When the Clark Foundation dedicated the National Baseball Hall of Fame on June 12, 1939, organizers put their faith on the museum increasing tourism to the village of Cooperstown ? a village doubly damaged by the great Depression, which decimated the local tourist trade, and Prohibition, which destroyed the local hops industry.
More than 65 years later, the National Baseball Hall of Fame stands as more than just a museum. For hundreds of millions of baseball fans it has become the destination ? a living and breathing shrine dedicated to the gods of baseball. And while the story of Abner Doubleday inventing the game of baseball in Cooperstown is far from being true, the village has become an international hot spot for both the baseball purist and the casual fan.
Residents can thank the likes of Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson for increasing the traffic flow to the city, whose present-day population is less than 3,000 people. These giants of the diamond helped transform the game from a mere recreational sport to a national pastime celebrated for representing the very best qualities of the human condition. It?s because of their contributions to the game that these players became baseball?s first Hall of Fame inductees in 1936.
Today, visitors to the museum can bear witness to some of the game?s most storied and treasured items. The items speak softly, but they tell the tales of the men (and women) who throughout the games history shed their own blood, sweat and tears simply to bask in an ounce of baseball glory.
Sadly, not all baseball fans are able to make the trek to upstate New York to visit the museum. With that in mind, in March of 2002 the National Baseball Hall of Fame decided to hit the road for a four-year, cross-country excursion. Think of it as Cooperstown on wheels.
?Baseball As America,? the Hall of Fame touring show that has been on the road for more than three years now, sends chills of delight down the spines of baseball fans who can?t afford or don?t have the time to make the actual trip to Cooperstown.
Organized into seven awe-inspiring themes ? which range from ?Our National Spirit? to ?Weaving Myths? ? the exhibit showcases some of the games most prized possessions.
There?s Jackie Robinson?s 1956 Brooklyn Dodgers jersey, the record-setting bats used by Babe Ruth, a time-tested glove used by Walter Johnson and a ball used during Don Larsen?s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. Even Norman Rockwell has a home in this exhibit, as his paintings depicting umpires on a rainy day have been included in the mix. The granddaddy of them all however, is the T206 Honus Wagner, 1909 baseball card. The cards estimated value? A whopping $1.26 million.
Fans who want to witness what the exhibit has to offer need to hurry, however, as the show is on the final leg of its 10-city tour. Currently taking up residence at the Oakland Museum of California where it will stay until January of 2006, it heads to the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit for one final stop in March. After that, the exhibit makes the 500 mile journey back home to Cooperstown.