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June 19, 2014

Attendees from '39 remember opening

To help mark the 75th birthday of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Hall turned to three people who were in Cooperstown when the site officially opened in 1939.

The museum held a program titled “Memories of 1939” in the Bullpen Theater on June 12. The program featured Homer Osterhoudt, Catherine Walker and Howard Talbot, all of whom were at the Hall’s grand opening that year.

The program also featured the museum’s curator emeritus, Ted Spencer, and was moderated by Bruce Markusen, manager of digital and outreach learning at the Hall. The theater was filled beyond capacity.

Markusen began the event by pointing some other notable facts about 1939, including Franklin Delano Roosevelt being president, “The Grapes of Wrath” being first published, baseball player Lou Gehrig choosing to end his consecutive-games-played streak and Amelia Earhart officially being declared dead after disappearing while trying to fly around the world in 1937. He then turned to Osterhoudt, Walker and Talbot, for their recollections on the Hall’s grand opening.

Osterhoudt, 96, was the oldest panelist. He said he worked as a laborer in 1937 during the Hall’s construction and has attended 66 of 69 inductions.

On the day of the Hall’s official opening, Osterhoudt said that he spent much of the time with his camera taking pictures. The 11 living members of the Hall of Fame attended the ceremony, and Osterhoudt took pictures of a number of them throughout the day, including Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner.

“A lot of the pictures that I took (were) close up,” said Osterhoudt, adding that at one point he parked himself in front of the platform where the dignitaries gathered.

Pictures that Osterhoudt took at the opening are in the Hall’s collection.

Talbot, 89, was 14 years old at the time of the opening. One memory of the day that he shared was of Hall of Famer Ty Cobb’s arrival, after Cobb had missed the opening ceremony. Cobb claimed to have gotten food poisoning in Utica.

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