. He was also responsible for sending famed baseball midget Eddie Gaedel to the plate for his only appearance in the major leagues.

Overall, I had a memorable trip to the Hall of Fame. Cooperstown is a nice, quiet Middle New York town, with a lot to offer any baseball fan. The town's hospitality is something can't be matched. Its citizens breathe baseball, and there couldn't have been a better place for Baseball's Hall of Fame to have been constructed. I advise all baseball fans to make it out to the Hall of Fame at least once in their lifetime. You will not be disappointed.

Thurman Munson's uniform and catching gear

Babe Ruth
Hank Aaron's Plaque

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