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I understand quickly why it was not built in New York or Philadelphia or Chicago or St. Louis or - for the love of Pete - Smell L.A.
Yes, quite appropriately this modest, yet magnificent edifice was constructed where this wonderful game we call America's Pastime was first created: Cooperstown, New York. Or so they say.
For it was here - according to legend of course - that Abner Doubleday chased cows out of Elihu Phinney's pasture one afternoon in 1839. This proved inspiration for the excitable Doubleday to invent baseball.
If this sounds like a bunch of utter crap to the cynics reading this, believe me - this is the legend. And don't mess with the legend 'ya here now!
"Okay Mr. Pompous writer," you cynics are now saying, "Would ya take me inside the Hall of Fame already?"
You got it.
There is plenty of history in the Hall, perhaps none is more compelling than the bat used by "The Splendid Splinter," Ted Williams, in 1941 to hit .406, the last player to hit .400 or better. Nearby in the exhibit is a grandstand ticket stub to Fenway Park, dated September 28, 1960. According to the stub, it cost $2 to sit in section 22, row 1, seat 4, to witness Williams last game in a Red Sox uniform in Boston.
Another fascinating Williams feature in the Hall - besides his plaque - is a breakdown of his strike zone.
A total of 77 different balls are showcased over a typical strike zone, with each featuring what Williams believed his batting average to be when he hit a ball thrown to a particular area of the strikeout.
Talk about student of the game!
Don Larsen's no-hitter in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series is also cherished. Yogi Berra's catcher's mitt used on that special day is located in the Hall as well as a ticket stub from that historic game - it cost $7.35 to sit in a reserved seat at "The House that Ruth Built."
(Incidentally, when Bobby Thomson hit his historic home run in Game 3 of the 1951 playoffs to lift the Giants to the pennant, it cost just $1.04 to sit in the grandstand!)
All of the artifacts you would expect to find in the Hall are here, including the bat used by Babe Ruth to crush his 60th home run and the one he used for his "called shot" in the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Field. In fact, what makes the Hall so special is that it devotes so much history to the games greatest players including features on Williams, Ruth, Ty Cobb and Hank Aaron.
If you look closely enough in the Hall, you even come upon some rare gems. My favorite artifact at the Hall is nothing more than a large index card. On this index card, dated November 6, 1952, is a scouting report of a one Roberto Clemente of Santurce, Puerto Rico.
"He has written the commissioner requesting permission to play organized baseball," the index card reads, "A real good looking prospect."
The card is signed by Dodger scout Al Campanis, who gives Clemente an "A+" for his arm and power. Campanis had also made a check mark inside a box next to the wording, "a definite prospect."
Clemente went on to star for the Pirates and the bat used to collect his 3,000th hit is on display at the Hall. Unfortunately, that was the last hit for "The Great One," who perished in an offseason plane crash.
This Hall has so much history and tells so many stories that it's hard to believe it all fits on three floors.
The Hall also features an assortment of shoes, including the Mizundo's worn by future Hall-of-Famer Rickey Henderson when he stole his 118th bag of the 1982 season.
In addition to showcasing gloves worn by players in the late 1800's, the Hall also features a terrific section on the history of the Negro Leagues.
Whether you visit with the purpose of seeing Cobb's sliding pads, or finding the glove used by Willie Mays to make his famous "basket" catch in 1954, or the bat used by Mickey Mantle to hit his 565-foot tape measure shot in 1953 against the Washington Senators, or to sit in the actual locker room used by the Mick and Joltin' Joe DiMaggio, you will relive a small, but magical part of our history - a part of America's treasured national pastime.
The Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is located about 70 miles west of Albany, NY. It's an off-the-beaten-path gateway from New York City to Montreal by car, and there's plenty of other attractions in the area ("A Fans Guide To The Ultimate Ballpark Tour: Fully Loaded!" provides details).
It is open everyday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. until September 30. From October 1 to April 1 the hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It remains open until 8 p.m. Friday's and Saturday's in April, October, November and December.
Admission is $9.50 for adults (13 and over), $8 for seniors (65 and over) and $4 for juniors (ages 7-12). There is no charge for children six and under and a special discount is provided for triple AAA cardholders. For more information call 888-HALL-OF-FAME or visit www.baseballhalloffame.org.
Joe Connor is the founder of www.modernerabaseball.com
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Jun 18 2002, 12:18:53
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