Bob is a longtime member of the Florida sports media, having served as a reporter and copy editor for more than 30 years. His true sports passion, however, is the history of the various games, exhibited by his in-depth book reviews and hobby of collecting cards and other sports memorabilia. He blogs for TBO.com on both subjects, transferring his work for the Tampa Tribune to the realm of cyberspace.
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Looking at Cooperstown’s baseball treasures
Posted Apr 2, 2013 by Bob D'Angelo
Updated Apr 6, 2013 at 02:57 PM
If you are a baseball fan, a trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is a must. The rolling hills that surround Cooperstown, N.Y., provide a soothing, pastoral look to the town, and the baseball museum is a majestic building filled with baseball treasures. More than 300,000 fans visit the shrine each year.
Of course, it might be difficult for some fans to get to the Hall of Fame. Time, distance, money — those kinds of issues. When Boardwalk and Baseball opened on Feb. 14, 1987, at the junction of Interstate 4 and U.S. 27 in Central Florida, the park borrowed several exhibits from the Hall of Fame.
The park closed in 1990. A shame, since the park was a really nice idea and the Kansas City Royals even held spring training at the site, which used a “Baseball City” dateline. But if you want to see artifacts and cannot make the trip to Cooperstown, there is a new book that will give readers a taste of some of the more iconic of the 40,000 exhibits at the Hall of Fame.
“Inside the Baseball Hall of Fame,” (Simon & Schuster, hardback; $35, 209 pages) is packed with vivid color photographs and well-written descriptions of some of the more notable items on display at Cooperstown.
There are baseball gloves of Joe DiMaggio, Lefty Grove, Lou Gehrig and Ty Cobb. And, the glove of Pete Gray, the one-armed outfielder who played for the St. Louis Browns in 1945. The first catcher’s mitt, created in 1888 by Joe Grunson of the Western Association’s Kansas City Blues, is also featured. So is the glove worn by Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Harvey Haddix when he threw 12 perfect innings in 1959, only to lose 1-0 in the 13th inning to the Milwaukee Braves.
Famous bats? Plenty of them are pictured. Here’s a sampling: the stick used by Bobby Thomson to hit the “Shot Heard ’Round the World in 1951, and home run bats used to end World Series by Bill Mazeroski (1960) and Joe Carter (1993).
There are photographs of the Braves jersey worn by Henry Aaron when he hit career homer No. 715; also jerseys worn by Dizzy Dean, Satchel Paige and Rogers Hornsby. Edd Roush’s sunglasses, attached to his Cincinnati Reds cap.
Tampa Bay is represented with the batting gloves worn by Wade Boggs when he homered for his 3,000th career hit at Tropicana Field on Aug. 7, 1999.
Baseball cards — two iconic ones — are on display: the 1952 Topps rookie card of Mickey Mantle, and the 1909 T-206 card of Honus Wagner.
Other items of note include Hank Greenberg’s War Department ID card; a cartoon of the “Brooklyn Bum” drawn by Willard Mullin; an 1887 balls-and-strike indicator, when it took five balls to walk and a pitcher needed four strikes to record an out; and even the Rally Monkey, which became nationally famous for the Angels during the 2002 World Series.
The authors have a little bit of fun. They write about Harry Caray’s eyeglasses, noting the jovial broadcaster “made a spectacle of himself.”
Shoeless Joe Jackson is not enshrined in the Hall of Fame, but his spikes are on display.
This book is not all-inclusive, but it gives the reader a great feel of what a visitor can actually see when visiting Cooperstown. The Baseball Hall of Fame is a beautiful shrine, and this book is an excellent companion.