Half a Million – and One

Wiles_90By Tim Wiles

The Hall of Fame Library – home to an estimated half a million photographs – grew by one recently when Aubrey and Debra Carter

Aubrey Carter donates a photo of the Hampton Normal Institute Cubs to Hall of Fame Director of Research Tim Wiles. (Debra Carter)

Aubrey Carter donates a photo of the Hampton Normal Institute Cubs to Hall of Fame Director of Research Tim Wiles. (Debra Carter)

donated this original team photo of the Hampton Normal Institute Cubs of 1910-11.

Hampton Normal Institute, which was established to educate African-American and Native American Students, is now known as Hampton University, in Hampton, Virginia. Aubrey’s grandfather, James A. Carter, is pictured in the front row, wearing a dark sweater but no jersey. Research is ongoing to see if we can figure out who all of the other players and coaches are.

Any readers with information are encouraged to contact the Museum at research@baseballhall.org. More information on this photo can be found here.

Tim Wiles is the Director of Research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Comic Relief in Cooperstown

By Bill Francis

Though comedian and actor Brody Stevens has been busy working of late, he stopped in Cooperstown on Monday to revisit his past.

Comic Brody Stevens, a former college baseball player who has appeared in movies that include The Hangover and Due Date, toured the Museum on Monday. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Comic Brody Stevens, a former college baseball player who has appeared in movies that include The Hangover and Due Date, toured the Museum on Monday. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame)

While Stevens, seen in such movies as The Hangover, The Hangover Part II and Due Date, is currently performing all over the country on a comedy tour with Dave Chappelle and Flight of the Conchords, the former collegiate pitcher at Arizona State in the late 1980 and early 1990s, then known by his given name of Steve Brody, wanted to check an item off his “bucket list.”

“I hadn’t been here, ever, but I’ve been wanting to,” he said after a late-afternoon tour. “It was something on my list and now I can cross it off. But you know what? I’m coming back. I already know that I’m coming back here. It’s definitely been a blast.”

The righty pitcher, who started four games for the Sun Devils, was teammates with such future big leaguers as Paul Lo Duca, Fernando Vina and Jacob Cruz. He even appeared in a game against Stanford’s Mike Mussina.

“I wasn’t a top recruit but they thought I had a good arm and I felt that I would have the opportunity to play there,” said the former Los Angeles-area scholastic star. “ArizonaState had a JV program, so at the very least I was still going to get to face junior colleges and be in Arizona around spring training. That’s what I wanted to do as well, was to be around that hub of baseball.”

While elbow surgery ultimately helped to curtail his baseball dreams, as he finished school by compiling a 3-1 record in 14 appearances, a career as another sort of entertainer would be just around the corner.

“I do talk about baseball in my act,” Stevens said. “I go, ‘I get lonely. Sometimes I go down to the batting cage just to play catch,’ or, ‘I was very intense. Twice I charged the mound in tee ball.’

“I do have that mentality of pitching when I’m doing comedy,” the Los Angeles Dodgers fan added. “I feel as though I’m on the mound and the audience, they’re like a hitter, and I’ve got to keep them off-balance, push ‘em back, maybe challenge them a little bit, throw a curveball here and there. I know how to pitch, and I take that energy and approach into comedy.”

Before continuing his Hall of Fame tour, a hopeful Stevens added, “I want to stay here all night. Maybe if there’s a couch or something …”

Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

From Honolulu to Cooperstown

By Bill Francis

A special anniversary brought former big leaguer Mike Lum and a guest to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Monday.

Former big leaguer Mike Lum, who is celebrating his 50th year in baseball in 2013, looks at his player file in the Hall of Fame Library along with his daughter Ginger during a Museum tour on Monday. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Former big leaguer Mike Lum, who is celebrating his 50th year in baseball in 2013, looks at his player file in the Hall of Fame Library along with his daughter Ginger during a Museum tour on Monday. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame)

“One reason why my daughter and I took this trip is to celebrate my 50th year in professional baseball,” said Lum, the veteran of 15 major league seasons as an outfielder/first baseman with the Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs. “I told my daughter, Ginger, I said, ‘Let’s go to the Hall of Fame and celebrate this occasion.’

