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Hall of Fame

July 25, 2013

A look back at how Cooperstown became a baseball Mecca

The Babe took the spotlight in 1939


The day’s events continued that afternoon with a four-block parade down a flag-and-bunting-decorated Main Street to Doubleday Field, where a pageant, the “Cavalcade of Baseball,” was held. It began with demonstrators appropriately dressed showing how the game evolved from its town ball beginnings in the 1830s to the days of its first organized teams in the 1850s and concluded with a game played between the current stars of the game.

With the 16 big league parks closed for the day and each club represented by two players, Hall of Famers Wagner and Collins chose up sides using the hand-over-bat method of getting the first selection. “I don’t know about the other fellows, but I’m playing for keeps, to win,” Wagner was heard to say before the game. “I’m not playing for marbles.”

The two Hall of Famers picked their teams from among such future inductees as Dizzy Dean, Mel Ott, Hank Greenberg, Lloyd Waner, Charlie Gehringer, Billy Herman, Arky Vaughan, Joe Medwick and Lefty Grove. Other participants of note included Stan Hack, Cecil Travis, Johnny Vander Meer, Wally Moses, Terry Moore, Moe Berg, Muddy Ruel and Cookie Lavagetto.

“It was quite something that here in Cooperstown we could see some of the heroes of baseball and were able to say ‘hi’ to them,” said Homer Osterhoudt, who as a 21-year-old documented the day’s activities with about 50 photographs that are now part of the museum’s permanent collection.

And while the Wagners would come away with a 4-2 triumph over the Collins team, it was the dramatic “comeback” of Ruth, pinch hitting for Danny MacFayden against Syl Johnson in the bottom of the fifth inning, that is most remembered.

“The Glimmerglass,” Cooperstown’s summer daily newspaper, reported that, “Everyone was pulling for the Babe to pump one into the stands but the best the Bambino could do was pop a two-two pitch up the first base line which (catcher Art) Jorgens caught. The Babe returned to his place in the dugout with the cheers of the fans still ringing in his ears.”

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