Sunday, March 08, 2009

Baseball Place No. 24: Legends of the Game Baseball Museum; Place No. 24A: Ohio Basebal Hall of Fame

Some ballparks are museums.

Other ballparks have museums.

Josh Pahigian takes us to Arlington, Texas to the Rangers’ ballpark for the Legends of the Game Baseball Museum and Learning Center as spot No. 24 in his “101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out.”

Anything that helps Texans understand baseball is a good idea, so I can’t blame the Rangers for doing something special. That explains the exhibit’s third floor, which is filled with interactive exhibits that explain the game.

Ohioans, however, need no such training. So I offer:

Alternative No. 24A: Ohio Baseball Hall of Fame.

After discovering minor-league ball in Connecticut, we sought out locales for major-leaguers-to-be shortly after moving to Michigan in 1990.

Among our first stops was Toldeo, Ohio, home of the Mud Hens, which was about two hours south of our Flint-area home.

Technically, the Hens play in Maumee, which is west of the city. Ned Skeldon Stadium is an old racetrack on the Lucas County Fair Grounds that was converted for baseball. It was a fun park and a site for many baseball memories.

But we had no idea that the ballpark housed a treasure that was The Ohio Baseball Hall of Fame.

While Legends of the Game is three stories and 24,000 square feet, the Ohio Hall was one nice-sized room. Much of it was from the collection of one person, Thomas Eakin of Shaker Heights. He was the Hall’s president and founder, and I suspect his wife one day said, “Get this stuff out of the house!” and this was the result.

The Cleveland Indians were well-represented.

It was pretty simple, with balls, bats and uniforms hung out in the open, easy to touch if one was inclined to violate the unspoken rule.

We soon learned that the Hall didn’t just celebrate players who were born in Ohio, but guys who played in Ohio as well.

Frank Robinson's cap and jersey.

Then, it struck me. As Suzyn Waldman might shriek, “Oh my goodness gracious, Tom Seaver player in Ohio!”

As sure enough, hanging there in all its glory was Tom’s Reds jersey, hanging there nice and low. Pants and cap, too. Very touchable, if one was so inclined. The very fabric worn by The Franchise during his years in exile. It was both glorious and painful.

Then, we saw one of Tom’s White Sox uniforms also on display. This was an unexpected treat.

So we had a great time learning about Frank Robinson, Johnny Bench and Cy Young. And there were also uniforms from Steve Carlton and Steve Garvey, players that don’t have any connection to Ohio that I can determine. But if you’ve got a Steve Carlton uniform and a chance to show it off, you just do.

Uniforms from players born in Ohio.

Naturally, we made sure to visit the Hall when we took in a Mud Hens game. But a couple years later it was gone. And best I can tell, it hasn’t been recreated anywhere else. That’s a shame.

My long-suffering wife came prepared.

And now a confession. I touched the Seaver jersey. Just lightly, on the hem.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For the record, the Hens don't play in Maumee any more either. They're in one of the variously named Fifth-Third Bank Parks around the country that opened a few years ago near downtown. Ahh, memories of the Ned, when Dave and I got harangued by some Braves scrub (can't recall the name now) when we heckled him for not running out a ground ball.