Results tagged ‘ Chasing the Dream ’

A great month

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

5-29-09-Idelson_Aaron.jpgWhat a month it has been for the Hall of Fame — from opening two new major exhibits to having five Hall of Famers in town. It’s been a whirlwind, but a good whirlwind.

The Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream exhibit opening was especially gratifying because Henry and his wife Billye were in Cooperstown, and truly impressed with the presentation. You could almost see their sense of pride seeing in brick and mortar all that they have accomplished in life. Our Voices of the Game program with members was great, especially when Henry grabbed a Jackie Robinson model bat and started showing everyone how Jackie grabbed the bat tightly, while Henry’s hands were loose. Insider info. So cool.

5-29-09-Idelson_Viva.jpgTwo weeks later, we opened °Viva Baseball! Orlando Cepeda traveled from San Francisco and Juan Marichal from the Dominican Republic for the dedication. This exhibit may be the most intricate one we have established, with its widespread use of multimedia, and with every single element — labels, captions and video, all bilingual. As I delivered my remarks while standing on a map of South America, and specifically on Nicaragua, it caused me to pause and remember that Orioles and Expos star, Dennis Martinez, the all-time winningest pitcher in the country’s history, signed a contract in the spring of 1973, just months after Hall of Fame hero and humanitarian Roberto Clemente died trying to deliver earthquake relief supplies there on New Year’s Eve. 

Both exhibits are ones with which our entire staff is so proud.

5-29-09-Idelson_HendersonRice.jpgSprinkled among the openings were orientation visits from Jim Rice and Rickey Henderson. Both were seeing the Museum for the first time. It’s always interesting to see how the guys react to being in Cooperstown and the result is always the same: humbled. They both now are beginning to realize the enormity of being a Hall of Famer. From talking to a lot of Hall of Famers over the years, coming to Cooperstown and then giving their speech on stage truly leads them to realize that their careers are ongoing. I know Rickey still thinks about playing… he asked me if he could play in the WBC in January.

Now we roll into June and the Hall of Fame Classic is quickly approaching and five MORE Hall of Famers will be in Coop. July will bring 50+ more. 

While the village of Cooperstown can be classified as sleepy, the Museum certainly can not.  There’s always something fun happening in the Hall.

Jeff Idelson is president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Billingham strolls down memory lane at Hall of Fame

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

Former big league pitcher Jack Billingham, a witness to some of the game’s greatest moments of the 1970s, has been walking through the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum the past few days.

Billingham — along with his wife, Jolene, and his sister and brother-in-law — has been touring the country in a pair of RVs over the past three weeks, making stops, among other places, in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Detroit. The brief stay in Cooperstown isn’t Billingham’s first: The 6-foot-4 right-hander, now retired and living in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., made the trip in 1969 to participate in the Hall of Fame Game as a member of the Houston Astros.

5-11-09-Francis_Billingham.jpgDuring this visit, Billingham and his group spent Monday morning getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the baseball institution from Senior Curator Tom Shieber. The 13-year veteran, who spent time with the Dodgers (1968), Astros (1969-71), Reds (1972-77), Tigers (1978-80) and Red Sox (1980), looked at both his clipping and photo files in the Library before viewing some of the Museum’s vast archives.

“Growing up, you always heard about the Hall of Fame, but I wasn’t a Hall of Fame candidate, and I knew that from the start,” Billingham said with a chuckle.

Though he might not have had the resume of some of his more celebrated teammates, the sinkerballer ended his career with 145 wins, winning at least 10 games for 10 consecutive years.

“You thought of the Hall of Fame in terms of who you were playing with,” Billingham said. “When I came up as a rookie, I was playing with Don Drysdale. I went to Spring Training with Sandy Koufax. Walter Alston was my manager in 1968, and I came up in the Minor Leagues with Tommy Lasorda when he became a manager. And then I go over to Houston, and I tell people all the time I played with Joe Morgan three years in Houston when he was an All-Star player, but when he came to Cincinnati, he became a Hall of Famer.”

After he was traded to the Reds from the Astros with Morgan prior to the 1972 campaign, Billingham became a stalwart moundsman of Cincinnati’s famed Big Red Machine of the mid-1970s, when his teammates included future Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and Morgan, as well as manager Sparky Anderson.

“We had Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Davey Concepcion, an All-Star lineup,” Billingham said. “You knew you were playing with special guys who would be in the Hall of Fame.”

