COOPERSTOWN – In looking through the Baseball Hall of Fame’s 200,000 baseball cards, curator John Odell happened upon his childhood favorite.
“I had a 1968 card for Cookie Rojas, who played second base for the Phillies,” he said. “He wore glasses and his name was ‘Cookie’ – I thought that was the funniest thing in the world. All the Mickey Mantles and Frank Robinsons we have don’t impress me as much as that one card.”
Rojas’ card – alongside 2,500 others – are now part of the newly unveiled “Shoebox Treasures” baseball card exhibit, which opened Saturday, May 25 as part of the Hall of Fame Classic Weekend.
“We had an exhibit for a long time, but about 10 years ago, it was taken down for renovations,” he said. “Over the years, people have been writing to us telling us they miss it, so this is in response to our visitors.”
The earliest card in their collection dates back to 1872, a trade card for Mutual of New York. “These 3×5 trade cards were usually to promote a local store,” he said.
Such cards also set up a debate among collectors. “Every collector defines a baseball card,” he said. “We have a Kellogg’s box from the 1970s with Yogi Berra on it, you cut it out and it had a little stand. We define that as a card, but others may see it as a cereal box premium. We cast a wide net on what we consider a baseball card.”
In the early 1900s, cards were packaged with tobacco products to promote the brand, including the famous Honus Wagner card, which ceased production after the shortstop, a non-smoker, refused to let tobacco companies use his image. “That one is in our ‘Holy Grail’ section,” he said. “Each card is in a separate box, and you push a button to put the light on it for just a few seconds.”
From the starting line in front of Doubleday Field a few minutes ago, Cooperstown’s Frankie Panzarella, top photo, center, and his pal Justin Wolfe, left, led the 8th annual BASE Race 5K “Fun Run” now underway through the streets of the village, the first activity in a day of Hall of Fame offerings. At 10 a.m., ribbon-cutting on the new exhibit on baseball cards, “Shoebox Treasures,” will happen at 25 Main. The 11th annual Hall of Fame Classic, featuring six Hall of Famers and many MLB standouts, begins at 1:05 p.m. at Doubleday; tickets are still on sale at the Hall. Between Frankie and Justin is Bradley Weldon of Cooperstown, who is running with Ashlyn Wolfe, an assistant Otsego County Dairy Princess. Inset, the Hall’s Shirley Tyler, who is emceeing, chats with the two celebrity starters, Grant Balfour, who played with four teams, from the Twins to the A’s, and, with back to camera, Ryan Rowland-Smith, who played with the Mariners and Diamondbacks. Both are rare Australian players who made it into the Majors. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
LEGENDS GAME – 1:05 p.m. The 11th annual Hall of Fame Classic 7-inning game w/6 HOF legends & players from all-30 MLB teams will play 7-inning game. Tickets $11-12.50. Pregame Home Run Derby at noon. Doubleday Field. Info, 607-207-9519, www.BaseballHall.org
Editor’s Note: Tim Mead, incoming Baseball Hall of Fame president, cited John Scolinos, baseball coach at his alma mater, Cal Poly Pomona, as a lifelong inspiration, particularly Scolinos’ famous speech “17 Inches.” Chris Sperry, who published sperrybaseballlife.com, heard Scolinos deliver a version in 1996 at the American Baseball Coaches Association in Nashville, and wrote this reminiscence in 1916 in his “Baseball Thoughts” column.
By CHRIS SPERRY • from www.sperrybaseballlife.com
In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate.
After speaking for 25 minutes, he said:
“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck. Or maybe you think I escaped from Camarillo State Hospital,” he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility.
“No,” he continued, “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”
Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?” After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches,” more question than answer.
COOPERSTOWN – Tim Mead, 61, 22-year vice president/communications for the Los Angeles Angels, has been named president of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Hall board Chairman Jane Forbes Clark announced a few minutes ago.
“The Board of Directors is very pleased that Tim has accepted the position of President of the Hall of Fame,” said Clark. “Tim is deeply respected throughout the baseball industry, among players, executives and media alike. He has a great affection for the game and its history, and we are looking forward to having him leading the efforts of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.”
