By CHARLIE VASCELLARO • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN — Like Dorothy taking her first steps on the Yellow Brick Road in the Land of Oz, first time visitors to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum are often advised that “it’s always best to start at the beginning” moving in a linear and chronological fashion through the game’s formative years and early history.
Returning visitors to the museum and more seasoned veterans might make a beeline to a new installation or favorite exhibit moving through the museum at their own pace or in a more unorthodox fashion; like former New York Met Jimmy Piersall circling the bases backwards when he hit his 100th career home run.
The Hall of Fame’s new “Starting Nine: The Must-See Artifacts from Your Team” and “Ultimate Fan Experience” allow fans to carve their own path through the museum on an interactive scavenger hunt through their favorite teams’ histories.
Devised by the Hall of Fame’s curatorial staff, “Starting Nine” highlights nine team-specific objects for each team, culled from tens of 1,000s of artifacts in the Hall’s collection.
Visitors can begin their journeys almost anywhere they choose after receiving a team “line-up card” available at the Hall on its mobile website.
Looking through teams’ Starting Nine lineup cards, the game’s history and evolution unfolds and stirs the reflective imagination and makes one realize the depth of the Hall of Fame’s collection, including:
The catcher’s mitt that Yogi Berra wore when he caught Don Larsen’s perfect World Series game in 1956;
Roberto Clemente’s retired No. 21 Pittsburgh Pirates jersey;
The glove Brooks Robinson wore when he made so many spectacular plays in the Baltimore Orioles 1970 World Series victory; Frank Robinson’s 500th home run bat; Lou Gehrig’s Yankee Stadium Locker;
Hank Aaron’s Atlanta Braves uniform from the game in which he broke Babe Ruth’s All-Time home run record; and Babe Ruth’s Home Run Record Crown presented to the Bambino by admiring fans after he hit 59 home runs in the 1921 season.
Originally slated to open just prior to the beginning of the ill-fated 2020 MLB season, “Starting Nine,” is the Hall’s first post-pandemic exhibit, celebrating its re-grand opening in conjunction with the current baseball season and provides visitors with a new way to rekindle their affection to the game and their favorite teams.
My personal “Starting Nine” would include some of my favorite objects in the Hall of Fame’s collection relative to my favorite team, the New York Mets. The first item would be the glove worn/used by Tommie Agee when he made two of the most celebrated catches in World Series history in Game Three of the 1969 World Series between the Mets and Baltimore Orioles. And when I clicked on the Mets Starting Nine lineup card, there it was right at the top of the list:
I can certainly remember that Agee’s famous glove has long been included in the museum’s “Autumn Glory” exhibit chronicling post-season and World Series history. It would be an easy item for me to find and a great place to start on my own New York Mets Starting Nine scavenger hunt.
Other classic memorabilia from teams that are local favorites include:
Boston Red Sox
Pedro Martínez, All-Star Game Jersey: Wearing this jersey as the American League’s starting pitcher, Boston’s Martínez struck out five of the six batters he faced in the 1999 All-Star Game at Boston’s Fenway Park. The performance helped the AL to a 4-1 victory and earned Martínez the game’s MVP.
Ben Zobrist, World Series Second Base Bag: In Game Seven of the 2016 World Series, Chicago’s Zobrist doubled in the 10th inning, reaching this second-base bag and drive in the tie-breaking run. The left fielder led the Cubs with 10 hits against the Indians and was ultimately named the Series MVP for his heroic efforts.
New York Mets
Mike Piazza, Post 9/11 Jersey: Piazza wore this Mets jersey on Sept. 21, 2001, in the first major league game in New York City after the attacks of 9/11. With his club trailing the visiting Braves in the bottom of the eighth, 2-1, Piazza’s dramatictwo-run homer lifted the Mets to an emotional 3-2 victory.
Roy Halladay’s Perfect Game Baseball: This baseball comes from Philadelphia pitcher Halladay’s spectacular performance on May 29, 2010, at Florida’s Sun Life Stadium. With his 1-0, perfect-game victory over the Marlins, Halladay joined Jim Bunning as the only Phillies moundsmen to retire all 27 batters they faced in a game.
New York Yankees
Derek Jeter’s World Series Jersey: Rookie shortstop Derek wore this home jersey during the 1996 World Series, the first of five World Championships captured by the Yankees during Jeter’s 20-year career with the club.
Go to www.baseballhall.org to discover your “Starting Nine.”