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The Home of Baseball

Entrance of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Entrance of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

With the announcement of the 2015 Hall of Fame class today, let’s take a closer look at the rich tradition that is the Baseball Hall of Fame. Sometimes referred to as strictly Cooperstown, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum located in Cooperstown, New York, was the next stop on my family’s summer baseball adventure. With the motto “Preserving History, Honoring Excellence, Connecting Generations,”  the Hall of Fame is an educational institution housing artifacts and exhibits related to the sport of baseball. Serving to honor the game and the individuals who impacted the game, the Hall of Fame with the history it preserves, should be a priority for any baseball enthusiast, or casual fan. This was my second trip to the Hall of Fame and although special with 2014 being the 75th anniversary of the museum, I still only managed to scratch the surface of the abundance of information, stories, facts, and overall history the museum has to offer.

The First Pitch

The beginning of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum can be traced back to the 1908 report published by the “Mills Commission,” a committee tasked with determining the origins of baseball. The report stated that baseball was invented in 1839 by Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, New York. This would eventually be found false, but the report proved to be fuel for the creation of the Hall of Fame.

In 1935, Stephen C. Clark, a Cooperstown resident, purchased an old baseball that had been discovered in a farmhouse attic near Cooperstown. Clark bought the ball, soon to be known as the “Doubleday Ball,” for $5 and placed it with other memorabilia on display in the town’s Village Club. This exhibit became a big hit, prompting Clark to approach the president of the National League, Ford Frick, with the prospect of a National Baseball Museum. Frick fully embraced the idea and even suggested a Hall of Fame for the greats of the game to be included with the museum. Now the idea had funding, support, and legitimacy allowing plans for the museum to move along.

The plaques of Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner, members of the first induction class

The plaques of Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner, members of the first induction class

The inaugural induction class of Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson,Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth, and Honus Wagner was announced in 1936, after being voted on by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The five charter members each received over 75% of the votes cast, which holds today as the standard for induction. The Hall of Fame now consists of 310 elected members.

The National Baseball Museum opened in 1938 and was officially dedicated June 12, 1939. By the time of the dedication in 1939, twenty-five men had already been elected to the Hall of Fame.

Selection Process

At first glance, or after hearing analysts discuss the Hall of Fame voting procedure and the changes made throughout the years, it may seem rather overwhelming. It also is hotly debated as just today after the 2015 induction class announcement, analysts on ESPN expressed their frustration with the current ballot and how they felt they were forced to leave worthy candidates off, because there were simply not enough slots.

Currently, votes are cast annually by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) with at least 10 consecutive years on a baseball beat. Each qualified member of the BBWAA can vote for up to 10 players from the ballot. The ballot consists of pre-selected players who played for at least 10 seasons and have been retired for at least 5. Players receiving 75% of the cast votes will be elected to the Hall of Fame, while players receiving fewer than 5% will be removed from future ballots. Previously, if a player had appeared on the ballot 15 times without being elected, they would also be removed from the ballot, but in 2014 the rules were amended to only allow 10 years of consideration.

The 2014 Hall of Fame Induction class of Bobby Cox, Tom Glavine, Tony LaRussa, Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, and Joe Torre. Also, it shows available spaces for future inductees

The 2014 Hall of Fame Induction class of Bobby Cox, Tom Glavine, Tony LaRussa, Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, and Joe Torre. Also, it shows available spaces for future inductees

In addition to the BBWAA selection, there are also Eras Committees that review players no longer considered eligible by the BBWAA, along with managers, umpires, and executives, who made an impact on the game in one of three eras. The eras include, Golden, Pre-Integration, and Expansion. The voting for each era is staggered, so only one will occur per year. The ballot consists of 12 individuals and the electors may vote for as many as 5 candidates. Those receiving at least 75% will be elected to the Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame class of 2015 announced today consists of Randy Johnson 97.3%, Pedro Martinez 91.1%, John Smoltz 82.9%, and Craig Biggio 82.7%. This is the first time since 1955 that the BBWAA elected 4 players to the Hall of Fame in the same year. The 4 inductees will be honored as part of the Hall of Fame’s Induction Weekend July 24-27 in Cooperstown, New York, with the actual induction occurring July 26.