The Big Red Machine cemented its reputation by winning consecutive World Series titles in 1975 and ’76.

“The World Series is exciting and great, and it’s a dream to be there, but you have to win to make a name for yourself. We were there in 1972 [against the Oakland A's] and didn’t win,” Billingham said. “Then we played Boston in 1975 — it went seven games. A lot of people think it was one of the better World Series ever played. But we won. And I think the thing that really put the mark on us and really made our name is when in 1976, we played the Yankees and swept them in four games.”

5-11-09-Francis_BillinghamMug.jpgBillingham’s star shined the brightest in the Fall Classic. He posted a 2-0 record and a 0.36 ERA in 25 1/3 innings pitched. Billingham still holds the record for lowest career World Series ERA with a minimum of 25 innings pitched.

“I think [the record] was just being at the right place at the right time. You go through streaks pitching. I was just on,” Billingham said. “I wasn’t a strikeout pitcher, so I needed gloves behind me. And though we were known as the Big Red Machine as far as scoring runs and hitting the ball, we also could catch the ball. Up the middle is where you make your defense, and we had guys like Davey Concepcion, Joe Morgan, Cesar Geronimo and Johnny Bench. We had the best at that time.”

Billingham also became the answer to a trivia question when he surrendered Hank Aaron‘s 714th career home run on April 4, 1974. The bat and ball from Aaron’s 714th home run are now on display in the Hall of Fame’s new exhibit, Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream.

“It was almost like being in the World Series; there was so much press there. Everybody wants to interview you — ‘How do you feel? How will you feel if you give up 714? If Hank comes up, and you’re leading by nine runs, would you throw one right down the middle so he could hit it out?’ — so I was aware of it, but it didn’t bother me,” Billingham said.

“Once the game started, you just get in your own little world. You know Hank Aaron is up there. He came up with two men on in the first inning. We’re playing at home, and there are 40,000 fans in Cincinnati booing me because they want to see Hank Aaron hit. I was 3-1, and I wasn’t going to back off, and tried to throw a fastball sinker on the outside part of the plate. And when you’re behind in the count, and you have a good hitter up there, that’s when you get in trouble. And he hit the ball, a three-run homer. But like I told everybody, I had one of the best seats in the house, and we won the ballgame when it was all over with.”

Looking back on his long professional baseball career, Billingham admitted the game meant everything to him.

“It was my life,” he said. “I started playing the day I got out of high school, and I played 20 years. I got 13 years in the big leagues. I played with some great players. I have nothing but great memories.”

Bill Francis is a library associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Aaron remains a crowd pleaser

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

As he walked through the Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday, Hank Aaron was followed by gasps.

“Was that him?” asked one fan, craning his neck to get a glimpse of the man who remains the standard by which other players are judged.

4-25-09-Muder_Aaron.jpgIndeed, Henry Aaron still inspires awe among those who cherish the National Pastime. His numbers — 32 years after he retired — remain legendary. And yet Aaron has put all that into perspective — and did so again Saturday at the dedication of the Hall of Fame’s new exhibit Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream.

“The biggest achievement in my life has nothing to do with baseball,” he told the crowd moments before the ribbon cutting. “It’s establishing the Chasing the Dream Foundation, helping children chase their dreams like I did.”

Aaron, joined by his wife of 35 years, Billye, and Braves chairman emeritus Bill Bartholomay, seemed completely at ease Saturday in a limelight he often avoids. He smiled often, telling tales of how he once bought a car from future Commissioner Bud Selig (then a successful car dealer in Wisconsin) and enjoying another well deserved moment in the sun.

“I watched you hit No. 714,” said a fan to Aaron. “It was one of the greatest moments of my life.”

No doubt, others left Cooperstown on Saturday feeling the same way — having witnessed living history at the Hall of Fame.

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

The greatness of Hank Aaron

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

“Here’s the pitch from Downing … swinging … there’s a drive into left-center field. The ball is gonna beeee … out of here! It’s gone! It’s 715! There’s a new home-run champion of all time, and it’s Henry Aaron.”

That was the radio call of Braves broadcaster Milo Hamilton on April 8, 1974, when Aaron broke Babe Ruth‘s long-standing home-run record. As important as that milestone was, and as immortal as Hamilton’s words have become, that singular event is precisely why Aaron ranks among baseball’s most underrated ballplayers.

