Results tagged ‘ Erik Strohl ’

Puerto Rico memories

By Brad Horn

Adios Borinquen!

There’s a colloquialism here in Ponce that speaks to the bravado of this southern coast historic town in Puerto Rico…”Ponce es Ponce.”

Indeed on Monday night, “Ponce is Ponce” was on full display at a local gymnasium used mostly for volleyball, named for a great basketball player from Ponce, Juan “Pachin” Vicens.

The people of Ponce turned out in droves to see the Hall of Fame plaques and were entertained by a rousing program, featuring mayor Maria Melendez Altieri’s infectious enthusiasm in presenting proclamations to Vera Clemente, Tony Perez and Roberto Alomar. The mayor also expressed her deepest thanks to the Hall of Fame and presented us gifts to show her appreciation.

Born in Ponce and raised in nearby Salinas, Robbie was the star of the evening, returning to his birthplace in the year of his Hall of Fame induction to boisterous applause. Father Sandy Sr. was also in attendance, as was Luis Clemente, Pituka Perez (Tony’s wife) and Ponce native and former Yankees reliever Luis Arroyo, who, along with Vic Power, became the first Puerto Ricans selected for an All-Star Game in 1955.

Smiles were abundant, as both Robbie and Tony spoke passionately of their appreciation for the people of Ponce. Alomar spoke in praise of how much it means to be a native son of Ponce, while Perez talked of the memories he’s shared over the years in this community, including watching winter league games here, when his son Eduardo, managed the Ponce club.

One of the single best moments of the entire trip served as the final touch to the plaque tour. Erik Strohl, our senior director for exhibitions and collections, told Sandy Sr. that he should have the honor of placing his son’s plaque in its case for the long journey home. Known by his given name here on the island, Santos was aglow as he held Robbie’s plaque, beaming with joy only a father could understand. Kudos to Erik for providing Sandy a memory of a lifetime.

As the plaques were packed securely by Erik and Evan Chase, our security director, the expression on the faces of our hosts for the last four days was simply priceless. Proud, joyous, exuberant, thankful and honored were the words said, but not uttered, in the universal language of visual emotion. No words were needed to understand what this journey was all about.

Moments later, Jeff, Erik, Evan and I were on board our Department of Sports and Recreation van, bound for the 110-mile journey back to the north end of the island. A police escort the entire way from Ponce to San Juan spoke volumes about the importance of this outreach to the commonwealth.

There’s a shared emotion many of us have in Cooperstown on the Monday afternoon following induction weekend every year. We are always happy that we have reached the end, knowing that we have done our absolute best to deliver lifetime memories to so many people for celebration unlike any other in baseball. Yet, we have a sadness that the journey has ended far too soon.

As the sun rose this morning while we taxied on the runway at Luis Munoz Airport in San Juan bound for Charlotte and then Albany and Cooperstown, I looked out my window and was overcome with emotion. I was reminded of that post-Induction feeling we have at the end of July in Cooperstown. For the last four days on this island, we did what we as an organization does best – made the dreams of others come true. And for the first time ever, we did so with the great fans of Puerto Rico.

There’s a line spoken by Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory that motivates me everyday that I have the high honor to represent the Hall of Fame: “We are the music makers and the dreamers of the dreams.”

Understanding that baseball has the power to connect cultures, families and memories unlike anything else has never appeared more genuine than what transpired over the last four days. The people of Puerto Rico were so honored and moved by this celebration that is impossible not to be realize that for so many we encountered, this was truly a dream come true that we were able to facilitate.

“From Puerto Rico to Cooperstown. From Cooperstown to Puerto Rico.”
(in Spanish: “De Borinquen a Cooperstown. De Cooperstown a Borinquen.”)

It served as the title for our journey – in English and Spanish – and as we return home, it is crystal clear the journey doesn’t end, and it does not have boundaries created by language. Rather, it continues a cycle of baseball history celebrated for nearly a century in the universal appreciation for the game and its heroes.

We are so honored and thankful for your kindness and hospitality, to everyone we encountered and all of those who shared a memory by viewing these treasures and baseball heroes.

Gracias Puerto Rico!

Brad Horn is the senior director of communications and education at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Soaking it all in

By Samantha Carr

There are 292 bronze plaques in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and 203 of them are players.

This July, Pat Gillick will become the 32nd baseball executive to be inducted and just the fourth team architect following Ed Barrow, Branch Rickey and George Weiss. He spent 50 years in baseball as an executive with the Blue Jays, Orioles, Mariners and Phillies, building three World Series championship teams.

“These gloves look like hockey gloves,” said Gillick after seeing some artifacts of mitts used in the late 1800s.

Fitting, coming from a man who spent his most productive years in hockey country as Toronto’s general manager.

Gillick toured the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Tuesday during his orientation of Cooperstown to get ready for Hall of Fame Weekend 2011. Gillick’s wife Doris joined him on a walk through the Museum, led by Erik Strohl, the Hall of Fame’s senior director of exhibits and collections.

