Monday, June 30, 2008

About the Baseball Hall of Fame

The Hall of Fame induction ceremony is about a month away. This year, Goose Gossage is getting inducted along with a few old-timers: Barney Dreyfuss, Walter O'Malley, Dick Williams, Bowie Kuhn, and Billy Southworth. In future posts, I'll talk about each one of those guys. Today, I'm going to talk about the Hall of Fame itself.

In the 1930s, baseball was in trouble. The Depression was cutting sharply into attendance, and the Babe Ruth juggernaut, which saved baseball in the 1920s, was winding down. Baseball needed something else. In 1931, the Baseball Writers Association institutionalized the MVP award, and two years later, sportswriter Arch Ward created the All-Star Game.

Then some people from Cooperstown, New York, the alleged birthplace of baseball, approached the commissioner with an idea: a museum honoring baseball’s great players and innovators. The commissioner liked it, and so did the rest of baseball. When it opened in 1939, it was a single-room exhibit with plaques and pictures. Thanks to curator Lee Allen, who presided over the shrine from 1948 until his death in 1969, the Hall added an extensive library and expanded the museum, so that today the Hall features three stories and 50,000 square feet of exhibits to entertain and enthrall.

When you go there, you can start in the Hall of Fame Gallery, where bronze plaques of the game’s immortals stand in tribute to their accomplishments. The Great Moments Room features artifacts and photographs from the game’s top events. There’s a screening room that shows baseball movies continuously. And other parts give detailed histories about the game’s origins, ballparks, and innovations. Ultimately, you can visit the Hall of Fame Library for the greatest collection of baseball books and papers in existence.

The place is open year-round except on Christmas and Thanksgiving. It gets really crowded during the summertime, especially during the induction ceremonies every July. It’s a must-see for any baseball fan.

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