4-24-09-Idelson_Aaron.jpgFans tend to remember Lou Gehrig because he died from ALS. Outside of Baltimore, Cal Ripken Jr. is remembered for “the streak.” And Aaron is often remembered for the home runs, though he accomplished so much more.

On this — the eve of the opening of Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream, our new exhibit dedicated to Aaron at the Baseball Hall of Fame — it is appropriate to consider the magnitude of what Aaron accomplished on and off the field.

Who is the all-time leader today in RBIs, total bases and extra-base hits? Hank Aaron. “The Hammer” also ranks second all time in home runs, third in hits and fourth in runs. He showed up to play every day, which is why he is among the top five all time in games played, at-bats and plate appearances.

Aaron’s also a member of the prestigious 3,000-hit club. Take away each and every one of his 755 home runs, and he still has 3,016 hits.

Said teammate Phil Niekro of Aaron’s home runs after No. 700, “It’s like the sun coming up every morning. You just don’t know what time.”

Over 23 seasons, Aaron was great, averaging 33 home runs and 100 RBIs with a .305 batting average. He was a 25-time All-Star, representing his league every year except his rookie year and final season. Aaron was in the top 10 in the Most Valuable Player voting 12 times, winning it in 1957 when the Braves won the World Series. By the way, Aaron hit .393 with three home runs and seven RBIs in the Braves’ victory over the Yankees in the Fall Classic.

4-24-09-Idelson_Aaron2.jpgNot only was he great, but Aaron was consistently awesome: He hit 20 or more home runs 20 times, drove in 100 or more runs 11 times and hit better than .300 14 times. He hit .303 with 385 home runs at home and .306 with 370 home runs on the road. His batting average never varied by more than 10 points, month to month, over his career.

The Hammer was raised in Mobile, Ala., a hotbed for talent. Hall of Famers Willie McCovey, Satchel Paige, Ozzie Smith and Billy Williams were all born in Mobile, a city with a population under 200,000.

Aaron accomplished so much with a quiet grace and dignity which he brought to the ballpark every day in a time of racial divide in America. He was also among those who integrated the South Atlantic League, and he broke Ruth’s home-run mark in the face of intense hatred and racism. It’s no surprise that his hero was Jackie Robinson, who paved Aaron’s way to the way to the Majors.

Jeff Idelson is the president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

The picture of perfection

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

The pictures cover the full spectrum: from young man chasing his dream to veteran warrior chasing a ghost.

Those eyes — the eyes of Henry Aaron. They never stopped looking for greatness.

4-15-09-Muder_Aaron.jpgThe word “great” doesn’t begin to describe Aaron’s career, nor does it do justice to the Baseball Hall of Fame’s new exhibit Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream. Located on the Museum’s third floor in what was the Records Room, the exhibit is a worthy tribute to one of the game’s finest players.

From Aaron’s uniforms and bats — including those used to chase Babe Ruth‘s record of 714 home runs — to the brilliant photography, Museum visitors will be treated to a visual journey documenting Aaron’s Hall of Fame career on and off the diamond. It is a fitting tribute to a man who wore the crown of home-run king with grace, dignity and humility.

Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream opens April 25 at the Baseball Hall of Fame with an 11 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony. Click here for more information.

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

Artifacts tell the story

Strohl_90.jpgBy Erik Strohl

This time of year is extremely busy for the Curatorial Department at the Hall of Fame. Our busiest time of year is the offseason because come April and Opening Day, all of our new exhibits are either planned or well under way, and maintenance on existing exhibits must be done on a yearly basis.

3-20-09-Strohl_AutmnGlory.jpgAmong the many existing exhibits in need of updating in the offseason are: Autumn Glory, the exhibit focused on the World Series; the Records Room, which lists statistics of career and active record-holders in both pitching and hitting; and the Major League Baseball awards, featuring honors such as the Gold Glove and Cy Young Awards. We also do a fair amount of digital curatorial work, updating Hall of Famer databases and Web content.

We have a unique position as curators because when something is incorrect in our exhibits, our visitors let us know. That shows the passion that baseball fans have for the game and its history. Many fans come in and may be more knowledgeable than we are on a specific topic or team like the 1950s Cleveland Indians or the current state of Minor League franchises for the Chicago Cubs. The strength that our curatorial team has is a vast general knowledge as well as the resources at our fingertips to gain more information. Our fans always keep us on our toes to make sure our information is accurate and up to date.

