By In Stuff

A Brief Hall Tour

When people think about the Baseball Hall of Fame, they mostly think about the plaque room — the huge room that celebrates the players, managers, executives, umpires and pioneers were inducted into the Hall. It’s a cool room, no question, but in many ways it’s my least favorite part of the place.

My FAVORITE parts of the Hall of Fame are the marvelous little things that are scattered throughout the building, like the colored baseball strike zone inspired by Ted Williams’ view of what a hitter’s batting average is in all parts of the zone:

 

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Or a 45 of one of my favorite songs as a child:

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Who’s the newest guy in town?

Go Joe Charboneau!

Turns the ballpark upside down?

Go Joe Charboneau!

Ate cigarettes complete with fires!

Go Joe Charboneau!

Fixed his broken nose with pliers!

Go Joe Charboneau!

Plays the game and hears the cheers!

Go Joe Charboneau!

Uses eyelids to open beers!

Go Joe Charboneau!

OK, yes, I made up those last few lyrics … but they’re more factual than the actual lyrics.

You can find this book in the Hall of Fame:

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What you have to admire about Gladys E was that she was not going to limit herself to just “Baseball for Girls,” or “Baseball for Women,” but would cover both genres of the game in one volume.

And there’s this joyous little ad for a Washington Nationals first baseman … in 1868. No Irish need apply.

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Oh yeah, there’s also this:

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Buck is very much in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

On Friday, though, thanks to my good friend Tom Shieber, a handful of us got a behind-the-scenes tour in the archives of the Hall of Fame. It’s the second time I’ve been lucky enough to get such a tour and I have to say for a baseball nut, yes, the Hall of Fame is amazing, but the archives are heaven. You just stumble upon treasure after treasure. It boggles the mind how much stuff the Hall of Fame has that it simply does not have the room to display.

You walk in the archives, and there is all this stuff there, impossibly awesome stuff, like the glove Gaylord Perry wore for his 300th win of the  glove President Jimmy Carter wore when throwing out the first pitch, or the bat Tony Gwynn used for his 3,000th hit. I mention those three — now multiply that by 5,000. That’s how many cool things are there in the Hall of Fame archives.

So let me show you just a few of those things, a little behind the scenes tour for you thanks to Tom. I think you’ll really like some of this stuff.

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OK, this is an ad that appeared in the 1942 World Series program — it actually is the first thing you see when you open up the program. So think: This is a few months after Pearl Harbor and a less than two years before D-Day. Please read the whole thing: It’s an astonishing blend of sports and Hitler. You just KNOW the guy who wrote this was extraordinarily proud, especially of his “in the cards” pun.

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How could you not love that old Expos hat. This figures to be a big weekend for Expos’ fans with the induction of perhaps the greatest Expo [outfielder]*, Tim Raines. I suppose a lot of people might say the greatest Expo [outfielder] was Andre Dawson, and it’s a close race. I mean, it’s REALLY close. Look at this:

Games played in Montreal:

Tim Raines: 1,452

Andre Dawson: 1,443

WAR in Montreal:

Tim Raines: 48.5

Andre Dawson: 48.1

They were very different players in many ways and yet their value was basically IDENTICAL. So much fun to argue about Dawson and Raines.

*Editor’s note: For some reason, I really thought I had written Expo OUTFIELDER in this little section. Apparently, I did not — twice. Oversight. As mentioned in the comments, most people probably would consider Gary Carter to be the greatest Expo of them all … or perhaps Steve Rogers if there is a leaning toward pitchers. You could even make an argument for Pedro Martinez, even though he didn’t play for the Expos for very long. He probably had the best season in Expos history in 1997.

In any case, the hat above was the one Bill Stoneman wore when he threw his no-hitter in 1969 — on just the ninth game in Montreal Expo history.

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I could not possibly love this anymore — this was a little game that Walter Johnson promoted (and might have invented). You spin this thing, as you can see wherever it lands there’s a baseball action that happens. Fun!

The best part about this: It’s a dreidel, right? There’s absolutely no doubt about it. This is a baseball dreidel that Walter Johnson might have invented. I mean, you just can’t get better than that.

