Ten things to know as Hall of Fame celebrates 75 years
The senses of wonder and imagination.
Those are the essentials you'll need when you visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers made his first trip to Cooperstown, N.Y., in 1965, when he was Player of the Year on his American Legion team. He goes back a few times a year now that he's a member of baseball's most exclusive fraternity and says the town is the same as it was nearly 50 years ago.
You won't say that if you visited the Hall of Fame as a child. The museum is always changing. It reflects the growth of the game, as well as the international nature of the modern game. Here are 10 things about the Hall, which is celebrating its 75th birthday on Thursday, and Cooperstown that you may not know but probably should:
• Although the original class of Hall of Famers was elected in 1936, the building didn't open until '39. There were 26 players and executives honored in that original induction ceremony -- comprised of the first four classes -- including all-time greats Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Ty Cobb, Wee Willie Keeler and John McGraw.
• The Hall is a private entity that has a relationship with Major League Baseball but is not controlled by MLB. It was founded by Stephen C. Clark, who was seeking ways to help the Otesaga Resort Hotel, a family-run business. Clark's granddaughter, Jane Forbes Clark, is chairman of the Hall's board of directors.
• Abner Doubleday is not in the Hall of Fame, but Henry Chadwick and Alexander Cartwright Jr. are. Doubleday's role in inventing the game remains a matter of historical debate, if not myth. Chadwick and Cartwright were influential -- Congress declared in 1953 that it was Cartwright who invented the modern game. John Thorn, MLB's official historian, writes in a new book, "Baseball in the Garden of Eden," that Daniel Lucius Adams, William Rufus Wheaton and Louis Fenn Wadsworth should be credited as the actual inventers.
"Cartwright's plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame declares that he set the bases 90 feet apart and established nine innings as a game and nine players as a team," Thorn writes. "He did none of these things, and every other word of substance on his plaque is false. Adams, known as Doc, set the base paths at 90 feet, among other notable innovations, including creating the position of shortstop. Wheaton created the Knickerbocker rules by copying a set he had drawn up for an earlier ballclub, the Gothams, in 1837. As to nine men and nine innings -- and perhaps even more -- these may be credited to Wadsworth."
• The bowling alley is gone. When it was converted from a gym into the Hall of Fame, the building at 25 Main Street in Cooperstown retained a small bowling alley that was in the gym. But that area has been turned into offices, so visitors to the Hall will not hear anyone rattling the pins below them.
• The nearby Doubleday Cafe sells T-shirts calling Cooperstown "a drinking town with a baseball problem." That's a reference to the area's history of hops farms and breweries. Brewery Ommegang, located on a 135-acre farm outside of town, gives tours and tastings.
• There is a woman in the Hall but not yet an Asian player. Effa Manley, an owner of the Newark Eagles of the Negro Leagues, was elected to the Hall in 2006. While the Hall has terrific exhibits on Japanese slugger Sadaharu Oh and the growing influence of baseball internationally, requirements for election to the Hall demand a 10-year career in MLB for entrance. It seems likely that Ichiro Suzuki will be elected when he becomes eligible.
• The Giamatti Research Center, located at the rear of the Hall, has files on everyone who has ever played in the Major Leagues. It is open Monday-Friday and has helped hundreds of authors working on baseball books. If you have a relative who had the proverbial cup of coffee in the big leagues, the research center can be a fun place to track family history.
• Pete Rose and Barry Bonds aren't in the Hall, but the bat from Rose's 3,000th career hit and the batting helmets worn by Bonds when he hit his 755th and 756th home runs are.
• At any one time, only a fraction of the Hall of Fame's artifacts are on display. Brad Horn, the Hall's vice president of communications and education, estimates that only about 10 to 12 percent of the Hall's collection is displayed. He says the full collection includes 40,000 artifacts, and that doesn't include 135,000 baseball cards. He estimates that the Hall has received donations of about 7,000 baseballs, 2,000 bats and 500 gloves, commemorating events. In rare cases, the Hall accepts items on loan because they can't be found otherwise but otherwise accepts items as donations.
• There is no writers' or broadcasters' wing to the Hall, no matter how often you hear about them. The Hall recognizes the top awards for broadcasters and baseball writers (the Ford C. Frick Award and the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, respectively) and has a permanent display, "Scribes and Mikemen," on the history of the baseball media. The winners to be recognized on July 26 are Texas Rangers play-by-play man Eric Nadel and author and longtime New Yorker essayist Roger Angell.
Oh, about that satellite radio.
Cooperstown is in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, and when you're there you can feel like you're losing touch with the outside world. So pack along the latest in technology or just take a deep breath and enjoy yourself.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.