Opened on June 12, 1939 in Cooperstown, New York, the Baseball Hall of Fame is a time tunnel that journeys its visitors through a cornerstone of American history. More than a mere sport, baseball is a vehicle of social change.
After crowding Ellis Island during the massive influx of immigration between 1880 and 1920, immigrants assimilated into American life by cheering their local baseball teams.
Babe Ruth got the nickname of “Bambino” from New York City’s Italian immigrants. They christened him with their native word for “Babe” as he redefined baseball’s standard of power.
Further, the civil rights movement did not begin with Martin Luther King, Junior’s 1963 speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial nor did it begin with the 1954 United States Supreme Court case of Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka.
It began on October 23, 1945 when Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson to a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers organization. The unwritten but potent rule banning black players from Major League Baseball slowly eroded.
The Baseball Hall of Fame protects baseball’s legacy, including social change, with exhibits featuring baseball artifacts, a library of epic baseball research, and a plaque honoring each inductee. The plaque bears his likeness, statistics, and a description of his qualities.
Recently, I visited the Baseball Hall of Fame for the first time. In April, I presented a paper titled Bridegrooms…Superbas…Dodgers…Oh My! The Birth of Brooklyn Baseball in the 19th Century at the Society for American Baseball Research’s (SABR) Frederick Ivor-Campbell 19th Century Baseball Conference.
At the end of May, I moderated panels for the Annual Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture co-sponsored by the Baseball Hall of Fame and State University of New York (SUNY) – Oneonta. My topics: The Business and Promotion of Baseball and Mascots and Batboys.
During my down time at the conferences, I strolled through the gallery of plaques. Consequently, I recalled a blog post that I wrote for a previous incarnation of this web site in 2009. I called it Baseball in a Word. As a writing exercise, I tried to summarize an inductee in one word. And the word is…
The courage of Lou Gehrig.
The toughness of Ty Cobb.
The determination of Nolan Ryan.
The boyishness of Mickey Mantle.
The command of Harmon Killebrew.
The dignity of Hank Aaron.
The athleticism of Willie Mays.
The power of Babe Ruth.
The poise of Jackie Robinson.
The proficiency of Frank Robinson.
The agility of Brooks Robinson.
The generosity of Roberto Clemente.
The concentration of Tom Seaver.
The pride of Reggie Jackson.
The honor of Christy Mathewson.
The force of Sandy Koufax
The consistency of Don Drysdale.
The commitment of Branch Rickey.
The elegance of Ted Williams.
The skill of Willie McCovey.
The humor of Yogi Berra.
The focus of Walter Johnson.
The effectiveness of Stan Musial.
The speed of Rickey Henderson.
The formality of Joe DiMaggio.
The authority of Bob Gibson.
The mind of Johnny Bench.
The clout of George Brett.
The velocity of Bob Feller.
The bravery of Roy Campanella.
The assertiveness of Leo Durocher.
The strength of Duke Snider.
The passion of Tommy Lasorda.
The amusement of Satchel Paige.
The control of Rod Carew.
The integrity of Tony Gwynn.
The dominance of Josh Gibson.
The might of Hank Greenberg.
The longevity of Al Kaline.
The character of Cal Ripken, Jr.
The energy of Lou Brock.
The wisdom of Sparky Anderson.
The durability of Connie Mack.
The shrewdness of Casey Stengel.
The legend of Ebbets Field.
The grandeur of Yankee Stadium.
The love of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The history of the New York Yankees.
The potency of Mike Schmidt.
The flamboyance of Bill Veeck.