I have wanted to visit The National Baseball Hall of Fame for fifteen years now, and I finally got my chance on the way home from our New England motorcycle roadtrip. To learn more about my love for baseball, check out my post about Fenway Park.
The first thing I recommend you do when you arrive is watch the “multimedia presentation” called The Baseball Experience. The seats in the theater are set up to look like a grandstand surrounding a baseball diamond. And the show began with a voice that gives me chills- Bob Sheppherd, the iconic announcer of Yankee stadium, who eloquently and articulately introduced Yankees from DiMaggio and Mantle to Tino and Jeter. Seriously, look up some of his introductions on YouTube and tell me if you have ever heard a baseball lineup said with more grace and class.
The video was a really cool intro to our experience at the museum. We followed it by visiting a locker room type of display, with each locker representing one of the major league teams. They showcased a few cool artifacts from the most recent season as well as notes on the teams’ championships. A few teams have zero while my Yankees hold a commanding lead with 27!
We took a hop way back in time with an exhibit about baseball’s humble beginnings. Crazy to think that the gloves and other modern equipment that players use today evolved from such cumbersome early designs. The game was played a bit differently back then though, and ball clubs operated differently too.
George Herman Ruth, better known as Babe, has a large collection of displays all to himself. Arguably one of the most iconic players in history, he has an incredible story both on and off the field. Most baseball fans know the story of his historic trade from Boston to New York and the legendary “Curse of the Bambino”. But many may not know other interesting facts about his life and career. Did you know he was actually suspended 1922 for disobeying league rules concerning off-season activities? Or that he actually began his career as a pitcher? Or how about that he was actually one of the first five players elected to the Hall of Fame? He also felt a dear connection to the reformatory school he attended as a boy, and in his years of fame and fortune he treated them well.
Pride and Passion: The African American Baseball Experience was a riveting exhibit. Jerseys, baseballs, bats, letters, and photos tell the courageous story of Jackie Robinson’s journey from the Negro Leagues to the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking down barriers and paving the way for so many greats. One of those greats is, of course, Hank Aaron, who has his own exhibit honoring his chase for Babe Ruth’s home run record, complete with a video screen showing a clip of the historic homer.
“That ball is gonna be… outta here! It’s gone! It’s 715! There’s a new home run champion of all time, and it’s Henry Aaron!”
That bit of audio, spoken by Milo Hamilton takes me right into that moment as though I was listening as it happened live. A row of baseballs lined the wall, representing the home runs that got Aaron to that historic point. The record has since been broken, but that doesn’t take anything away from the grandeur of the moment. Mr. Aaron is a legend, and the exhibit honoring his milestone at the Baseball Hall of Fame represents him deservingly.
My absolute favorite part of the museum was called Diamond Dreams. It detailed the women of baseball, from the girls of the World War II era All-American Girls Professional Baseball League to the few women who have succeeded in both modern and not-so-modern minor league play. Admittedly, my interest in this part of the museum comes just as much from one of my favorite movies as it does from being a female athlete. A League of Their Own, a 1992 film starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, and many other famous names, is in my top ten favorite films ever. It tells the story of a very interesting time in history, when a women’s baseball league was formed in order to keep people entertained on the home front while many male baseball stars were off fighting the war.
Costumes from the film as well as real uniforms worn by real players were on display. The exhibit also touched on females present in baseball’s corporate offices as well as softball, which has come to be known as the “female baseball”. I think I spent more time in this exhibit than in any other!
We wandered through many other exhibits including one which told the story of baseball’s journey in Cuba and throughout the Caribbean, another which profiled baseball scouts and their famous scouting reports, a whole room dedicated to “sacred ground” (the ballparks of past and present), a large collection of art and photographs featuring the sport… there is even a small exhibit all about baseball in films! I took a class called Sports Films in college as part of my film studies minor, and we watched four movies that were detailed here (A League of Their Own, Field of Dreams, Eight Men Out, and Soul of the Game, all highly recommended).
This is all before even mentioning the grand finale- the Hall of Fame Plague Gallery, where each of the hall of famers is honored with a bronze plaque.
If you are a baseball fan, this museum is a must see. The exhibits are interesting and accessible, with lots of signage for explanations and good photo opportunities. So many truly talented men and women- players, coaches, announcers, writers, scouts, owners- are showcased so wonderfully here.
Just a few days ago, we found out that the baseball world had lost a legend- Yankee catcher Yogi Berra passed away at the age of 90. Though I somehow missed his plaque in the gallery, you can see from the photo below that my visit was not Yogi-less. The quote featured here is just one of Yogi’s many quirky sayings that simultaneously make no sense and so much sense. Click on the link under the photo to learn about his storied career- and then click around the Baseball Hall of Fame website to plan your visit.