Hall Of Fame Doesn’t Wait For Artifacts

We all assume that when the World Series is over, some of the significant artifacts from each year’s event will end up at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, at least eventually.

What we don’t think about is how those things get there. I always just assumed it was sort of a divine right that baseball artifacts ended up at the Hall of Fame, but someone has to actually do the work to get those artifacts.

And because the hall has put a greater emphasis in recent years on showcasing contemporary events, officials go on the road during the World Series to gather the items as the story unfolds.

Since 2002, during the World Series that job has fallen to Brad Horn, the Hall of Fame’s senior director of communications and education. “It’s important for us to preserve history when it happens,” Horn said. “And it’s easier to get an item when it happens, rather than waiting 25 years.”

Horn was on the scene when this year’s World Series opened in San Francisco, though he didn’t grab any items after Game One, which turned into an unexpected slugfest after lackluster performances from Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum. Horn said he would have asked for Freddy Sanchez’s bat had Sanchez ended up with four doubles—which would have made him the first player since 1906 to accomplish that feat in a World Series game—but Sanchez ended up with three doubles and a single.

“We try to wait and see the totality of the series, and obviously a lot remains to be written,” Horn said after Game One. “For the first two or three games, we’re really looking at what the storyline could be.

“We also have to weigh the historic value with not taking something away from a guy when he’s hot. We’re looking for themes as opposed to just items.”

In Search Of History

Hall of Fame representatives have traveled to every World Series game since 1990, helping Major League Baseball with the huge public-relations workload of the event in addition to building the next generation of baseball history.

The Hall has several contemporary collections, including one that focuses on the current season and an annual Autumn Glory exhibit that showcases the World Series. The collections emphasize to visitors that history isn’t just the dusty remnants of games played decades ago.

“Visitors come to the Hall expecting to see Mantle, Mays, Ruth and Aaron, but we also want them to see today’s game,” Horn said.

The collections also create increased demand for artifacts, however, so the Hall is always on the lookout. Representatives typically travel only to the World Series or significant milestone games, so when history happens on an otherwise routine night, they get on the phone with their contacts.

So when Roy Halladay pitched the second no-hitter in the Phillies’ National League Division Series matchup against the Reds, Horn talked with the Phillies’ equipment manager after the game, and the Hall of Fame already has Halladay’s jersey on display.

The Hall depends on players’ generosity because all of its items are donated, and most players are excited to contribute. Players now often expect to see someone asking for their bat or jersey after a significant game.

When a Hall of Fame representative approached Joe Carter for his bat after his walkoff home run won the 1993 World Series for the Blue Jays, Carter asked, “Where have you been?” and proudly declared to everyone in the clubhouse, “This bat is headed to Cooperstown!”

Horn said most players have a similar reaction, and his favorite memory is from Derek Lowe, when Horn asked him for his jersey following the 2004 World Series.

“He was really animated, excited but then he said, ‘I’ll be right back,’ ” Horn said. “Then he went and got his mom and dad and said, ‘Tell them what you asked me.’

“There is that sense of disbelief that they have an artifact headed to Cooperstown. Only the very, very best of players ever get enshrined in the Hall of Fame, but it just takes one memorable day at the ballpark to have a piece of history on display at Cooperstown.”  One of the few times Horn has asked for an item in the middle of a series came in 2005, when Scott Podsednik hit a walkoff home run for the White Sox in Game Two as they went on to sweep the Astros.

Like almost every player, Podsednik was happy to contribute and be a part of the Hall of Fame. All the items in the hall’s collections are donated, so players just receive a lifetime pass in exchange for their contributions.

Horn said that some players may want to keep a specific item, so they’ll bargain, keeping their bat but contributing their jersey.