Baseball Museums: Nos. 1-5
The mother of all baseball landmarks, the Hall of Fame resides near the very field from which baseball mythology suggests the game magically originated in 1839.
By the time America shined the light of historical scrutiny on Abner Doubleday's supposed invention of the game and determined that baseball had evolved, in fact, at various locations across the country at once, Cooperstown had built the Hall and welcomed the baseball establishment to its quaint little village to celebrate the game's centennial in 1939.
In the decades since, Cooperstown has continued to symbolize all of the pastoral communities across the land where baseball developed in the 1800s, and the Hall has continued to grow ever larger and more comprehensive.
The trademark feature is the gallery displaying more than 260 plaques that honor baseball's all-time greats. Other exhibits pay tribute to the no-hitters, World Series, minor leagues, Negro Leagues, storied ballparks, baseball movies and just about every other hardball topic imaginable.
As Don Sutton said upon his induction in 1998, "If you don't feel an aura that's almost spiritual when you walk through the Hall of Fame, then check tomorrow's obituary; you're in it."
2. Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
386 Church St. South
St. Marys, Ontario
877-250-2255 or 519-284-1838 (Canada)
Although baseball has never enjoyed quite the same popularity in the Great White North as it has in the States, the American Game is beloved by many Canadians.
Occupying a century-old stone building, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame tells the tale of an early baseball game played in Beachville, Ontario, in 1838, and offers exhibits about early Canadian minor league teams like the ones that starred Tommy Lasorda and Jackie Robinson.
It chronicles the Expos and Blue Jays and profiles native son Ferguson Jenkins and many current Canadians in the Majors.
Among the relics on display are a bat and ball signed by Babe Ruth, the seat that marked the upper-deck landing spot of the longest home run in Olympic Stadium history a clout by Willie Stargell and the batting helmet Joe Carter wore as he stroked the walk-off homer that propelled the Blue Jays past the Phillies in the 1993 World Series.
3. House of David Museum
2251 Riverside Road
Benton Harbor, Mich.
269-325-0039 or 269-849-0739
In the days before television, when vaudeville and baseball were America's unrivaled pastimes, the most popular barnstorming team was the House of David club. The Christian commune required members to refrain from sex, smoking, drinking, eating meat, cutting their hair and shaving. But it didn't prohibit them from playing baseball.
So, in 1913, the House of David formed its first baseball team, and before long the shaggy globetrotters had become fan favorites. They often traveled with a partner from the Negro Leagues. And as they grew more popular in the 1920s and 1930s, they used their renown to ensure their Negro Leagues counterparts could eat in the same restaurants and sleep in the same hotels as they did.
Today, visitors to the House of David Museum find artifacts related to the team and hilarious photos of hairy-headed hardballers like Babe Ruth, Grover Cleveland Alexander and Satchel Paige, who all donned fake beards to play with or against the House of David.
4. Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center
On the campus of Montclair State University
8 Quarry Road
Little Falls, N.J.
The Hall of Fame catcher played in a record 14 World Series. He was the inspiration for the name of a certain pic-a-nic basket-loving cartoon bear created by Hanna-Barbera. And he coined familiar phrases, like "It ain't over till it's over" and "It's déjà vu all over again."
After receiving an honorary degree from Montclair State University in 1996, Berra partnered with the school to open an interactive baseball museum on campus. Aside from its excellent exhibit related to Yogi's unique use of the English language and memorabilia from his career including all 10 of his World Series championship rings and the mitt he used to catch Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 Series the museum features a collection of dolls modeled after such players as Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth and Yogi himself.
Located at the gateway of festive Eutaw Street, the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards is a warehouse of baseball memorabilia. It offers exhibits related to the two incarnations of the Baltimore Orioles (minor league and major league), to local sons like Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken Jr. and to the two Negro Leagues teams that once played in Baltimore.
Until its opening in 2005, many of the items it now displays were housed at the nearby Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum (216 Emory St., Baltimore, same Web site as above), which now focuses almost exclusively on The Bambino's memorabilia.
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