By ERIC AHLQVIST
The Baseball Hall of Fame turns 69 today, and will host its final Hall of Fame Game on Monday, and no one has been more of a fixture at those games than Cooperstown’s Homer Osterhoudt.
Osterhoudt was a 21-year-old laborer on June 12, 1939, when the Hall of Fame officially opened and held its first Induction Ceremony, which was followed by an exhibition game featuring 31 National and American League stars. The first class of electees included baseball immortals Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson.
``I wasn’t really a baseball fan until that day,’’ said Osterhoudt, an amateur photographer who always carried his camera with him.
``The games gave us a chance to get to know the players and I really enjoyed watching them in action. The players used to dress at the Clark gym, which was on Main St., and then they’d walk around town and talk with people.’’
Howard Talbot, who was just out of high school in 1939 and would later be president of the Hall of Fame, said ``I would say it was the biggest event in Otsego County history to that date.’’
Catherine Walker, a lifelong Cooperstown resident who was eight-years-old in 1939, said Ruth was the main attraction.
``In those days the players would get off the train and walk to Main Street, and when Babe Ruth came walking through all the children just gravitated toward him,’’ recalled Walker, who after retiring from teaching has worked at the Hall as a greeter for a number of years. ``I remember my brother had this old brownie camera, and he was mad because he had to carry Ruth’s suitcase so he didn’t get any photos.’’
But Osterhoudt did, taking several photos of the Bambino as he strolled down Main Street and also on Doubleday Field posing with Mathewson and Johnson. ``It’s a lot different now when they bus them right to the entrance of the field,’’ he said.
By ERIC AHLQVIST
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