In his most recent position, Mead, who has spent 40 years with the Angels, oversaw the team’s media relations, publicity and broadcasting operations. He was assistant general manager in 1994-97. He had started in the public relations department in 1980, became director of media relations in 1985 and assistant vice president/media relations, in 1991.
Surrounded by a phalanx of TV cameras in the Hall of Plaques (and with Babe Ruth, inset, peeking over his shoulder), Edgar Martinez said he’s proud of the shared heritage he and Yankee superstar Mariano Rivera will bring to the Baseball Hall of Fame Induction ceremony on July 21. He diplomatically side-stepped one reporter’s observation that Martinez batted 572 when facing Rivera on the mound. Martinez, who played 17 years with the Seattle Mariners, is in Cooperstown today going through his pre-Induction orientation at 25 Main St. He was a seven-time MLB All-Star, five-time Silver Slugger, and two-time batting champion. (Jim Kevlin/www.AllOTSEGO.com)
American Legion National Commander Brett P. Reistad of Manassas, Va., top photo, heralds the long relationship between the National Baseball Hall of Fame and American Legion Baseball in kicking off at two-day commemoration of the Legion’s 100th anniversary this morning at 25 Main St. Hall of Famer Lee Smith, left, who will be inducted July 21, delivered remarks. Among Legion dignitaries were New York Department Commander Gary Schacher, right, and Regional Commander Paul I. Spedaliere, Lebanon, Conn., behind Reistad. Inset, Schacher presents a souvenir bat from Cooperstown Bat Co. to Scott Mondore, the Hall’s director of marketing and an Army vet, who helped organized this weekend’s activities. Hall VP/Communications Jon Shostakovsky noted that 81 Hall of Famers participated in Legion Baseball. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)
LAURENS – Caitlin Ogden, the Grant and Development Specialist at the Baseball Hall of Fame, has announced her candidacy for District Three on the Otsego County Board of Representatives.
Ogden holds a Masters in Arts in Museum Studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program. Ogden moved to upstate New York in 2006 with her horse in pursuit of a rural small town life. She has since spent her career working in the nonprofit sector.
COOPERSTOWN – In all, six business, including the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Cooperstown Farmers Market and Stagecoach Coffee were selected from 25 finalists to be the 2019 inductees into the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Chamber Business Hall of Fame.
Also named to the Hall of Fame were Pathfinder Village, The Cooperstown Bat Company and the Cooperstown Fire Department.
COOPERSTOWN – Jeff Idelson will retire as Baseball Hall of Fame president after the July 21 induction, board Chairman Jane Forbes Clark announced a few minutes ago.
“I am heartbroken for the Museum and its staff, but thrilled for Jeff,” Clark said. “Over his 11-year tenure as President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Jeff’s leadership and passion have guided this institution to great successes. We could not be more thankful for his commitment to the Hall of Fame over the last quarter-century.”
Standing in front of Minnesota Twins infielder Rod Carew’s plaque, Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera reflected on the legacy of the first Panamanian elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him,” he said. “He made it possible for me to follow him.” Rivera, the first player elected to the Hall of Fame with 100 percent of the votes on the ballot, toured the Hall this morning as part of his pre-induction initiation, signing the spot where his plaque will be hung during the July 21 induction and posing with a fan, at right. “If you told me when I got on a plane to the United States at age 20 to play baseball, that after playing 19 years I would be sitting here, I wouldn’t have believed you,” he said. “It’s freezing outside, but being here warms my heart.” (Patrick Wager, AllOTSEGO.com)
Hitter and right-fielder Harold Baines, who excelled with the Chicago White Sox and other Midwest teams during a 21-year career, breaks into a smile a few minutes ago as he’s shown the spot in the Hall of Plaques where his plaque will hang after his July 21 induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Sharing in his joy are, from left, Erik Strohl, vice president/Exhibitions & Collections; Jon Shestakofsky, vice president/ Communications & Education, and the Hall’s official photographer, Milo V. Stewart Jr. Rear left is Bill Francis, a Hall researcher. Inset, Baines signs the spot where his plaque will be hung. Baines is one of six players in the Class of 2019, and the first to go through the traditional initiation. (Jim Kevlin/AllOTSEGO.com)