The fun part about working at the Hall of Fame is you can go home and watch baseball on television and say it’s your job — because it is. So that is something that I will never get tired of. Sometimes you just have to sit back and smile because you get paid to do baseball.

In April, we will be opening Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream which will be a retrospective of his entire career. Up until this point, the only person who has had an entire exhibit dedicated in his honor had been Babe Ruth.

3-20-09-Strohl_Records Room.jpgThe exhibit will cover Aaron‘s youth, growing up playing baseball to his career in the Negro leagues with the Indianapolis Clowns and the Minor Leagues in Eau Claire (Wis.) and Jacksonville (Fla.). It will obviously look at his Major League career, which is what we have focused on in the past.

We will also cover his post-baseball career and really talk about his business and philanthropy efforts for the first time. Many people may not realize the impact Aaron has had both domestically and internationally since he retired. He really used the celebrity and iconic status that he earned as a player to make a larger difference off the field.

The artifacts in this exhibit are unbelievable. Most have been donated by Aaron himself — in fact 85-90 percent of the artifacts that will be on display come from Aaron. He has been extremely generous with us. All of his records, particularly the chasing of Babe Ruth’s career home-run record, will be covered extensively.

This new permanent exhibit will become a part of our new massive expansion of our Records Room over the next few years which will eventually be called the Hank Aaron Hall of Records. Permanent exhibits are really only changed every 10-20 years, so this is truly historic. Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream will open April 25.

Our second large-scale exhibit opening this year is °Viva Baseball!, slated to debut May 23. This is an exhibit we have been wanting to do, and its subject matter becomes more prevalent every year in the modern game. This is the story of Latinos in baseball and the impact on the game that Latinos have had.

It will be located in the second-floor timeline around the 1960s. It will be a room covering the history of baseball in most of the Latin-American countries where baseball is played as well as the cultural transition that baseball has had and the impact players have had on Major League Baseball today.

- For more from Erik, visit the Hall’s Official Blog at baseballhall.org.

Erik Strohl is the senior director of exhibits and collections at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Welcome to Cooperstown

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

Greetings from Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame. Welcome to our first official blog.

We’re proud to be entering the world of social networking. We created our first Web site in early 1995, certainly ahead of the curve in the Museum world, riding that cyberwave that society was just beginning to discover. We are excited to now be a part of the blogosphere. You’ll begin to hear from many Hall of Fame staff members about a variety of topics.

In Cooperstown, we have a series of entertaining, educational and interactive exhibit openings and special programs planned between now and Induction Weekend. We hope you’ll be able to join us.

3-16-09-Idelson_Welcome.jpgNext month we’ll open Chasing the Dream, the life story of Hank Aaron and a permanent tribute to one of the game’s lasting legends. From humble beginnings to integrating the South Atlantic League to setting many records in the face of intense racism to becoming a successful philanthropist, Aaron’s life story is fascinating, and you’ll learn much more about “The Hammer” through this exhibit. It opens April 25, and the day will include a formal dedication and ribbon-cutting, a roundtable discussion and a Member reception to close the day. Chasing the Dream is the centerpiece to a new Hall of Fame Gallery of Records, which will open in 2011.

You’ll most certainly want to be in Cooperstown on Memorial Day Weekend when we open our first-ever bilingual exhibit. °Viva Baseball! tells the story of how Latinos have changed the face of baseball in America, while giving Museum visitors a taste of how baseball looks and feels and what it means in Caribbean Basin countries, including Cuba, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Puerto Rico. This exhibit has a great deal of technology and features our first-ever “talking labels” — Hall of Famers and other Latino stars sharing stories about artifacts in their own words. There will also be an entire wall of television screens, creating an awesome visual of the sights and sounds of Latino baseball, as narrated by 1998 Ford C. Frick Award-winner and the Spanish voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Jaime Jarrin.

Cooperstown will be a hotbed of fun, talent and nostalgia Father’s Day Weekend when we stage the first Hall of Fame Classic Weekend, replete with a game of catch on Doubleday Field for fathers and their children, a children’s baseball clinic, Museum programs dedicated to dads and a legends (old-timers) game called the Hall of Fame Classic. The Classic, complete with autograph sessions for ticket-holders, and presented by the Ford Motor Company, will be held Sunday at legendary Doubleday Field, and includes five Hall of Famers and scores of other retired Major League players. We expect the weekend to become one of the Museum’s signature events and the ultimate Father’s Day Weekend destination.

That’s it for now.

Jeff Idelson is the president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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