Return Visit

By Craig Muder

Seventy-four years ago, the National Baseball Museum was just over three months old and establishing itself as one of the country’s cultural landmarks.

Arnie Certoma of West Babylon, N.Y., paid his second visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Wednesday. His first trip to Cooperstown came in 1939 -- the year the Museum opened. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Arnie Certoma of West Babylon, N.Y., paid his second visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Wednesday. His first trip to Cooperstown came in 1939 — the year the Museum opened. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Still, Arnie Certoma knew he had to see it for himself.

Then 11 years old, Certoma and some friends hitch-hiked from Bayside, Queens to Cooperstown to visit what was to become known as the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum – which opened to the public for the first time on June 12, 1939.

More than seven decades later, Certoma reprised that trip on Wednesday – this time driving from his home in West Babylon, N.Y., to make his second journey to Cooperstown at the age of 85.

“I remember the building outside, and I remember the (exhibits) inside with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and – I think – Tris Speaker,” Certoma said. “It’s sure changed a lot since then.”

Dressed in a Yankees jacket, Certoma – a huge Gehrig fan – quickly searched out the Museum’s Yankees exhibits on Wednesday, including Gehrig’s locker.

“I remember them all,” Certoma said. “And it seems like it was yesterday.”

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

3 Comments

Great story.Love to talk to this guy who may remember my Grandfather Gordon ” Dusty ” Rhodes MLB pitcher 1929-36 and a yankee from 29-32. Anyone know how to conatct this fan? Ive been to Cooperstown once and pln on heading back when Ken Griffey Jr. is inducted!

This old guy went 74 years between his 1st and 2nd visit to the Baseball Hall Of Fame

The old adage is true. – “Don’t put off until tomorrow, what you can do today!!!”

Although no story addresses this topic directly, I’d just like to comment that I’ve been wondering why the Hall Of Fame awarded the Buck O’Neil Award to Joe Garagiola this year, who is already a member of the Broadcasters Wing of Cooperstown (he’s a Ford C. Frick Award winner) rather than to someone who has not received Hall Of Fame recognition to this point. – Someone like Minnie Minoso, for instance..
I would rather have seen the award go to Minoso since he was a trailblazer for Hispanics Of Color.. Minnie was the first Black Hispanic to play in the major leagues (1949) and the first to make an all-star team (1951) (Previously he had been a two-time Negro Leagues All-Star). Then he went on to be a 7 time American League All-Star, and win the Gold Glove for Outfielders in 3 of the first 4 years it was awarded, and rack up a .298 career batting average with nearly 2,000 MLB hits. He accomplished all this even with a late start in the major leagues due to the racial barrier delaying his participation in the big leagues. He was somewhere betwwen 26 and 29 when he debuted in the majors and unlike President Obama I don’t think Minnie’s going to produce his birth certificate for inspection soon. He’s somewhere between 88 and 91 today and Minnie prefers to keep ‘em guessing. Some people think that Roberto Clemente was the first great Black Hispanic player, but the truth is that Minoso had played in four major league all-star games before Clemente ever faced his first big leagues pitcher. Wave upon wave of Hispanic players of color owe a debt of gratitude to Minnie for making the jump from the New York Cubans of the Negro Leagues about 65 years ago, to the Cleveland Indians and eventually to the Chicago White Sox where Minnie enjoyed his greatest success and became a Chicago Institution. I guess with his career split between the Negro leagues and the major leagues it makes it difficult to gauge just how outstanding a player Minoso actually was and that’s a big reason why Minnie has not been elected to the Hall Of Fame thus far.
If Minoso had been awarded the Buck O’Neil Award it would have made up in small part for his not getting voted into Cooperstown thus far.

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