Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Place No. 59: Reds Hall of Fame and Museum

The Cincinnati Reds have the best baseball museum not located in Cooperstown.

It’s not even close.

Josh Pahigian takes us to Great American Ballpark – more specifically, the team’s Hall of Fame and Museum – as spot No. 59 in the “101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out.”

The museum would be glorious enough just for displaying Tom Seaver’s jersey and his Reds Hall of Fame plaque. But the team created an interactive world that allows fans to learn about history and participate in it, too.

Great American was the host for the 2007 and 2008 BaseballTruth Executive Games, and earned a special place in my heart when the infamous Streak of Shame was snapped there last year.

We toured the museum just after it opened. It’s in a free-standing building next to the stadium, and admission was free with our ticket, though the team added an admission fee last year.

The first thing we saw upon entering is the massive 1976 World Series pennant. If you listened closely, you could still hear the Yankees weeping from the four-game spanking the Big Red Machine dropped on the Bronx that year.

That’s a pretty good start. And then things got better.

The hall’s first temporary exhibit was called “PETE!” and my companions openly speculated it will still be the temporary exhibit when they bring their grand kids to games years from now.

The Queen City appears to be obsessed with Pete Rose, which is something considering he’s not allowed to enter the ballpark without buying a ticket.

And that’s OK with me. We all have our heroes, and sometimes they are flawed. Even Tom bounced his ceremonial pitch when he closed out Shea.

There was a nice collection of Rose jerseys, bats and balls and his story filled the whole lower level before walking you down a corridor to windows that show the Rose Garden. A white rose bush shows where his record-breaking hit landed.

Then we moved upstairs where things got exciting. Turning a corner we came to a section of outfield wall with a bin of baseball gloves. And not just modern gloves – you could try on a glove from just about any era, even some sweet fingerless models.

The idea, of course, is to pose for photos making spectacular Endy catches, which we did many times over.

A few more steps revealed a batting cage, then a pitchers mound where people threw toward a wall with a painting of an umpire.

Embedded in the wall was an umpire’s mask, and from the other side you could look through and decided whether pitches were balls or strikes. I took one off the mask, and it was pretty scary.

And, appropriately, near the pitching cage was the tribute to some of the greatest Reds hurlers. Shining like a beacon to all that is good in life was the glorious Seaver jersey.

We were standing in awe – well, I was standing in awe and my friends humored me by standing by – and a Reds fan walked past, looked at the jersey and said, “Look, it’s a ‘onesy’ like a baby wears.


“Look at the way it’s in the frame. It looks like it has leg holes like a onesy.”

If someone wants to have a little fun at the Rob Dibble display, I’m all for it. But disparaging remarks about the No. 41 hanging there was just unacceptable. He got “the look” then moved along.

After a period of recovery and extended reverence, we moved along to a dugout display, where there was a section of the bench from Riverfront Stadium and a statue of Sparky Anderson leaning on the rail.

Even more life-sized statues were a few feet away, depicting “The Great Eight” celebrating a win, with the three most recent Reds World Series trophies.

There were also displays to assorted Reds greats – like Johnny Bench – and individual achievements – like Tom Browning’s perfect game. A broadcast both allowed fans to make the call on a number of moments in Reds history.

Then came the actual Hall of Fame plaques, which was anticlimactic compared to the rest of the vibrant museum. There were just plaques suspended on wires from floor to ceiling.

Naturally, Seaver is a member. I’m still waiting for the White Sox and Red Sox to extend the honor.

The Hall leads you down a stairway into a gift shop dominated by a massive World Series trophy.

I was so hoping the Mets would do something like this when they opened Citi Field. Of course, they didn’t. But there’s plenty of space in that parking lot for a museum, and it took the Reds several years to get this gem open after the stadium debut.

Maybe the Mets will take care of business in time for Josh to update the book.


Anonymous said...

You know, from that angle, it DOES look like a onesy.



csd said...

I was debating going back to GAB for the Sox series in a couple of weeks. Now that I know this is there I almost have to go. Thanks for the great info! Keep it coming.

Anonymous said...

I'm a card-carrying member of the Reds HOF. I love the place. My sons and there go when we have a day off just to walk around and look at the greatness of it all. The current temp displays are Crosley Field and the Negro Leagues. It's a spectacular museum, and I believe every team should do something similar.

Possibly the reason Seaver isn't honored by the ChiSox and BoSox could be his tenure there. The Reds have a rule that a player has to be with the team for a minimum of 3 years to be considered for induction. I don't think Mr. Terrific spent that much time in either Chicago or Boston.