KC Voices: How KC is reflected in the halls of Cooperstown
We’ve been asking members of the KC community to submit stories about their thoughts and experiences in all walks of life. If you’ve got a story you’d like to share with our readers, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration. Today, local lawyer John A. Christiansen shares a recent trip to Cooperstown and how KC sees itself reflected in the official halls of baseball history.
I recently had the highly enjoyable experience of visiting the village of Cooperstown in central New York state.
As home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, it is a mecca for fans of the sport. It is really just a village, rather than a town or city, and was established in 1786 by the father of the famous author, James Fenimore Cooper. The area is very scenic and sits at the foothills of the Catskill Mountains with the gorgeous glacially-formed Lake Otsego which stretches approximately eight miles from north to south just to the north of it. Cooperstown sits at the southern end of this gorgeous lake.
As a life-long resident of Kansas City, I paid special attention to anything involving our city and teams, current and former. Prior to entering the doors of the Hall of Fame and Museum, I was pleased to see photos outside depicting the 2022 inductees, which of course included the warmly wonderful Buck O’Neil. The honor was very overdue, but still it happened, and I can’t imagine Buck would have complained about the delinquency one iota. There was also a bronze statue of him inside the museum, in which he was looking very dapper in a suit and tie.
As the Royals have only one former player who was inducted as a Royal (i.e., denoted by the cap logo on their bronze plaque), it’s no surprise that numerous other teams are represented vastly more than the Royals. The Monarchs were well represented of course with photos and other memorabilia featuring Satchel Paige and Cool Papa Bell, etc. One photo depicted a St. Louis team from the Negro Leagues on a field that had been verified as being in Kansas City, Missouri.
One section was devoted to baseball parks and posed the question of what qualifies as uniqueness, whether it be ivy, fountains, or a warehouse. Kauffman Stadium received recognition with a beautiful photo of the water spectacular reflecting the “City of Fountains.” One hopes that photo or an updated version of it remains for many years to come.
Another section of the museum contained what I will describe as the locker section, that is to say, behind a glass barrier it had one locker for each of the current MLB teams with gloves, bats, caps, uniforms and other accoutrements of the game. Rather than displaying those that had belonged to a member of the Hall of Fame, each locker featured items from current or recent players of the team. The Royal’s locker featured, among other items, the helmet worn by Whit Merrifield throughout the 2019 season, and noted that he had “tallied 206 hits, leading the big leagues in that statistic for the second year in a row.” As of the time of this writing, Merrifield has a batting average of .287 and an on-base-percentage of .347 with the Toronto Blue Jays. Too bad he’s no longer with the Royals; we desperately need him.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame, founded in 1939, is an independent nonprofit educational institution. It seeks to deepen people’s understanding of baseball and the significance of it in American culture. In this effort, it has the Campaign to Preserve America’s Pastime. I was pleased to see that David Glass and family were noted as significant financial contributors to it.
The first floor of the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is perhaps the most famous as it contains the Hall of Fame plaques of all the inductees. Each plaque has an engraving of the face of the player, usually wearing a baseball cap, some of which have a team emblem and some of which do not. It then states the full name of the person, their team(s) and a brief glowing description of what earned this high honor and sometimes their nickname, such as “Mr. October” for Reggie Jackson or “The Say Hey Kid” for Willie Mays. Among the plaques of course was that of George Howard Brett, which I thought failed to capture his natural good looks, but which nicely described his “ceaseless intensity and unbridled passion” and noted his reputation as a “clutch hitter.” I can’t help but mention one other man from Kansas City who is in the Hall of Fame. His name was Charles Dillon Stengel, but he was known and nicknamed as “Casey” due to being from here. Yes, the great manager of the Yankees (he was also a quality MLB player) was born and raised in Kansas City and graduated from Central High School.
If you’re a baseball fan and get the opportunity to visit this region, I highly recommend visiting Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Hopefully, Zack Greinke is an inductee in the not too distant future.