Visiting the Hall of Fame

I need to start this entry by showing you a screen shot of a tweet:

That tweet, as you may have noticed, was posted more than five months ago. Life was pretty busy at the time. I never got around to blogging about the Hall of Fame, so I’m doing it now.

Quick context: I’d only been to the Hall one other time, and I was too young to appreciate it. I always wanted to go back, so when the Korean filmmaker said he wanted to get some footage of me there, I rounded up some friends and made a mini-roadtrip of it. Here we are outside:

In the photo above, from left to right, you’re looking at Bassey, Jona, me, Leslie, and Mike.

Here’s a photo that I took just inside the entrance:

This is the ramp that leads to the gallery . . .

. . . and here’s the main area with all the plaques:

Two things happened wherever I went:

1) I photographed everything.
2) The filmmaker filmed me.

Check it out:

The filmmaker’s name is James Lee. The first time he’d filmed me, he had a big fancy camera. Now, evidently, he was traveling light, and I didn’t know what to make of it. Was his little rinky-dink camera going to get good footage? What about the sound? Would he even follow through and complete the documentary? Would it turn out to be any good? I had no idea what to think, but whatever. If nothing else, I was having a fun day with my friends at the Hall of Fame; if some random Korean dude wanted to follow me around and get footage, so be it.

There was one plaque that jumped out at me when I first saw it: Henry Chadwick:

Chadwick, a mid-19th-century writer, might not be a household name, but he’s one of the most important baseball men of all time. You know how strikeouts are designated by the letter K? That was his idea. He also invented the box score and played a role in the very first juiced-ball controversy; way back in 1862, he denounced the ball as being “overelastic.” When I started doing all my research for The Baseball, I kept seeing his name and reading about all the cool things he did. Way back in the day, for example, when ONE ball had to last the entire game, the players actually had to stop playing and go looking for it indefinitely if it went missing. In 1876 (the first year of the National League), Chadwick suggested a five-minute time limit, and two years later the rule took effect. So yeah, I officially love Henry Chadwick.

Here are two other guys whose plaques caught my eye:

(Whenever I see Cal Ripken Jr.’s name, I think of this.)

There was SO much to see at the Hall of Fame. This was one room that we passed through on our way to the bookstore:

I was hoping to see my books at the store — that certainly would’ve been a good shot for the documentary — but all the copies had sold out. At least that’s what the lady there told me. You can see her on the right in the following photo:

I was bummed at first, thinking that my potential moment of glory had slipped away, but then I saw this:

It was a copy of The Way of Baseball, written by former major leaguer Shawn Green (with Gordon McAlpine). Here’s a closer look at the front cover . . .

. . . and here’s a look at the back:


Given the fact that my name is on the book, and given the fact that the book is in the Hall of Fame, I could argue (in a pathetically juvenile way) that I’ve made it to the Hall of Fame. That was always my dream as a kid; perhaps, when blowing out all those birthday candles, I should have been more specific.

My friends and I passed through the gallery . . .

. . . and saw this:

I love how the usher is reaching for the ball from the cross-aisle. Or maybe that’s a doorman who showed up at the game in uniform? Regardless, it’s an outstanding scene. As baseball fans, reaching for souvenirs is part of our DNA. (Steve Bartman is vindicated!)

Did I mention that there was lots to see? (This blog entry doesn’t even cover one-tenth of it.) Here’s a striking display of the old Yankee Stadium:

(I really really really REALLY miss that place.)

Here’s a collection of early baseballs . . .

. . . and here’s one of my favorite displays in the entire museum — something that I remembered from 20-something years earlier:

The colored rectangle of baseballs represents Ted Williams’ strike zone. The number on each ball indicates what Williams’ batting average was when he swung at a pitch in that location. So you see? Pitching to him was easy. All you had to do was keep the ball down and away, and he was a .230 hitter.

Not surprisingly, there’s an entire room devoted to Babe Ruth. Here I am absorbing as much of it as possible:

From that point on, I did a lousy job of documenting things. I got a photo of a Latino player display . . .

. . . but beyond that, I pretty much had to hurry around and look at stuff quickly.

Back outside, I took a picture of the Hall of Fame from across the street . . .

. . . and then took a picture of the street itself:

Cooperstown is a cute little place — and the pizza was better than I expected:

(I had the spaghetti and meatballs, but got to sample all the goods.)