“If you’re interested in baseball, and even if you’re not interested in baseball, this is such a great place to come and see everything.”

For Lum, it was his first trip to Cooperstown since 1964, when he was an 18-year-old playing for the nearby Binghamton (NY) Triplets of the New York-Penn League.

“I remember we made a trip over here back then,” Lum said. “And the countryside is still beautiful.

“The Hall has really changed. Just to see all the artifacts is incredible. This has been my life, baseball has, and to see all the artifacts it’s just an awesome, awesome sight to see.”

The 67-year-old Lum’s affection for the national pastime began while growing up in Honolulu, Hawaii.

“Baseball and football were my loves,” he recalled. “But I signed in 1963 out of high school with the Milwaukee Braves and went to the Georgia-Florida League. After putting my time in in the minor leagues, I was fortunate enough to get to the big leagues in 1967.”

As a member of the Braves, Lum was a longtime teammate of Hall of Famer Hank Aaron and one of the only players to ever pinch-hit for the slugger. Traded to the Reds prior to the 1976, he was able to capture a World Series title with the famed “Big Red Machine.”

“I played with a lot of great players with the Reds, such as Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez, and also Hank Aaron with the Braves,” Lum said, “and of course now to see everything they have done in their careers, to see them all honored in one spot, it’s just incredible.

“Hank Aaron was the first big league player that I got to know when I was called up to the big leagues with the Braves. He was a great teammate and obviously a great ballplayer,” he added. “As for the Reds, there was an air on that team. They all had a confidence in what they were doing. You knew you had a chance every day to win a ballgame.”

After leaving the playing field as a player in 1981, Lum has embarked on a career as a coach and instructor for a number of big league teams.

“I’m still in the game,” he said. “I work for the Pittsburgh Pirates in player development and I love it. I’ve been a coordinator for over 25 years and I’ve also coached in the big leagues.

“And what I’m doing now is no traveling, it’s a 9-to-5 job (at the Pirates’ minor league outpost in Florida) where we play games during the day, and I’m just enjoying my last few years of coaching.”

Looking back on his five decades in the game, Lum said, “I had the opportunity, I was lucky to have the opportunity, and I appreciated what I had and what I still have. It’s just such a great, great sport.”

Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Coming Up: A Legendary Weekend

Francis_90By Bill Francis

Thomas Tull has helped produce some of the most popular films of the last decade, but calls being saluted by the National Baseball Hall of Fame this coming weekend “the biggest honor of my life.”

At the Hall of Fame Awards Presentation on Saturday, July 27 at Doubleday Field, writer Paul Hagen and broadcaster Tom Cheek will be honored for their outstanding careers, but the day will also feature a salute to Tull, whose company produced the Jackie Robinson biopic “42”, as well as a tribute to Dr. Frank Jobe, who pioneered the surgical procedure now known as “Tommy John Surgery.”

Thomas Tull presents a check to Commissioner Bud Selig for the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program during the 2013 All-Star Game festivities in New York City. (Bill Francis/National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Thomas Tull presents a check to Commissioner Bud Selig for the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program during the 2013 All-Star Game festivities in New York City. (Bill Francis/National Baseball Hall of Fame)

As the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Legendary Entertainment, Tull was at Citi Field’s Jackie Robinson Rotunda prior to the start of the recent MLB All-Star Game to present a $42,000 check to Commissioner Bud Selig for the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program.

Legendary, which has brought to movie audiences “The Dark Knight,” “The Hangover” trilogy and “300,” produced the film “42,” released in April, which tells the story of Robinson, portrayed by actor Chadwick Boseman, and his history-making signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers under the guidance of team executive Branch Rickey, played by Harrison Ford.

Attending the Citi Field presentation were Robinson’s widow, Rachel, and daughter, Sharon. The check was presented in celebration of that day’s nationwide DVD release of “42.”

After the Citi Field ceremony, Tull talked about the upcoming Cooperstown honor.