Gillick spent the day meeting with Hall of Fame staff and becoming familiar with the Hall of Fame and surrounding area to prepare for his induction. On July 24th, he will be joined by Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven as the class of 2011 on stage at the Clark Sports Center for the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

His bronze plaque will be unveiled and he will deliver a speech in front of family and friends, thousands of fans and members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, where the men who have created baseball history will be on stage to welcome him to the team.

Before the pressure and emotion of the weekend is upon him, Gillick used Tuesday to reflect on the game he has spent his life dedicated to.

“That’d be different, to wear a sweater instead of a jacket,” Gillick said to his wife when they viewed a warm-up sweater worn by Hall of Fame Yankees manager Miller Huggins in 1925.

Gillick soaked in the baseball history, chatting with baseball writers about changes to the game like the handles of bats and the style of play.

“There have been a lot of guys with high leg kicks,” said Gillick. “But not in the last 15 years or so. I can only think of a couple of guys. Everyone is trying to simplify and get back to basics.”

Gillick is a part of baseball history and will soon know what it feels like to be among legends, enshrined in the Plaque Gallery next to the other giants of the game.

Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Historic end to a Rocky trip

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

The two-state drive was longer than any other coast-to-coast flight Jim Tracy will endure as manager of the Colorado Rockies.

08-09-10-Muder_Tracy.jpgBut the destination was worth it.

Tracy and a crew from FSN Rocky Mountain made the trip to Cooperstown on Monday – an off day for the Rockies. Following Colorado’s 8-4 win over the Pirates in Pittsburgh on Sunday, Tracy and crew jumped in the car at about 6:30 p.m. and drove more than nine hours – construction delays included – through Pennsylvania and New York to Cooperstown, arriving at about 3:30 a.m.

After a short night, Tracy received a tour of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum from Erik Strohl, the Hall’s senior director of exhibits and collections. Clad in a golf shirt and jeans, Tracy took his time in the always-crowded Museum – enjoying his moment with history. Fans poured past Tracy, pausing when they saw the FSN cameras but largely unaware their brush with the big leagues.

After his tour, Tracy – a veteran of nine seasons as a big league manager – jumped back in his car and headed for New York City and a Tuesday date with the Mets, another four hours on the highway.

But while he could have made the trip from Pittsburgh to New York in just over an hour via the air, the two-day car trip gave Tracy a chance to experience the game’s most historic moments at the Hall of Fame.

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

Checking out the Library

Gates_90.jpgBy Jim Gates

12-17-09-Gates_BookCover.jpgOne of the great benefits about working for the National Baseball Hall of Fame is that we get to meet so many people who make the pilgrimage to Cooperstown from all over the world. I personally enjoy having the opportunity to meet a variety of librarians and archivists that pass through our doors.

Recently, we had a special visitor, Judy Graves, a Digital Projects Coordinator for the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. The LOC is the world’s greatest accumulation of books, documents, and all matter of recordings and ephemera – and it was a real treat to provide Ms. Graves with a behind-the-scenes tour of our facility. (Although we are not as big as the LOC, we think our collection is really cool, and it is fun to show off to visiting library professionals.

It should come as no surprise that America’s largest library should have a significant collection of baseball related material, and over the past several years they have been working on a project to promote this. The result has been the production of a beautiful new book titled Baseball Americana: Treasures from the Library of Congress which was recently published by Smithsonian Books.

12-17-09-Gates_GatesGravesStrohl.jpgThis volume contains 240 pages of pure baseball history as it is loaded with high-quality images of the game from baseball cards to posters to advertisements to rare photographs. Several of our research and curatorial staff have had the chance to peruse this book, and all the comments have been quite positive.

As part of her visit, Ms. Graves donated an author signed copy of Baseball Americana to the Hall of Fame’s library, and we were very pleased to accept this gift. It is only through such gifts that we are able to expand the scope and depth of our collection and the support we receive is greatly appreciated. This book will hold a special place in our library and I hope that some of you have the chance to enjoy it as well.

Jim Gates is the librarian of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library.

Baseball, U.S. Naval history intersect in Alabama

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

I woke up Oct. 1 in Mobile, Ala. and looked at my itinerary. A morning meeting with the Mobile Baybears, the Double-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, followed by lunch. After that, about five hours to kill until my flight home.

10-5-09-Idelson_Feller.jpgErik Strohl, our senior director of exhibits and collections, and I, decided to take a tour of the battleship Alabama, a massive Navy ship that saw extensive action during World War II. I had wished to see the ship for many years, specifically because Hall of Famer Bob Feller served on it. It is now a museum of sorts, docked in Mobile Bay

Feller left the Cleveland Indians for the Navy, enlisting just two days after Pearl Harbor in 1941.He spent four years in the prime of his career as an anti-aircraft gun captain on the USS Alabama, part of a well-trained fleet that never lost one man to combat. Feller was decorated eight times with five battle stars.

