Hall of Fame is 61 Years Old
Ask any baseball fan about his or her favorite
experiences and sure to rank high on the list is a visit to the Baseball
Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. For me as a writer and as a fan -
the Hall of Fame has provided much satisfaction, enjoyment and research
assistance through the years.
It was 61 years ago today, June 12, 1939, that the
National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum was officially dedicated in
colorful ceremonies. Contrary to rumor, I wasn't there. But I have read a
great deal about that time.
The 100th anniversary of baseball was celebrated in
1939. Four years earlier, plans got underway to mark the baseball
centennial with festivities in Cooperstown, the alleged location of
baseball's birth. The main idea of the celebration was the establishment
of a permanent Hall of Fame to honor the game's giants.
The Baseball Writers' Association of America was given
the task and responsibility of selecting greats to be honored. The first
election was conducted in January of 1936, when five players were elected:
Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson.
By 1939, there were 25 legends elected to the Hall of
Fame. Of those, 11 were still living. Each made the trip to Cooperstown to
attend the centennial celebration. For the record the elite 11 were:
Connie Mack, Honus Wagner, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Tris Speaker,
George Sisler, Napoleon Lajoie, Walter Johnson, Eddie Collins, Babe Ruth
and Cy Young. Ty Cobb missed the ceremonies because he was hung up by
travel problems, but he did get to Cooperstown.
Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis presided
at the ceremonies and served as Grand Marshall of a motorcade that wended
its way through the streets of the upstate New York village.
Landis made a big flourish of purchasing a sheet of
first-day centennial stamps from U.S. Postmaster General Jim Farley and
then held forth presiding at the dedication of the Baseball Hall of Fame
and Museum. Always a self-serving showman and a self promoter, Landis was
in his glory on that June 12th.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony featured baseball's ruling
power structure: Landis, National League President Ford Frick, a former
newspaperman who had come up with the idea of a Hall of Fame, American
League President William Harridge and William G. Bramham, President of the
National Association, the top minor league official.
Located today where it was 61 years ago, on Main Street
in the heart of picturesque Cooperstown, New York, the National Baseball
Hall of Fame and Museum is one of the country's major tourist
destinations. It also has bragging rights as the best-known sports shrine
in the world.
If you have never been there - go! The little town is a
Located on the shores of Lake Otsego, Cooperstown
features rolling, wooded hills, flower-lined streets, and fresh country
air. There are no national chains or franchises. Many of the lodging areas
are small "bed & breakfasts". Those in charge have kept the
area pristine, primed for the public to have a good time.
The centerpiece of the Museum is the historic Hall of
Fame Gallery, where the plaques of all Hall of Famers line oak walls.
There are unique paintings and sculptures related to baseball. There are
permanent exhibits in The Records Room, No-Hitters, Baseball Around The
World, and The Heart of Baseball, which examines the relationships between
ball players and the community.
Artifacts galore are on parade: bats - Ruth's from his
"called shot" in the '32 Classic; Ted Williams' from his .406
season in 1941; Mickey Mantle's from his 565-foot tape measure homer in
Washington; Roberto Clemente's from his 3000th (and last) hit; Hank
Aaron's from his 714th home run; and the famous "pine tar bat"
of George Brett.
You can also look up Ty Cobb's sliding pads, manager
John McGraw's jersey, the locker used by Joe DiMaggio (and later by Mickey
Mantle) and Jackie Robinson's warm-up jacket.
The Baseball Hall of Fame has come a long way from its
beginnings 61 years ago. It is a shrine, a Mecca, a place that every
baseball fan should visit at least once.
Frommer is the author of the classic "New York City Baseball
1947-1957: The Last Golden Age and of Nolan Ryan's autobiography
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About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
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