“It’s still (in shock and) disbelief. I grew up 45 minutes away so it’s a crazy thing but I can’t wait,” said Tull, born and raised in Binghamton, N.Y. “The Hall of Fame is probably one of the most special places in the world. It’s where I’ve spent a lot of time with family. I can’t believe that I get the privilege of being part of this weekend.

“Unfortunately, I’m not being honored as a ballplayer,” he added with a laugh. “But one way or the other, I’m glad it happened.”

As for the event prior to the All-Star Game, Tull said, “It was such a privilege to make the movie ‘42’ and to have Sharon Robinson and Mrs. Robinson here and the Commissioner at the All-Star Game here in New York where it all started is a very special day.”

The one-hour Hall of Fame Awards Presentation, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday at Doubleday Field.

Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Library Work

Vinelli-HeadshotBy Paul Vinelli

Most people walk into the Giamatti Research Center after spending hours absorbing the Hall of Fame’s exhibits. The Museum covers an immense spectrum of baseball and its relationship with society and culture; thus, the questions we handle range from broad to incredibly specific. For example, I’ve been asked whether Eddie Collins hit left-handed (easy) and who invented baseball (a debate that’s raged for quite awhile).  We also prepare materials for historians, sociologists, stats devotees, and families seeking information on a relative who played in the minors in the early 20th century. Given the colossal amount of baseball history, we often have no idea what’s coming next – but we do know that our patrons will be very passionate about the information they are seeking.

This is my first time working as a librarian, so when I began the internship, every question induced personal panic.  I felt like I had to know the answers immediately, or to at least deliver them within two to three minutes.  I’m now learning the fundamentals of the reference interview, and how to use techniques to induce informal conversations – if a patron walks in wearing a Yankees jersey, I can gush about how Mariano Rivera dominates using his cut fastball. This repartee helps prepare the fan to ask questions, but also establishes a valuable customer service relationship.

Our library director has a motto that I’ve taken to heart (and occasionally said aloud): “I don’t know the answer to your question, but I can look it up.”  I’ve spent years working as an academic and professional researcher, so I’m learning to trust my instinct to dig.  Nevertheless, the hardest thing to accept is if I don’t have an answer to a patron’s question, that’s perfectly fine – I can at minimum direct folks to additional institutions and resources.

If you work as an intern at the Hall of Fame, you get to see some really cool stuff. The Hall only has about 10 percent of its collection on display at any given time, so there are priceless behind-the-scenes artifacts that have blown my mind.  I personally like the storytelling of baseball, which has made my job in the library especially rewarding.

Paul Vinelli is a graduate student at The University of Texas at Austin’s School of Information and a Member of the Class of 2013 with the Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program at the Hall of Fame

Central New York at Citi Field

Francis_90By Bill Francis

A big league career that ends in Cooperstown means a plaque at the Hall of Fame.

But some major leaguers actually begin their path to stardom just down the road from Cooperstown, like All-Stars Patrick Corbin and Jason Grilli.

Corbin is a native of Clay, N.Y. – a Syracuse suburb – and grew up 90 minutes from the Hall of Fame. He did not pitch in a high school baseball game until his junior year, and began his post-high school career at MohawkValleyCommunity College in nearby Utica, N.Y.  A little over a year later, Corbin was taken in the second round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the Angels.

Patrick Corbin and Jason Grilli, both National League All-Stars, attended high school about 90 minutes from Cooperstown near Syracuse, N.Y. (Bill Francis/National Baseball Hall of Fame)

Patrick Corbin and Jason Grilli, both National League All-Stars, attended high school about 90 minutes from Cooperstown near Syracuse, N.Y. (Bill Francis/National Baseball Hall of Fame)

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound lefty shot through the minors and – after being traded to the Diamondbacks in the Dan Haren deal in July of 2010 – now finds himself on the 2013 All-Star team after going 11-1 for Arizona in the first half of the season.

“This is something I never could have thought at the beginning of this year,” Corbin said of his trip to the All-Star Game at Citi Field. “I visited the Hall of Fame a couple times when I was young, and we had a game there once but it actually got snowed out so we didn’t play.”

Grilli, meanwhile, grew up in Syracuse as the son of former big leaguer Steve Grilli. Jason was taken with the No. 4 overall pick in the 1997 MLB Draft by the Giants but battled injuries before finding success with the Pirates the last two seasons.