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This is the hat Jackie Robinson wore for the 1955 World Series. That is, of course, the only World Series Jackie Robinson won in his career. Anyway, I bring this up because Tom brought up a great trivia question for this hat:

What position did Jackie Robinson play MOST OFTEN in the World Series?

We’ll get back to you at the bottom for that one.

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This might be my favorite one — that’s Moe Berg’s catcher’s mask. You know Moe Berg — baseball player, spy, apparently Paul Rudd is going to play him in a movie next year.

In any case, that’s his mask but the reason I love it is that mask was specially made — there’s a special innovation about that mask. Can you see it? Notice how around the mouth area there is a giant circle — not quite big enough to fit a baseball? Right, that was put in there so catchers could spit without having to take off the mask.

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This jersey was not actually worn in the All-American Girls Baseball League, but it’s really cool for this reason: It was worn by Marla Hooch in the movie “A League of Their Own.” Marla Hooch! I have so many favorite parts of that movie, but I think my ultimate favorite is when she’s smashing baseballs in that gymnasium against the local college boys, and then her father says, “OK, now left-handed,” and everyone groans.

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That’s MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez holding a bat used by Honus Wagner. I’m not sure if you can tell but that bat is basically just a slab of wood. The handle is about the same size as the barrel. No, it’s not a slab of wood — it’s a lead pipe. It’s heavy too. It’s so much fun to compare generations, and I think most baseball historian types would tell you that Honus Wagner remains the greatest shortstop ever. And he was certainly that good in his time. But it’s pretty clear: That was a different game.

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OK, the Jackie Robinson question: What position did Robinson play most in the World Series?

Answer: Third base.

Well,  I would NEVER have guessed that one. In fact, I did not guess it. I guessed second base, then first base. I always think of Billy Cox as the Dodgers third baseman during that time but he was gone in 1953. Robinson played 13 games at third, 12 games at second, 7 games at first and 6 games in left field.

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30 Responses to A Brief Hall Tour

  1. Ajnrules says:

    Somehow I guess third base because I knew you wouldn’t throw that question out if it wasn’t second.

    • SDG says:

      Agreed. I worked it out that he played 1B in 1947 (everyone knows that). Then 2B from 1948-1952 and 3B (with a bit of LF) from 1953 until he retired in 1956. The Dodgers made the Series in ’47, ’49, ’52, ’53, ’55 and ’56. In other words, one Series at first, two at second and three at third. So, third. Helps that I’ve been binging Roger Kahn lately.

  2. Marc R says:

    That strike zone display was apparently created by Mets announcer Gary Cohen when he was a young fellow working on the great Baseball Bunch tv show. It’s now the most photographed item in the Hall.

    https://www.si.com/mlb/2016/06/29/baseball-bunch-oral-history-johnny-bench

    • MattMrdck says:

      It was just a constructed version of the graphic Ted Williams designed for “The Science Of Hitting” which was published in 1971. Great book and assuredly Bench would confirm that the strike zone display is all Ted.

  3. Scott says:

    I’d pick Gary Carter as the greatest Expo of them all. He’s got both Dawson and Raines beat on games (1502) and WAR (55.6)

    • jroth95 says:

      My thought as well.

    • invitro says:

      Absolutely. It’s very strange/dumb for Joe not to even mention Carter.

    • SDG says:

      Agreed. By bWAR and JAWS, Carter is the second best catcher ever, after Bench. Not even their own mothers would put Raines or Dawson as even in the top ten best outfielders, though they were excellent players and their inclusion in the Hall isn’t controversial (except maybe for Dawson’s OBP).

      • invitro says:

        “Not even their own mothers would put Raines or Dawson as even in the top ten best outfielders” — Raines is #8 in JAWS and WAR among LF’ers.

        • SDG says:

          I can read BBref too. That’s why I said outfielders without specifying further. In other words, Cobb, Ruth, Speaker, Williams, DiMaggio, Mays, Mantle, Snider, Musial, Aron, FRobinson, Yaz, Reggie Jackson, Rose, Griffey Jr, Shoeless, Henderson, Bonds, and Trout are all better players than Dawson or Raines. I don’t think anyone disputes this.

