Last Tuesday, we visited the shrine of baseball, our “national pastime.” We went to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. As a life long baseball fan, this was pretty cool for me. However, I have to admit that for the casual baseball fan the museum part of the Hall of Fame sometimes lacked good explanations of what you were seeing. For instance, there was an entire section devoted to Babe Ruth. This section is doubtless well deserved by him, but it never really explains how Ruth changed the very nature of the game. Ruth hit dozens of “tape measure” home runs when other players hit few, if any. In 1920 Ruth hit 54 home runs for the season, while the next highest total by any player was 19. He initially played in an era when scoring runs meant getting a single, stealing second, advancing to third on a ground out and scoring on a sacrifice fly. Ruth pioneered a different way to win a game, get a man or two on and smash the ball over the fence for an likley insurmountable 3-0 lead in the game. Unfortunately, the Hall of Fame display dedicated to Ruth’s life, times, and career, never spells out why he was so significant to the game.
Similarly (although I can see the reasoning behind this one) the Hall has an exhibit addressing the use of PEDs (performance enhancing drugs – steroids) in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. But again, the display doesn’t spell out what PEDs are, why they gave such an advantage to players who took them, or how it really “messed up” the age old records and statistics of the game. Nice try admitting to the problem, but a bit of a failure by not really explaining the challenge baseball faces trying to integrate what happened in this era with the rest of baseball history and statistics.
Finally, I have to give huge kudos to the Hall for displays on woman in the game, latino players in the league, and several displays featuring Jackie Robinson and the integration of african american players into the game. The exclusion of so many great great african american players from the game for so long is truly repugnant. However, the fact that Jackie Robinson was brought up to the Major Leagues by the Dodgers in 1947, years before Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus, well before Ruby Bridges walked into school escorted by federal marshals and more than a decade before Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech, is a testament to baseball’s willingness to recognize its mistake and try to correct it well before others in our country where willing to move forward with civil rights for all.
Jackie Robinson –
Finally, I was excited to see the plaques for my favorite Mets players who are enshrined in the Hall (Tom Seaver, Gary Carter and Mike Piazza) as well as a shout out to my home town (Montclair) hero, Yogi Berra. Overall, our visit to the Hall of Fame was a lot of fun if you have the chance to go and you are a fan of the game, I definitely recommend it.