Little Bits of History

National Sport

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 12, 2014
National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

June 12, 1939: Cooperstown, New York gets a new attraction. The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is located at 25 Main Street and was dedicated on this date. It was founded by Stephen Clark, owner of a local hotel. Prohibition had devastated the local hops industry and the Great Depression had stopped tourism in its tracks. Something needed to be done to bring people back to the small town (population less than 2,000) in eastern New York. In 1905, National League president Abraham Mills erroneously claimed Abner Doubleday from Cooperstown as the inventor of the national sport. This became the seed for bringing the Hall of Fame in and was instrumental in early marketing.

The term “Hall of Fame” doesn’t only mean the building, but also refers to all those inducted – players, managers, umpires, executives, and pioneers of the game. The first five to be named were Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson. About twenty more were selected prior to them all being inducted during the Hall’s 1939 opening. As of January 2014, there were 306 people inducted into the Hall. During the 2013 ceremonies, 12 Hall members who were not honored during World War II travel restrictions were also honored. These included Lou Gehrig and Rogers Hornsby. The 2014 ceremonies are to be held on July 27. Also included are 37 men who have received the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting.

Today, players can be inducted via an election process of either the Baseball Writers Association of America or the Veterans Committee which now has three subcommittees. A final ballot will consist of about 25 to 40 candidates. Although there are rules for being eligible to be placed on the ballot, these can be waived in special cases. This was done in the cases of Addie Joss and Roberto Clemente. In 1936, all players were eligible for inclusion, even active ones. Between 1937 and 1945, there was no waiting period after retirement and so any retired player was eligible. The five-year wait was established in 1954. A special election was held for Lou Gehrig since he was terminally ill at the time and no elections were held in 1940 or 1941. This special election permitted Gehrig to be entered into the Hall while he was still alive.

Today, Jane Forbes Clark (the founders granddaughter) is the chairman of the Board of Directors. Jeff Idelson has been the director since 2008. About 300,000 people enter the museum each year, meaning Clark’s idea to increase tourism really worked. The three stories of the museum display only parts of the memorabilia at a time. They have 38,000 artifacts and 2.6 million library items such as newspaper clippings and photos, and 130,000 baseball cards.

People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. – Rogers Hornsby

Baseball was, is and always will be to me the best game in the world. – Babe Ruth

Baseball is like a poker game. Nobody wants to quit when he’s losing; nobody wants you to quit when you’re ahead. – Jackie Robinson

The thing I like about baseball is that it’s one-on-one. You stand up there alone, and if you make a mistake, it’s your mistake. If you hit a home run, it’s your home run. – Hank Aaron

Also on this day: If It Doesn’t Fit, You Must Acquit – In 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman are murdered.
Medgar Evers – In 1963, this Civil Rights leader was assassinated.
Son of Sam – In 1978, David Berkowitz was sentenced.
Wedded Bliss Redux – In 1967, Loving v. Virginia was decided.


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