In conclusion . . .

Just kidding. I don’t have anything profound to say — just that the Hall of Fame is rad, and I’ll post some screen shots from the documentary in my next entry.


  1. Skim

    I went there in 2006 and at lunch I went over to Doubleday Field for a little of the game and I caught a foul ball in the bleachers because there were like 4 kids in the bleachers on the third base side. The ball hit off the bleacher and it was a footrace and I had the other kid beat.

  2. Skim

    Zack- Any tips for ballhawking at Fenway Park for a first-timer there? My bro is visiting MIT Memorial Day weekend, so I’m tagging along and I might go vs the Rays or possibly Tigers.

  3. Double T

    That place looks awesome! I saw the Soria jersey and i thought about when we go down to kansas city we always hoped he would come out and close he is so awesome!!!!

  4. Puckcollector

    Wow. Never thought I would ever hear you say that you miss Yankee Stadium, considering you repeatedly called it the worse stadium to snag in.

  5. nybisons

    I have never gone there myself, but I really hope to go soon. It looks like an awesome place to have that baseball feeling inside you. I can’t wait to go!


  6. Mateo Fischer

    I have had the priviledge of going to the HOF about five times, the first being with my dad. The rest came because I went to a baseball camp in Beaver Valley, which is about 5-10 minutes from Cooperstown. We took nightly outings to Cooperstown, and I can tell you that the whole town, not just the museum, is a magical place for someone passionate about baseball. In addition to more memorabilia than even Ben could dream of, I was fortunate enou to meet Bob Costas, Roger Clemens, and Rollie fingers among others. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t mind going another 50 times (if it weren’t six hours away). Also, although it’s smack-dab in the middle of summer, I would strongly reccomend a trip during induction weekend. I was there when Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice were being inducted and although I was 5,000 feet from the stage it was very exciting to be there.

  7. Zack Hample


    Yes, you do.

    Nicely done with the foul ball at the HOF. As for Fenway, my best advice (and maybe you could have predicted that I’d say this) would be to read my Fenway blog entries from last season. Everything I was gonna tell you here would just be a condensed version of the info (and countless tips) that you’ll find there.

    If Soria can get himself back on track, he has a serious shot at the all-time saves record. Look how old he is, and look at his career total. Hmm . . .

    Certain new stadiums have changed my perspective. (Nice to hear from you, BTW.)

    Well said.

    You’re right. Cool. I looked at everything so quickly at the time that I didn’t notice the size differential.

    I can’t think of anyone that I know who’s been to the HOF more than you.

  8. Nicholas Badders

    Hey Zack! I recently emailed you about my history project, adn i was wondering if I could use some of these pics on it. if so, that would be awesome!

  9. nybisons

    Hey Zack, if I was to go to Pittsburg for a game, when would be the best time to go and what team should they be playing, so it’s easier to catch baseballs?

    -Quinn from nybisons

  10. Cook & Son Bats

    I’m coming back for a second helping of comments. I just noticed that your quote on the back of that book is sandwiched between quotes from David Wright and Carlos Delgado. Nice.

  11. mlballhawk

    The Hall of Fame is an awesome place! I haven’t been there since 86′ but I have been there 3 times for HOF ceremonies. (82, 83 and 86) It’s not like it was back then, in 1982 I remember going to the Otesaga Hotel where all the HOFers were staying after the ceremonies with my parents. My mom and dad hung out with Luke Appling and got to talk baseball for almost 3 hours while my brother and I chased autographs.

    Best story of the day that Sunday …… We were going up and down the elevator stopping at every floor to find HOFers to get autographs from. On one of the floors an older lady got in and we said to her, “you might not want to be in OUR elevator” “Why’s that” she asked. “Because we are looking for old baseball players to get autographs from” I said. She then proceeded to tell us she can help and we should follow her. We followed this lady down to a waiting light blue station wagon with Missouri plates. She took us to the drivers window and said to THE MAN “Stan, could you sign some autographs for these boys they want autographs from old ballplayers”

    It was STAN freakin MUSIAL ….. definitely a highlight of not only the weekend but probably my life! The next year my fathers photo from Aaron and F. Robinson being inducted was on the cover of the 83 HOF Ceremonies program.

    Great memories of my dad …. the Hall of Fame is definitely a place that everyone needs to visit! It also helps having a lifetime donor pass so you get in free! Now if I would only go again to use it!

