Ray Durham looked down at the photo on the table in the Hall of Fame’s archive – and his eyes lit up. Another photo was lying on top of the first picture, leaving only the lower half of the depicted player visible.
“That’s Frank!” said Durham, referring to two-time American League MVP Frank Thomas. “He’s the only guy who could hit while he was lifting his leg like that.”
In an instant, it was the mid-1990s all over again – when Durham and Thomas teamed up in Chicago to power one of the AL’s most potent offenses.
It was a trip back in time, courtesy of the magic of Cooperstown.
The 39-year-old Durham, who retired following the 2008 season after a 14-year big league career with the White Sox, A’s, Giants and Brewers that featured two All-Star Game selections, toured the Baseball Hall of Fame on Monday with his family. But he was not the only big league connection at the Museum.
JP Ricciardi, the former Blue Jays general manager, also visited the Museum with his family – including his son Dante, who is playing in a tournament this week in Cooperstown. Ricciardi, who headed up the Jays’ front office for eight seasons between 2002 and 2009, is now a special assistant to Mets general manager Sandy Alderson.
“When I was coach in the Yankees’ system in the 1980s, we lived in Oneonta (located about 20 minutes from Cooperstown, and the former home of a Yankees minor league affiliate) for a while,” Ricciardi said. “I’ve been to the Hall of Fame before, but never like this.”
Ricciardi got to hold a Babe Ruth bat as well as a Honus Wagner model, marveling at the weight of bats from the early 20th Century.
“This is incredible,” Ricciardi said. “What a day!”
From All-Stars to front-office masterminds. Just another summer day at the home of baseball.
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.