          Dawson and Raines would probably fall under the next tier of Hall of Famers, which is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. I just don’t believe anyone, even you, would put them in the top category.

          • invitro says:

            Comparing a player’s rank among catchers, and among all outfielders, is disingenuous and unnecessary. But I shouldn’t have made my comment… I don’t see a point to it, today. Sorry.

  4. Herb Smith says:

    I think Carter is the most underrated mid-level Hall-of-famer. The most underrated superstar (even UNKNOWN to many baseball fans) is Tris Speaker.

    • SDG says:

      My theory is everyone forgets him because he played in Montreal most of his career. Yes, he won a WS for a team in NY, but he’s never associated with that team. Don’t know why.

      • Patrick says:

        Because he played 900 more games in Montreal than New York. And was fantastic in the postseason in Montreal (15-for-35)

    • invitro says:

      Speaker is a good call. I think I’d go with Eddie Collins. He’s far ahead of Joe Morgan in WAR and WAR7, but who’d rank him there? (Not JoeP… he’s got Collins at #40 on his Baseball 100; Morgan is #31 or higher.)

      • SDG says:

        Collins isn’t underrated. Everyone puts him in the top 3 2B of all time. He’s unknown to most casual fans, which is an entirely different thing than being underrated.

        My vote for underrated would be Frank Robinson, who is never included in the Ruth-Cobb-Mays-Mantle GOAT discussions, even though he belongs there. Maybe Piazza, whose defense, excluding throwing out baserunners, was apparently solid, but he never gets credit for that. Actually no, it would be the the high peak, short career guys (Koufax, Greenberg, Campanella). Those guys are famous, but their actual skills as ballplayers (absent cultural importance) are probably underrated because everyone just blindly looks at WAR, which is a counting stat and hurts players with short careers. This doubly hurts Campanella because doing this underrates catchers as well.

        Everyone I’ve listed is in the Hall of Fame. Maybe I’m doing this “underrated” thing wrong.

        And the usual response to putting Morgan ahead of Collins is, as you know, that Collins never had to play against Morgan.

        • invitro says:

          I was using the OP’s definition of underrated. If you want to use a definition of being underrated by WAR, well that’s a different topic.

          The only reasonable way to compare players of all time is by how far ahead of their contemporaries they were*. Collins was a fair bit ahead of his than Morgan was ahead of his. Putting Collins at #3 instead of #2 is a clear case of underrating. (Otherwise, there is no possible conclusion other than that Altuve is the greatest 2B of all time, and by about a million miles.)

          Go ahead and give your argument for Frank Robinson as greatest player (or OF? Can’t tell) of all time. I haven’t heard that one before.

          • SDG says:

            Comparing players only to their contemporaries overrates pre-farm system, pre-organized scouting and development and pre-sabermetrics players. In the old days, most of the league was replaacement level, everyone worked in the offseason and we knew nothing about sports medicine or nutrition. And most importantly there was no real way to identify or even find the best (white, American) ballplayers on semi-pro teams in every small town. The few truly excellent and disciplined players stood out far more than they otherwise would have. Now when replacement level is far higher than it used to be, there is less of a difference between the average starter and the superstar. So while we do judge players against their contemporaries, looking at those results in a vaccuum will make it seem like the only good players played 100 years ago, which is crazy. Come on. You’re smarter than those people saying no one is as good a hitter as Ty Cobb because no one has his lifetime BA.

            Whenever baseball people discuss the greatest 2B of all time, the results are usually arguing between Hornsby, Collins, and Morgan for first place, with some people saying Jackie Robinson because if you restricted everyone’s stats from their age 28-37 years, he would be one of the best players ever. Casual baseball fans would probably just name Jeter or something.

            My argument isn’t that Frank Robinson is the greatest player of all time. My argument is there’s a top tier and he’s in it, but lacks the fame and name recognition of the rest of that group, and that put him in a big city and give him Mickey Mantle’s media-relation skills and he would be remembered more.

          • invitro says:

            You want to discriminate against older baseball players. I want to treat players from all eras equally. I don’t see any reason to denigrate a player because he was born before million-dollar training facilities.