As we boarded the ship, I had the chills. Walking the ship’s deck, I imagined a young Bob doing his part to make the team a success, just as so many other major leaguers had during World War II.

Erik and I walked the entire ship, on every level and were awestruck how it resembled a small town. Mess hall, post office, store, laundry, barber shop… it had everything. The battleship was home to more than 2,500 sailors, more than the population of Cooperstown. I know I would have been claustrophobic, bunking well below the ship’s surface.

10-5-09-Idelson_Alabama.jpgWe could also imagine how unsettling it must have been to be constantly on guard with the potential for attack. The battleship was painted several times, depending on the mission, to match the color of the sky and water.

We saw many photos of the soldiers. We even saw one of the baseball team, each player with a giant “A” on the front of his uniform, akin to the old Philadelphia A’s logo. No Bob in the photos, though he did play.

The Alabama would play other ships and was renowned for having the best team in the Pacific, playing in places like New Hebrides, the Fijis, Ulithi, Kwadulane, Eniwetok. I pictured Feller, between practicing combat exercises, playing catch on the ship’s massive deck.

I know how proud Bob is of his military service and touring the Alabama made me realize just how hard his job was, helping to protect America when a team effort was needed most. It also made me realize how fortunate we are to have the freedoms we do, because of soldiers like him who put his country first

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

Rock and Roll Hall of Famers visit Cooperstown

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

One of the great strengths of the Baseball Hall of Fame is its universal appeal. Even though we are a Museum dedicated to baseball, fans of American history will invariably visit because one can’t begin to fully appreciate Americana without seeing baseball’s imprint. 

Those who travel to Cooperstown do so as a pilgrimage – we’re not exactly a place you can stumble upon. Once in a great while, visitors will “just happen to be in town for other reasons” and a Museum visit becomes a secondary undertaking. 

6-15-09-Idelson_CSN.jpgSuch was the case Friday when music icons and 1997 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees Crosby, Stills and Nash came to town to play a concert at legendary Doubleday Field, the fifth concert ever at the famed venue. Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson got the ball rolling in 2004. Others to have performed include Paul Simon, The Beach Boys with Herman’s Hermits and Dylan, a second time.

Prior to the show, led by three decade-long tour manager Mike “Coach” Sexton, the entire band sans David Crosby, came to visit the Museum. Arriving in golf carts two hours before sound check were Graham Nash and Stephen Stills, along with drummer Joe Vitale, base player Bob Glaub, their newly-anointed organist, and pianist James Raymond — David Crosby’s son.

They spent 90 minutes touring the exhibits and 30 minutes in archival collections. The tour ended with a trip to the photo library so Nash, a well-known photography collector, could have a look at the Library’s famed collection. “Too short of a visit,” lamented Stills after the tour. 

While touring, I learned that Vitale was born in Canton, Ohio, and went to high school with Thurman Munson. “Is he in the Hall?” asked Vitale. When told he wasn’t, he responded: “He should be.”

Stills and Nash loved the Museum and were fascinated with its history. “Ahhh, Mickey Mantle – my first hero,” recalled Stills in the Yankees of 1950s exhibit on the Museum’s second floor. “I loved the Mick, but I am a Red Sox fan. I threw out the first pitch during their run to their first championship and that baseball is one of my prized possessions.”

 In archives, Nash, who played cricket in Blackpool, England as a youngster, picked up one of Hall of Famer George Wright‘s cricket bats, circa 1890. He was intrigued to learn of Wright, the only person in history to play Major League Baseball (Boston and Providence) and First Class Cricket (Longwood Cricket Club of Chestnut Hill, Mass.).

6-15-09-Idelson_Paige.jpgCricket matches are renowned for being seemingly-endless, as they can last for days. I asked Nash if cricket reminded him of acoustic Grateful Dead concerts, which were could also last for hours. “You may have a point there,” he said laughing.

I explained to both musicians the definition of a five-tool player (hit for average, hit for power, run, throw and field) and asked if music had any. “Prince. Definitely Prince,” said Nash. “He can probably play five instruments.”

When I asked Stills if he could go back in time which player he would meet, he answered without hesitation, Satchel Paige. “B.B. King told me that watching Satchel Paige pitch was like watching Jimi Hendrix play guitar. They were both legendary.”

The band thanked Hall of Fame curators Erik Strohl and Tom Shieber for arranging the tour and then headed back to Doubleday Field. After the sound check at 4:30 p.m., the three rock legends posed in Hall of Fame jerseys – as one Hall of Fame honored legends from another: Crosby, Stills and Nash were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, and are about to enter the Songwriters Hall of Fame (the three are also in the Harmony Hall of Fame). Nash was so appreciative, he opened the show wearing his new garb.

For the photo shoot, to tie music and baseball together even more closely, we brought the bats of three players with which the three musicians posed: Crosby with a Babe Ruth bat, Stills with a Lou Gehrig bat and Nash with a Joe DiMaggio one.

“What a thrill,” said Nash. “What a thrill.”

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

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