“I know that the spirit of the whole affair was very much changed after his letter was received,” Smith said, “and published in the local paper.
“So you see our small efforts in the matter, had a great deal of effect and as it turned out I couldn’t have written to you at a more opportune time, and any number of the local people have expressed their appreciation for your part in getting this thing well under way. You may not realize how much help it was, but I can assure you that it meant a good deal.”
By 1935, Stephen C. Clark, a Cooperstown resident and philanthropist, had purchased the “Doubleday Baseball” for $5 and placed it, along with other memorabilia, on exhibit in the Village Club, a building that sits on the corner of Main and Fair streets today. He hoped the exhibit would draw visitors to Cooperstown.
As interest in the exhibit grew, Clark sought support for the establishment of a National Baseball Museum. Ford Frick, then president of the National League, was enthusiastic about the idea and suggested that a “Hall of Fame” be part of the museum complex. With the financial support of Clark, the enthusiasm of the Cooperstown community, and the official backing of organized baseball, plans to build a new museum to house the baseball collection were announced in 1937.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum was officially dedicated in ceremonies on June 12, 1939. Of the 25 immortals that had been elected to the Hall of Fame up to that point, 11 were still living; and all of them journeyed to Cooperstown to attend the centennial celebration.
It was a journey that started with a few far-sighted letters — and a journey that continues today.
Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum