Twelve years ago, the Hall of Fame corrected a faux pas. At the time of it’s origination, it was barely noticed, but in today’s world was considered a glaring mistake.
In 1973, when he was posthumously elected to the Hall of Fame after a tragic plane crash took his life, his plaque read “Roberto Walker Clemente” when it should have been “Roberto Clemente Walker.”
At the time, the concern was that fans would not understand the Latino tradition of one having your mother’s maiden name follow your father’s last name. In 1999 we felt it was important to correct this cultural mistake, which truly was done for the right reasons in 1973, but today would appear to be insensitive.
We brought the new plaque to San Juan, Carolina, the home town of Roberto Clemente, and a few other places in 2000. I had Clemente’s plaque postcard translated into Spanish. We handed them out to children in Puerto Rico. It was an unabashed hit.
This year we worked closely with the Museo del Deporte in Guyanabo and its director, Rafi Serrano, to bring 2011 Hall of Fame inductee Roberto Alomar’s plaque to Puerto Rico so that those from his native land who could not be in Cooperstown, would have a chance to see it. We extended the concept to honor all three Puerto Rican Hall of Famers, Alomar, Orlando Cepeda and Clemente, as well as adopted Puerto Rican son, Tany Perez, who moved to the Island from Cuba when he was 16.
We left Cooperstown Thursday, traveling from Syracuse, through JFK Airport in New York, to San Juan. Traveling with four plaques is not easy. Each one, with the backing and case, weighs close to 40 pounds. Four of us each took one as carry on luggage.
Walking through airport security, we had many quizzical looks and then there were smiles as proud central New Yorkers working security thought it was great that plaques from their home region were traveling abroad.
The flights were easy. We were met upon arrival by a delegate from the Museum here in Puerto Rico who took us to the Museum to secure the four plaques for the evening.
After checking into the hotel, we walked over to Lupi’s, a restaurant owned by former pitching great Ed Figueroa. Our group sat at a long table with Ed and had a wonderful evening catching on baseball. He was glad to see us. Dinner was terrific.
Jeff Idelson is the President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
In the spirit of the Holidays, here is my baseball wish list:
10. Health and happiness to all baseball fans, players, and youth. That means fewer injuries for key players on my favorite team – and I guess yours too.
8. For my all-time favorite player to get the 75% of the BBWAA vote and earn election to the Hall of Fame. I could get this good news soon – as he is on this year’s ballot!
7. New records, new feats and new faces for the upcoming baseball season. Who doesn’t love waking up each morning to follow a hitting streak or home run watch on the television baseball highlights? It just makes mornings easier.
6. Sunny weather – but not too hot – on July 22 in Cooperstown. Enough to make it warm and beautiful – but not turn me into a lobster.
5. A World Series Championship for my favorite team. Pretty, pretty please!
3. For the 2012 season to bring as much excitement in the second-half and postseason as 2011. I thought there couldn’t be a more exciting day than the last day of the regular season – then Game 6 of the World Series came along.
2. For a fun new year through programming and education at the Baseball Hall of Fame where we will welcome the newest additions to our family – Ron Santo and any other electees that come out of the BBWAA election on Jan. 9. My favorite time of year is when all the Hall of Famers are back home in Cooperstown.
1. I love the holidays, but once they are over, I hope for February to come quick so pitchers and catchers can report. Bring on Spring Training!
I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday season – and get ready to PLAY BALL!
Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
The numbers are there for all of them.
Sixteen Gold Glove Awards for Brooks Robinson. Seven-hundred and fifty-five home runs for Hank Aaron. And – now – nine All-Star Games for Ron Santo.
All 296 Hall of Famers have the numbers. But it’s the intangibles – the integrity, the character, the dedication – that brought them to Cooperstown.
“The numbers are there,” said Santo’s Chicago Cubs teammate Billy Williams. “Everybody saw the numbers. But (the Golden Era Committee electors) talked about what he did for the community.”
Robinson and Aaron – just like Williams – were on that Golden Era Committee that elected Santo to the Hall of Fame. And character lessons were not lost on Brooks and Hank.
“I had some talent, but it was my desire that made the difference,” Robinson said. “My love for the game overrode everything else.”
Santo had that same love. So did Aaron, for whom character will always be a defining trait of a Hall of Famer.
“It’s not just the stats that make you a Hall of Famer, but it’s how you carry yourself,” Aaron said. “We owe it to the public and the kids to be examples off the field, not just on it.
“That’s what life is about, not just how much you can accumulate.”
Along the way, however, the character of Hall of Famers like Robinson and Aaron led them to Cooperstown. Now, Santo – whose life touched so many other lives – joins them on the greatest team ever.
Craig Muder is the director of communications at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
The appropriate fanfare was missing: No grand entrances, no trumpets to herald the moment.
Instead, the gathering of baseball immortals this weekend in Dallas just seemed to materialize – as if pre-ordained.
Which, of course, it was. But knowing that Hall of Famers will congregate for the Golden Era Committee election is much different that actually watching it happen. And watching it happen on Saturday night was truly special.
Juan Marichal was first, appearing in the hotel lobby moments before dinnertime. At 74, he still brightens the room with a smile – an expression that comes easily for him when discussing a just-completed cruise he took with more than 30 family members.
In a corner of the room, Ralph Kiner chats with 2011 Buck O’Neil Award winner Roland Hemond. Then Brooks Robinson makes his way into the group.
These men – the National Pastime’s ultimate heroes – gathered at Baseball’s Winter Meetings to work. Their charge: Consider the 10 candidates on the Golden Era Committee Hall of Fame ballot. Sixteen experts, including eight Hall of Famers, five executives and three veteran media members.
Within 48 hours of their arrival, their work was complete, as the Hall of Fame announced Monday that Ron Santo would be the newest legend to join their ranks in Cooperstown. And yet they seemed to savor every minute, enjoying the rare chance to see old friends and share new memories.
And just like that, they were gone. But the magic they created lingered on for all who saw them.
No fanfare necessary… Not when true heroes are in your midst.
Craig Muder is the director of communications at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
Happy 104th birthday to Jacques Barzun, one of the most important men in baseball history. It was Barzun, the eminent French-American sociologist and historian who wrote “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.”
Barzun’s quote has been repeated thousands of times in other sources since he first penned the words in an essay in his book “God’s Country and Mine,” way back in 1954. The book is just one of over 40 that Barzun has written or edited.
Barzun was a frequent visitor to Cooperstown during the 1980s and 1990s—not, as one might expect, because he wanted to visit the home of baseball, but rather because he is an avid opera lover and historian. He was a featured speaker at the Glimmerglass Opera’s annual Gala Weekend from 1993-2003. After that visit, he gave up travelling and returned to his adopted home in San Antonio.
But he certainly hasn’t lost his love of baseball. On one of his final visits, we welcomed him to the Hall of Fame, gave him a special tour, and presented him with a ceremonial bat inscribed both with his name and his famous quote. I was lucky enough to lead that tour, and the photo you see is from that day.
One of his local friends accompanied us on the visit, and remembers it fondly. “He certainly liked Cooperstown, and looked forward to his annual visit,” said the friend (who wishes to remain anonymous). In fact, said the friend, “After he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom…” (by fellow Texan and baseball lover George W. Bush) “…he said something to the effect of ‘Yes, that’s nice, but you should have been with me at the Baseball Hall of Fame.’” Receiving the bat, his friend said, “Thrilled him, as it would a kid.”
While Barzun’s quote is notably famous, it is always truncated beyond the point of its full meaning. Lovers of the small town aspect of Cooperstown, who might just sit on a warm spring afternoon, watching the high school team play at Doubleday Field, will like the full quote: “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules and the realities of the game, and should do it first by watching some high school or small town teams.”
Barzun’s scholarly books include two on the Glimmerglass Opera, now known as the Glimmerglass Festival. He is also the subject of a new biography, “Jacques Barzun: Portrait of a Mind,” by Michael Murray.
Happy Birthday, Jacques Barzun!
Tim Wiles is the director of research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
World Series winners have long received championship rings to commemorate their historic victories. Today’s players usually receive their rings in a formal ceremony at the start of the new season, often during the first home stand. Prior to the 1920s, however, players received decorated pins or medallions as their personal championship awards, which arrived toward the end of December. At the end of 1908, the Chicago Cubs received their second consecutive World Championship medal—and they were not happy about it.
The Cubs’ 1907 medallion had been made of gold, bore the profile of a bear cub’s head with a diamond in its teeth, and was over 1 1/2 inches in diameter, making it about the size of a silver dollar. Although the 1908 version was also gold, it was less than 3/4” across—smaller than a dime. The players were so disgusted by the award that the Sporting Life, a leading national newspaper, reported on it:
The World’s Championship emblems have duly arrived, and were hailed with much derision by the Cubs, who aver that they look more like a monkey’s dream than the insignia of base ball’s proudest event. They are, to say the least, scrubby and measly, and the boys ridicule them savagely. Just why a Cincinnati firm, which evidently hasn’t taste enough to design a sewer-cover, should be given such a job, is a darksome mystery. Last season’s emblems were so inferiorly constructed that they fell apart, and the boys had to have them reset. This season’s are in the shape of a button, and look like a cross between a sick mince pie and a gilded coal-hole. Joe Tinker says he would not wear his emblem to a dog fight, and the rest of the Cubs are equally outspoken.
–Sporting Life, January 9, 1909
Why do researchers so enjoy plowing through old newspapers, looking for a “find”? Because not only can you uncover wonderful and surprising information, you can get a great read. Modern journalism, while far more professional, is not half as much fun. A coalhole, by the way, is the entrance to an old-fashioned coal chute, often found in a sidewalk, and leading down to the coal bin by the furnace. Think of it as a small manhole cover.
Finally, Cubs fans and foes alike have to wonder what the players’ reactions might have been if they had known that, a century later, they would still be waiting on their next championship.
John Odell is the curator of history and research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
I have post-it notes on my bathroom mirror, my front door and my computer monitor. They say things like “Understand where you are,” “Don’t forget to enjoy it,” and “Be thankful.”
When you work at the Hall of Fame – a place people mark on calendars, plan vacations to and pencil in on bucket lists – I’ve found that I sometimes overlook what makes Cooperstown so special. I think to all of us here, it sometimes becomes just going to the office. My desk is in the basement, away from the visitors and artifacts – away from the magic. So I feel like I can’t always be blamed for forgetting.
If I let myself, I could go weeks without setting foot in the actual Museum. But I don’t. In fact over the last few weeks, I’ve given tours of the Hall to friends. About a month ago it was a Royals security guard and his son. The next week, my friend Keith and his die-hard Tiger fan grandparents. Then two weeks ago it was a high school buddy visiting from New York City. It all served as a reminder of how lucky I am – better than my post-its.
The common thread was family. While my fellow Oak Park High alum was alone, he kept he wants to come back with his father. I’m thankful for my father and the time we’ve spent together here. He had surgery last Friday to remove a kidney that most likely had a cancerous cyst.
Hopefully the surgery will be the extent of his battle. But I know from my prior experiences, that one of the best medicines are memories to which you can hold close. My dad helped me move here from Kansas City in 2008. We watched playoff baseball during our first night in town and saw Robin Roberts during a Voices of the Game event, then toured the Hall the next day. My family came for Father’s Day Weekend in 2010. I played catch with my dad at Doubleday and he got to see me working on the field the same field that was hosting legends like Bob Feller, Harmon Killebrew and Ozzie Smith.
Sports – and specifically baseball – have always been a bond between us. He introduced me to athletics and Boy Scouts. I think he did a pretty good job. I’m an Eagle Scout and worked on the same summer camp staff he did. Now I work at the Hall of Fame after two years with the Royals.
Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a few of the other things I’m thankful for are: The fact that I’m in Los Angeles right now with my fiancée and we could go to the beach while it might be snowing in Cooperstown; the Royals – if I get to attend my first All-Star Game in KC next summer that will make my 2012 list; and as a uniform geek the Mets and Blue Jays for ditching black. I’m thankful for a seven-game World Series – despite the Cardinals winning it. I give thanks for the game’s greats, especially my favorite Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig and my favorite Gehrig stat which I try to shoe-horn into every Memories and Dreams, social media post or even casual conversation about him. I’m thankful for stars like Justin Verlander, who can hit triple digits in the seventh and eighth; for movies like Bull Durham, Major League and one of my new favorites Moneyball (so sue me, I’m a stat geek, I loved the book, and I hope Brad Pitt wins the Oscar).
But mostly this year, I’m thankful for my family and for my dad.
Oh, I couldn’t leave it like that. That Lou Gehrig stat: Despite playing in 2,130 consecutive games without taking a day off, when they x-rayed his hands in the late 1930s, they found 17 healed fractures. I’m blown away by that.
Trevor Hayes is the editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.