Earlier this summer, I wrote a column encouraging my readers to take a road trip to Cooperstown to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame. Many of you took me up on that suggestion. It’s been nice hearing comments from folks who went for the first time, and especially from those who haven’t been there in a while. It’s a beautiful little village and a must-see for baseball fans.
Some have asked if there are any other baseball-related museums worth venturing to. While the Baseball Hall of Fame is the most famous one, several others, large and small alike, are open to the public.
If you want to start local, you can take a stroll through Hoboken, with markers, memorabilia and tributes to the town’s heritage as the true birthplace of baseball scattered all over. Across the river is the Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame in Foley’s on 33rd Street in Manhattan, right behind the Empire State Building. Yogi Berra’s Museum on the campus of Montclair State is another great option.
Both the Yankees and the Mets have museums in their ballparks. That’s not unusual. Half the teams in baseball have chronicled their history with an in-house gallery. Fenway Park in Boston, Camden Yards in Baltimore and Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia are three that are just a short drive from Hudson County.
A little bit further west in Pennsylvania is the Little League Hall of Fame in Williamsport. Famous as the town where the Little League World Series is played each year, Williamsport – like Cooperstown – is a quaint, sleepy community that welcomes guests who want to explore the crucial role that organized youth baseball has played in the United States since 1939. It remains the largest sports organization for children in the entire world.
Some of the more famous inductees are former Little Leaguers Tom Seaver, Senator Bill Bradley, Bruce Springsteen, Governor Chris Christie, Kevin Costner, President George W. Bush and Nolan Ryan.
Most states have either a baseball hall of fame, or one dedicated to sports stars who were born or played there. There is a Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in Ontario, a Negro League Hall of Fame In Kansas City and a Hispanic Heritage Baseball Hall of Fame in San Francisco. That particular location was chosen because the Giants were the first team to set up an active scouting system in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Yogi’s museum in Montclair was partly inspired by two of his friends, Ted Williams and Bob Feller.
The Cleveland Indians’ “Rapid Robert” Feller was proclaimed by fellow Hall of Famer Yogi as one of the greatest pitchers in history. Like Berra, he was also a war hero. In the mid 1990s, Bob’s home town of Van Meter, Iowa, opened the doors to the Bob Feller Museum. Since his death in 2010, the museum gets more visitors than ever. If you ever happen to be in the area, be sure to stop by the actual “Field of Dreams” from the 1989 movie, which is located in nearby Dyersville.
The Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame and Museum was established by the Red Sox legend himself in 1994. Two decades later, it was moved to Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Two of the nation’s more interesting sites are the Ballpark Museum and the Baseball Wax Museum.
The first one, located in Denver, is not focused on any particular Hall of Fame players, but to the ballparks and stadiums that they made famous. The museum has thousands of souvenirs and items from fields that now exist only in memories. When you walk through a turnstile from Ebbets Field, the Dodgers long-gone palace in Brooklyn, or sit in an actual 1904-era seat from Hilltop Park, the Yankees first home, it’s like taking a trip back in time. They even have items from Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City!
While it’s not Madame Tussaud’s, the Baseball Wax Museum, just down the block from the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, offers a fun way for fans to pose with lifelike figures of some of the icons enshrined at the Hall.
So with one more week to go until Labor Day, there you have it. If you want to make a trip to feed your baseball passion, you can’t go wrong with any of the places on this list. Have fun!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Ed Lucas’ columns appear every Friday in The Jersey Journal’s sports section throughout the MLB season.