Results tagged ‘ Tom Shieber ’

Baldwin and baseball

By Bill Francis

Actor Billy Baldwin is certainly a recognizable face after starring in such films as Backdraft, Sliver and Fair Game, but on Friday he was just another fan of the New York Yankees taking in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum experience with his family.

A member of the famed acting clan that includes brothers Alec, Daniel and Stephen, Baldwin lives in Santa Barbara, Calif., but is spending part of the summer in Skaneateles, N.Y., near Syracuse. When the opportunity arose he jumped at the chance to visit Cooperstown with son Vance, a brother-in-law and two nephews.

“Last year I said, ‘We’re going to Cooperstown while we’re in Skaneateles,’ but we never got around to it,” he said while walking to lunch. “This year I said, ‘I’ll be darned if I come up here for another two or three years and we don’t get there. I am going this year.’”

Before they saw the Museum, Baldwin and his family would receive a behind-the-scenes from Senior Curator Tom Shieber, where the actor was able to hold the bat used by Ted Williams to slug his final home run. Baldwin was certainly impressive in his knowledge of the history of the national pastime, whether it be marveling at the home run prowess of Babe Ruth when measured against the other teams in the league or explaining how Joe DiMaggio’s homer production was hampered by playing his home games at Yankee Stadium. 

Baldwin, who unabashedly admits to balling his eyes out when he watches Kevin Costner play catch with his dad in Field of Dreams, also explained his love of the game that is also evident in his son.

“I don’t know how to articulate it … It’s weird because I consider myself a big baseball fan but I’m not one of those guys who sits down with a pad and pen and does all the stats of every game,” Baldwin said. “I’m a huge baseball fan and I’m a diehard Yankees fan and probably watch or listen to a portion of about 100 games a year.

“But if there’s such a thing as having a metronome for your life, for me it starts with pitchers and catchers and goes all the way through October, hopefully with the Yankees in the postseason,” he added with a grin. “In these trying times with the economy not doing well and all sorts of struggles across the country and around the globe, I don’t want to be constantly reminded of all the tough stuff that’s going on. I find that the number one anecdote for that for me is baseball.”

Thanks to a father who once was an usher at Brooklyn’s beloved Ebbets Field, the Baldwin brothers were exposed to the game at a young age. But Billy Baldwin, with a famed wrestling coach living nearby, eventually turned his attentions to the mat.

“Growing up my favorite game was baseball, and I was best at baseball, but I made a mistake when I was in 10th grade,” he recalled. “I ran with this posse of guys on my wrestling team and we all gave up everything we were doing to wrestle all year and I walked away from baseball.

“Obviously, I have the build of a small basketball player or a baseball player or a tennis player and not a wrestler,” he said jokingly. “I was a pretty good wrestler – I won more than I lost – but I was just more of a natural baseball player. I should have stuck with it.”

As for which of the Baldwin brothers was the best baseball player, Billy claimed it was pretty close between him Daniel, who he said  had “kind of like a Boog Powell type of build” before laughingly sharing stories of concussions the older sibling inflicted on him during childhood.

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

Record builders

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

Anyone who has ever purchased a piece of furniture and then couldn’t fit it through a door in their house knows that how you picture something isn’t always how it turns out.

02-03-11-Carr_OFTB.jpgSo on Thursday, a group of curators, exhibit designers and exhibit installers met on the third floor of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum to view a mockup of an interactive display that will appear in the One for the Books exhibit opening May 27-28 in Cooperstown.

The process is called prototyping. Essentially, the process includes using a placeholder for a piece of an exhibit to see what it will be like when the real thing arrives. This week, the curators created a panel that was the same shape and size with similar graphics as a new interactive display that will explain top 10 record holders in the exhibit.

“We can have great ideas on paper, but there is no substitute for bringing the ideas to the exhibit space and working out the details,” said Tom Shieber, senior curator at the Baseball Hall of Fame. “We have to make sure that something like this, that is interactive, functions but also attracts people, is useful to the user and for other visitors in the room.”

One for the Books will celebrate the sacred records of baseball and the stories behind them. The exhibit will be the most technologically advanced permanent exhibit in the Museum’s 71-year history. It will feature an interactive visitor experience with multi-media elements and be located on the second floor of the Museum in the Hank Aaron Gallery. For the first time in the Hall of Fame’s history, the Museum is inviting fans to help support an exhibit by honoring their favorite record holder.

02-03-11-Carr_Aaron.jpgWhille the Hall of Fame’s curatorial team prepares for the exhibit opening, design and aesthetic elements are very important. The process of prototyping allows the curators to see how an exhibit will interact with the space, lighting, and shape of the room. For instance, in the case of this interactive, some of the lighting trusses that attach to the ceiling and lights the exhibit will hang too low over the interactive and be in the way. The team will have to remove the grid directly in front or find another solution.

Many times this practice will not change the substance of an exhibit, like the artifact or information in it, but it can change how the artifact is presented. Everything from colors, lighting, shadows and pillars need to be taken into account so that the curators can determine how a visitor will see the exhibit best.

“This is really an easy, early way to get a feel for problems you may encounter in the exhibit,” said John Odell, curator of history and research at the Hall of Fame. “We can look at something on paper, or on a computer, but being in the space makes a big difference.”

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

Answer men

Carr_90.jpgBy Samantha Carr

If you ever had a baseball trivia question you couldn’t solve, I know one room where you certainly could have found the answer.

Fifty-five researchers filled the Bullpen Theater on Saturday for the Society of American Baseball Research’s second annual 19th century baseball research conference held at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

04-19-10-Carr_SABR.jpg“It is rare to have so many great researchers in one place – and the Hall of Fame is about the only place where they might all come together,” said Tim Wiles, director of research for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

This year’s conference was named after the late Frederick Ivor-Campbell, a noted researcher on 19th century baseball, who was killed in an automobile accident last year.

“Fred was a spectacular researcher, an exceptionally giving individual, and the kindest and most thoughtful man one could imagine,” said Tom Shieber, senior curator at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The keynote speaker of this year’s event was Peter Morris, a leading baseball researcher who was recently awarded the inaugural Henry Chadwick Award by the SABR for invaluable contributions to making baseball the game that links America’s present with its past.

The author of several books, Morris’ “Game of Inches: The Stories Behind the innovations that Shaped the Game” was the only book to win both the Casey Award and the Seymour Medal as the best baseball book of the year in 2006. Morris’ keynote address was entitled: “Who Could Play?:  Inclusiveness and Exclusiveness in 19th Century Baseball.”

04-19-10-Carr_Tour.jpgFollowing the speech, John Thorn – himself the author of several baseball books and influential editor of the classic “Total Baseball” – moderated a panel discussion called “Was Base Ball Really Baseball: Where & How Does the Old Game Survive?” about the newest findings of baseball’s roots and origins with researchers David Block, Richard Hershberger, Larry McCray and David Nemec.

In the afternoon, baseball scholar Tom Altherr, frequently a presenter at the annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture – held at the Hall of Fame each year during the first week in June – gave a presentation on baseball as played among slaves in the nineteenth century.

“As a longtime baseball researcher and SABR member, I’m thrilled to be participating in SABR’s Frederick Ivor-Campbell 19th Century Base Ball Conference,” said the Hall’s Tom Shieber.

Shieber presented artifacts from the famous World Tour of 1888-89 taken by Albert Spalding’s Chicago White Stockings.

“It was a pleasure to meet up with the top baseball researchers who have devoted so much of their time and effort to broadening our understanding of baseball’s early days.”

Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media at 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.

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.

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