Let’s Take a Tour

Now that we have learned about the history of the Hall of Fame and the voting process, let’s look at what the Hall of Fame actually is. Since the Hall of Fame suggests visitors start on the second floor, that’s where we will begin our tour.

Second Floor

  • Cooperstown Room- take a look at the history of the Hall of Fame and Cooperstown as the supposed “birthplace” of baseball
  • The Baseball Experience- watch a multimedia presentation in the Grandstand Theater to start the journey through baseball’s history
  • Taking the Field: The 19th Century- learn about baseball’s early years
  • The Cleveland Indians locker in the Today's Game exhibit

    The Cleveland Indians locker in the “Today’s Game” exhibit

    20th Century Baseball Timeline – dive deeper into baseball’s history learning about players, teams, and moments playing a large role in the game as we know it today. Includes special exhibits for important stories:

    • Babe Ruth: His Life and Legend- chronicles George Herman Ruth’s life from his childhood, through his professional years, to his post-career
    • Diamond Dreams: Women in Baseball- one of my favorite exhibits paying homage to the role women have played in baseball
    • Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience- immerse yourself in the rich history of African Americans in baseball
    • ¡Viva Baseball!- delve into the stories of baseball in the Caribbean Basin countries
    • Today’s Game- relive memories and achievements of the last several years through lockers for each of the 30 teams containing artifacts
    • Diamond Mines- discover the story of baseball scouts with this online exhibit

Third Floor

  • Sacred Ground- another one of my favorites, looking at baseball stadiums of the past and present
  • The records held by the great Cy Young accompanied by artifacts in the One for the Books exhibit

    The records held by the great Cy Young accompanied by artifacts in the “One for the Books” exhibit

    Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream- follow Aaron’s life from his childhood through his baseball career and into his post-baseball life

  • One for the Books- explore the records held in professional baseball and the stories accompanying the record setting moments
  • The three most recent World Series trophies belonging to the Boston Red Sox as part of the Autumn Glory: Postseason Celebration exhibit during my visit

    The three most recent World Series trophies belonging to the Boston Red Sox as part of the “Autumn Glory: Postseason Celebration” exhibit during my visit

    Autumn Glory: Postseason Celebration- view artifacts from the most recent World Series and see the rings from each championship team. For any females not interested in baseball, I’m sure the ring section will peak their interest. When I visited, the Boston Red Sox had their three most recent World Series trophies on display in this section

  • Picturing America’s Pastime (temporary exhibit)- engross yourself in over 250,000 photographs from the museum’s photo archives
  • The New Face of Baseball- Osvaldo Salas’ American Baseball Photographs (temporary exhibit)- examine American baseball photographs by photojournalist Osvaldo Salas featuring the decade following integration

The First Floor

  • Learning Center- used for educational programs and special events
  • Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award- view the names of winners of this award and a statue of Negro League legend O’Neil
  • Art of Baseball- examine artwork inspired by baseball. This exhibit can be appreciated by anyone no matter their degree of interest in baseball
  • The Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery

    The Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery

    Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery- view the bronze plaques of the 310 Hall of Famers

  • Baseball at the Movies- explore baseball as seen in movies by looking at baseball movie memorabilia
  • Scribes and Mikemen- honors the great journalists and broadcasters of baseball
  • Bullpen Theater- public programs and other activities held in this space
  • Sandlot Kids’ Clubhouse- activities for young baseball fans
  • Giamatti Research Center- the Hall of Fame will aid you in learning more about baseball

Now that you have had a brief summary of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, I hope that you’ll be planning your trip soon, so you can truly appreciate the magnificent home of baseball.

Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field, nicknamed The Friendly Confines, is a “must see” when it comes to baseball stadiums. The ballpark oozes with history and tradition while the surrounding town radiates class and sophistication. Sporting unique features like an ivy wall, manually operated scoreboard, and rooftop seating, Wrigley Field immerses the spectator in an unparalleled experience, uniting the past and present.