Steve already has his place in Cooperstown: He was the losing pitcher in the longest game in professional history, a 33-inning, 3-2 win by the Pawtucket Red Sox over the Rochester Red Wings in 1981. He donated his Red Wings cap from that game to the Hall of Fame.

“It’s unbelievable. A lot of people would take that as a negative, being a losing pitcher and that’s why he got in, but my dad’s great and I know that and that’s all that matters to me,” said Jason, who has totaled 29 saves for the Pirates this year en route to his first All-Star Game selection. “It used to be a tradition; we’d go (to the Hall of Fame) every year.

“I don’t know anybody that knows baseball more than my father, that’s for sure.”

And from Steve Grilli to Jason Grilli to Patrick Corbin, the Central York connection is still going strong – with a link now between Jason and Patrick.

“I actually played with (Jason’s) wife’s brother in high school,” said Corbin, who chatted with Grilli before Monday’s festivities at Citi Field. “It’s neat having some guys from (Central New York) – where they don’t get seen as much – make it (to the big leagues). It just shows you can find players anywhere.”

Sometimes, you find them right in the Hall of Fame’s back yard.

Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Wilbon Connects Generations in Cooperstown

By Andrew Kivette 

ESPN's Michael Wilbon looks at a few historic documents during a tour with Hall of Fame curator of history and research John Odell on Monday. (Craig Muder/Baseball Hall of Fame)

ESPN’s Michael Wilbon looks at a few historic documents during a tour with Hall of Fame curator of history and research John Odell on Monday. (Craig Muder/Baseball Hall of Fame)

Cooperstown in the summer is a magical place. The village is jam-packed with families from all over the country. Wishing to soak up the history and see the immortals of the game, baseball fans from near and far take the pilgrimage to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

On Monday, July 15, one of the most recognizable sports media members in the country – ESPN’s Michael Wilbon – made the same trip.

Accompanied by his wife Sheryl and his son Matthew, the three joined Curator of History and Research John Odell on a tour through the Hall of Fame. “This is my first time in Cooperstown,” said Wilbon. “Which is terrible – but it is my first time, [even] having grown up with baseball my whole life.”

From the onset, the tour captured the essence of the Hall – connecting generations – with questions from Matthew, and anecdotes from his dad on baseball history and his personal experiences and knowledge of the game.

“Baseball has to be learned generationally,” Wilbon said. “People that don’t know baseball, [who] don’t appreciate [the game], it’s probably because they didn’t have someone explain it to them or walk them through it growing up. My son has that, so it’s great.”

Wilbon shared stories of growing up with baseball in Chicago. He played Little League ball in the WindyCity, and adores the Cubs to this day.

“I played in a Little League that was sponsored in part by Ernie Banks on the South Side of Chicago,” Wilbon said. “I idolize all those guys – I got to meet them all. Ron Santo, who’s recently passed away – had several discussions with Mr. Banks, Billy Williams. Ferguson Jenkins has sent me some artifacts that he had – very kind of him – my favorite pitcher. Those are my four favorite baseball players, those are the guys I grew up watching.”

Matthew is growing up with the game just as his father did – playing and watching his favorite player, Starlin Castro. “His first love is baseball. Already, he’s been to Wrigley Field, he’s been to the Cell [U.S. Cellular Field] in Chicago, he’s been to Nationals Stadium,” Wilbon said.

As a former Washington Post columnist, Wilbon was drawn in to the Museum’s tribute to the reporters and broadcasters of the game. The names Harry Caray and Jack Brickhouse caught his eye – two Chicago broadcasters, both Frick Award winners, that Wilbon had grown up listening to.

“Growing up with two teams in town, I would probably watch (on television) over 200 games a year,” Wilbon said. “I probably got to about 18 or so games I year with my dad, too.”

The next time Wilbon visits the Hall, it will hopefully be to celebrate a Cubs world championship. “They’re competitive again, they’re winning some games,” Wilbon said. “It’s coming along. We’re hopeful. That’s all we can ever be is hopeful.”

Andrew Kivette is the 2013 public relations intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development

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