            It’s clear to anyone who knows baseball history and watches current and historic baseball games and compares the players, just on eyesight, that all the greatest players in baseball history are playing right now, literally today. Trout is clearly the best baseball player ever. Willie Mays couldn’t shine George Springer’s shoes. Bob Gibson would get laughed off a AA team. Etc., etc. Ranking players by that kind of direct comparison is not only unfair, it’s boring.

            Here’s a first task for your Frank Robinson claims: how many years was he the best player in baseball? Then compare with Ruth, Mantle, Mays, Bonds, Trout, anyone you like.

          • invitro says:

            “there is less of a difference between the average starter and the superstar.” — This is a factual question, at least to the extent that WAR (or some other measure of performance) is a fact. Is it true? It might be, I don’t know, but I think it requires proof. That’s because it doesn’t look or seem obvious to me. If it were true, I’d expect the guys who are the one or two best players in baseball to not dominate the seasonal WAR rankings as much as such players used to. Well, no one has dominated the WAR lists like Babe Ruth. So that’s a point for less dominance by superstars. But Trout was 1/1/3/2/1 over the last 5 years, Pujols was 2/6/3/1/2/1/2 from 2003-09, Bonds was 1/1/1/1 from 2001-04.

            The older guys… Mantle had a 1/1/1/3 run. Mays, a 1/2/4/3/1/5/1 run. Hornsby, 4/3/1/9/1/1/-/3/4/1. Walter Johnson, 3/5/1/1/1/2/7/1/1. Honus surely has a long run at the top if batters only are considered.

            Well, that does look to me like it was somewhat easier to dominate in older years. I wonder how much the old superstars should be discounted then…

    • Patrick says:

      I’ve always thought Rickey Henderson was really underrated, mainly because it seemed like Raines was held up, and for a long time kept out of the Hall as the poor man’s Henderson. Henderson had 110 WAR. He posted two seasons of 9.9 WAR in 143 and 136 games. He threw up 6.7 in 108 in 1981, a 9+ WAR pace. I think the “Greatest leadoff hitter ever” moniker sells him short. He’s probably a Top 15 position player of all time

    • Robert Rittner says:

      Or perhaps Mel Ott.

  5. Todd says:

    Take a moment to see how small Joe Morgan’s glove is compared to others. I had the opportunity to ask him why it was so small, and he explained that it forced him to concentrate harder. His answer literally fits.

  6. Clif Blau says:

    This stuff isn’t in the Hall of Fame, it’s in the museum part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame AND Museum.

  7. DJ Mc says:

    Marla Hooch……………………………what a hitter!

    Also, for those who don’t know, that Nationals ad is literally one of the first things you see when you walk into the museum. It is also, as someone both of Irish descent and who loves the idea of that kind of blatant corruption (seriously, a no-show Treasury Department job for being able to play ball; our current administration could learn a thing or two from Andrew Johnson), my favorite thing in the building.

  8. A slight correction to Joe. Billy Cox was still with Brooklyn in 1953 and played 3B in each game of the series. Jackie Robinson played LF in each of the six games.

    Red Barber used to refer to Cox as “The Hands.” Mr. Stengel put it even better: “That’s not a third baseman. That’s a %$*@#&% acrobat.”

  9. John Autin says:

    Great stuff, Joe. (Literally!)

    About the Williams strike-zone chart, doesn’t it seem oddly skewed towards the upper part? I don’t know how accurate it ever was, for any hitter except Williams — but it sure doesn’t fit today’s game.

  10. Alan Stewart says:

    My favourite part of the Museum has always been the basement, which is, or at least used to be, a kind of junk shop. If they’ve “modernized” things and “cleaned up” the basement please don’t tell me!

  11. Richard says:

    What I loved when I went there a few years ago (I had some time to kill after completing my pilgrimage to see the “Cardiff Giant” at the Farmer’s Museum, and then admiring the collection of Native American art at the Fenimore Museum) was the “locker room” area. Each team had a “locker” filled with items of recent note. The bat Evan Longoria used to hit the game winning home run to beat the Yankees on the last day of the 2011 season, for example.

    The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is constantly adding new items. Adrian Beltre’s 3000 hit bat is probably already being prepared for display.

  12. Kuz says:

    It’s always a pleasure to read comments from people who share a love of the game.

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