Creating a Relic

Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field

Originally named Weeghman Park, Wrigley Field was built in 1914 to house the Chicago Whales, a baseball team belonging to the Federal Baseball League. The stadium at the time cost $250,000 to build. When the Federal League folded two years later, Charles Weeghman, the former Whales owner, joined William Wrigley Jr. and others to purchase the Chicago Cubs. He then immediately moved the team to the young ballpark. The first game played by the Cubs in Weegham Park was on April 20, 1916. After Wrigley purchased the team from Weegham in 1920, the stadium was renamed Cubs Park, and then in 1926 it was given the name Wrigley Field in honor of William Wrigley.

Iconic Images

The legendary marquee sign outside Wrigley Field

The legendary marquee sign outside Wrigley Field

When you think of Wrigley Field, what comes to mind? The Cubbies, Wrigleyville, maybe some specific memory? For me it boils down to five things, the marquee sign outside the stadium, the surrounding rooftop seating, the manually operated scoreboard, the ivy, and most importantly, the loyalty of fans. All the unique features of the stadium help to enhance a fan’s visit, but the experience is truly made by the passionate fans supporting their team.

A portion of the rooftop seating out in right field

A portion of the rooftop seating out in right field

The surrounding rooftop seating adds to the friendly, relaxed atmosphere of the stadium. It is an awesome idea and serves as a representation of how the community supports and interacts with the Cubs organization. The rooftops are such a cute addition to the stadium and the people on them looked like they have an amazing time. Getting seats on one of the rooftops is definitely on my bucket list!

The hand-operated scoreboard at Wrigley Field

The hand-operated scoreboard at Wrigley Field

The manually operated scoreboard is one of the last remaining of its kind in baseball. Mounted above the bleachers in centerfield, it has never been hit by a baseball. The scoreboard was installed in 1937 when the bleachers were added. It has thus far stood the test of time, only undergoing minor additions. In 1941, the clock was added above the scoreboard, and then more lines for scores, and a small electronic message board followed suit in years to come. Scores are sent in to the scoreboard operator who is stationed in the scoreboard. That person then by hand replaces the numbers to update scores. It is awesome to watch and a very refreshing reminder of the “old days.” Above the scoreboard are three flagpoles, one for each division in the National League. On the poles are 15 flags, representing each of the teams. Their order reflects the current standings of the teams in each division. There have recently been talks about possibly demolishing the scoreboard and adding a jumbotron. Only time will tell the fate of this historic landmark.

Beautification in Baseball

Part of the famous ivy covering the outfield wall at Wrigley Field

Part of the famous ivy covering the outfield wall at Wrigley Field

You all have probably seen the commercial for State Farm Insurance last year where Kerry Wood pulls Andre Dawson from the ivy covering Wrigley’s home-run walls. That ivy is a staple of the stadium. You might have noticed during the first couple weeks of the baseball season that the ivy looked dead. No need to worry, it appears that way until further into spring when the leaves have a chance to grow out. The ivy, a mixture of Boston Ivy and Japanese Bittersweet, was planted in 1937 by the General Manager of the Cubs at the time Bill Veeck. The ivy, an idea modeled off of Perry Stadium in Indianapolis, was meant to “beautify” the bleachers that had been rebuilt that year. Wrigley Field is the only current professional baseball park with ivy-covered outfield walls.

Jack-of-all-Trades

While Wrigley Field serves as the setting and star of baseball games on afternoons in the summer, it also has played an important role in many well-known movies and tv shows. In addition to baseball and the big screen, Wrigley Field has housed football games, soccer matches, the hockey Winter Classic, and many concerts. It has been a witness to some of the biggest feats in the game of baseball. One of the most popular moments happened in game 3 of the 1932 World Series. The Colossus of Clout, The Sultan of Swat, The King of Clash, The Great Bambino, yes….Babe Ruth was up to bat. The story says that Ruth pointed to the outfield and on the next pitch, launched a home run to that same spot. Although in reality it is unknown where and what Ruth was actually pointing at, “calling your shot” is credited to this monumental statement. As a baseball fan, it is a wonderful opportunity to visit the stadium and take part in such a rich tradition. Wrigley Field should be near the top of every baseball enthusiast’s list of stadiums to visit.

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