  12. Ricky

    Wow the top 50 finalists are out today for the MLB MAN CAVE. They effed up! You’re not in the final 50????? WTF???

  13. nybisons

    Same as what Ricky said. Why the hell did you not make it? It doesn’t make sense at all! You should of easily been it the top 50!

    -Quinn from nybisons

  14. kslo69

    The fact that “monster99” the barber, and Ricardo Marquez, the unemployed comedian made the cut tells me that the folks in charge are looking to make the fan cave more of a joke than a place where any interesting dialog takes place. Last year I watched a few skits, mostly out of curiosity, but got bored quick. I’d hoped with Zack installed, we might get some better player interviews and more insights into the game, but they obviously want to make it into some sort of ridiculous game show type of event. Here’s hoping they find another rock band with a singer dead of a heroin over-dose to entertain us.

  15. kslo69

    OK. I just saw that Ms. Hensley made the cut. I guess the bikini and baseball bat photo worked. Isn’t that WEIRD?? I mean REALLY weird??

  16. Big Glove Bob

    I am shocked that you didn’t make at least the final 50. In hindsight…which is always 20/20 it looks like that valued humor over actual content and that you may have been better off submitting your outtake.

    Big Glove Bob

  17. Cat

    The Hall of Fame looks huge. Thanks for the fantastic pictures. I was able to get Shawn Green to autograph his book for me! I posted a picture with him on my blog.

  18. Zack Hample

    Yes, go for it. Sorry for the slow reply.

    Go on a weeknight while school is in session and when there are no promotions. Make sure you’re there when there’s a lousy visiting team with a small fan base, like the Astros or Expos.

    Hey, yeah, how about that. I hadn’t noticed. Pretty good company . . . for THEM to be in, mwahaha.


    You win. :-)

    I have no idea.

    QUINN (again)-
    I thought so too.

    I have no words.

    Yeah, I think you’re right. I basically *didn’t* submit the outtake because it went past the two-minute limit. But I see that they picked someone for the top 50 who submitted a FOUR-minute video. So much for rules and consistency. I think I may have also missed the cut because I don’t have a favorite team. It seems that the folks at MLB more about pushing teams than the glory of the sport itself.

    Ball Four, Moneyball, Shoeless Joe, Bronx Zoo, Bullpen Gospels, Watching Basball Smarter, and The Baseball.

    CHRIS H-
    Probably the Babe Ruth room. That man is such a legend that he doesn’t even seem real, so to be surrounded by all his STUFF was pretty intense.

    Cool. You’re welcome.

  19. kslo69

    There are two books on your list that I haven’t read. Two books that I have enjoyed recently are “As They See Them”, and “3 Nights in August”.

  20. ddboy77

    Wow that looks amazing. I’ve been saving up for a trip to go there. I’m a kid and just started to blog and was wondering if you could check it out. Please comment advice

  21. Skim

    In one of your responses to someone, I noticed you said “Expos.” I assume that wasn’t intentional. In your defense though, a higher percentage of your ballhawking years have been during the Expos era.

  22. Zack Hample

    You’re welcome.


    I read “3 Nights in August,” and it was a perfectly good book, but (to me) not magical like the others. What’s “As They See Them”?

    That looks like a sketchy link, and quite frankly, I don’t feel comfortable clicking it. What blogging platform do you use?

    It was 100 percent intentional. Just seeing if anyone was paying attention.

  23. kslo69

    Not magical, no. But I enjoyed “3 Nights” for the insights it gives into an aspect of the game not easily available to the average fan. That is also what I enjoyed about “As They See Them”, which is about the umpires, and their story in the game.

  24. kslo69

    ddboy77’s pimpin’ that blog all over the web. Just saw the same request on Richard Justice’s blog.

  25. Kurt

    I just saw this now! (Opps…my bad lol.) But, a very interesting entry it is, as are all of them. I just wanted to say that I have Mateo beat. I have been to Cooperstown 9 times. And I live in Miami FL! (I just wanted to throw that in there.) :) I will also add that the absolute best time to go there is during the winter. It’s much less crowded and much more laid back. One must be willing, at times, to deal with temps of -10 (and colder) but, other than that, it is nothing short of spectacular to visit that area of NY in the dead of winter. It’s breathtaking and massive fun!

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