Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Mets should learn from the Reds' Hall of Fame


Do not believe stories that I misbehaved near the Tom Seaver jersey hanging in the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame when the Baseballtruth.com Executive Board visited a couple weeks ago.

OK, there was an icy glare shot in the direction of a Reds fan who was not, shall we say, showing the proper reverence to the artifact.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Executive Game 7 – we save Roman numerals for the NFL – at the Great American Ballpark was a great success.

The park itself was a lot better than I expected. The yard is still a notch below PNC, but better than Citizens Bank Park in Philly and light years above Comerica Park in Detroit.

It’s not a retro park, like Camden Yards, but similar to Jacobs Field in Cleveland, with lots of white steel. The park overlooks the Ohio River and it was neat to see the paddle boats passing by, as well as the faux boat in centerfield that houses the party suites.

But the absolute jewel of Great America is the Hall of Fame that opened this year. It’s in a free-standing building next to the stadium, and admission is free with your ticket.

A tour should be mandatory for anyone who has a say in planning a Mets museum expected to be in Citi Field when it opens in 2008.

The first thing I saw upon entering is the massive 1976 World Series pennant. If you listened closely, you could still hear the Yankees weeping from the four-game spanking the Big Red Machine dropped on the Bronx that year.

That’s a pretty good start. And then things got better.

The hall’s first temporary exhibit is called “PETE!” and my companions openly speculated it will still be the temporary exhibit when they bring their grand kids to games years from now.

The Queen City appears to be obsessed with Pete Rose, which is something considering he’s not allowed to enter the ballpark without buying a ticket.

And that’s OK with me. We all have our heroes, and sometimes they are flawed.

There was a nice collection of Rose jerseys, bats and balls and his story filled the whole lower level before walking you down a corridor to windows that show the Rose Garden. A white rose bush shows where his record-breaking hit landed.

Then we moved upstairs where things got exciting. Turning a corner we came to a section of outfield wall with a bin of baseball gloves. And not just modern gloves – you could try on a glove from just about any era, even some sweet fingerless models.

The idea, of course, is to pose for photos making spectacular Endy catches, which we did many times over. A few more steps revealed a batting cage, then a pitchers mound where people threw toward a wall with a painting of an umpire.

Embedded in the wall was an umpire’s mask, and from the other side you could look through and decided whether pitches were balls or strikes. I took one off the mask, and it was pretty scary.

And, appropriately, near the pitching cage was the tribute to some of the greatest Reds hurlers. Shining like a beacon to all that is good in life was the glorious Seaver jersey.

We were standing in awe – well, I was standing in awe and my friends humored me by standing by – and a Reds fan walked past, looked at the jersey and said, “Look, it’s a ‘onesy’ like a baby wears.”

“What?”

“Look at the way it’s in the frame. It looks like it has leg holes like a onesy.”

If someone wants to have a little fun at the Rob Dibble display, I’m all for it. But disparaging remarks about the No. 41 hanging there was just unacceptable. He got “the look” then moved along.

After a period of recovery and extended reverence, we moved along to a dugout display, where there was a section of the bench from Riverfront Stadium and a statue of Sparky Anderson leaning on the rail.

Even more life-sized statues were a few feet away, depicting “The Great Eight” celebrating a win, with the three most recent Reds World Series trophies.

There were also displays to assorted Reds greats – like Johnny Bench – and individual achievements – like Tom Browning’s perfect game. A broadcast both allowed fans to make the call on a number of moments in Reds history.

Then came the actual Hall of Fame plaques, which was anticlimactic compared to the rest of the vibrant museum. There were just plaques suspended on wires from floor to ceiling.

Naturally, Seaver is a member. I’m still waiting for the White Sox and Red Sox to extend the honor.

The Hall leads you down a stairway into a gift shop dominated by a massive World Series trophy.

The whole time I walked through I imagined how the Mets could do something like this.

I’m holding out for a spot to make Ron Swoboda catches!

5 comments:

Mike V said...

If it weren't for my new job, I would have been going to the Reds ballpark this year. Alas, not to be.

There is a Mets Hall Of Fame at Shea - I've been there - but I think it's only accessible to Diamond Club members or something. I got in when I was in high school I think when someone gave us tix. Don't remember much about it.

The Mets should retire Willie Mays number. Or at least do something as grand as they are doing for Jackie Robinson at Citi Field. After all, unlike Jackie, Willie did once wear a Mets uniform.

Joe said...

I'm glad you enjoyed GAB. It is the closest ballpark to where I'm at.

I've always had a good time there plus I believe they have the best hotdogs of any ballpark I've ever been to and I've been to 3 or 4 of them so I am pretty much the ultimate authority. I'm glad we can all agree.

Best memory is when i challanged my wife to a race when we they let you run around the bases. You are supposed to walk between 3rd and home but she took my joking seriuosly and started pushing kids over to get to home plate first. I had never seen that side of her before and I had never seen the exit they shoved us out of either.

G-Fafif said...

I was about to make some remark about the Reds honored Seaver but the Mets ignore Mays. Glad Mike V beat me to it.

Dave, don't know how you didn't scrawl INFIDELS in bright red paint over the Seaver plaque. But at least they have good taste in purloined pitchers.

whithamPhotography said...

But, but, Willie was never a legendary member of the Dodgers...

The inaccessibility of the Mets Hall Of Fame is a sore point with me - they had better do a much better job with it in Citi Field...

SteveJRogers said...

Mega dittos (sorry for the Rush Limbaugh lingo there)

This is the same down at Turner Field, which also emcompasses the Braves Boston and Milwaukee days. A bit smaller than what it seems GAB provides, but still provides a great stroll through the history of the team that plays in the ballpark.

Hell, I'll take Monument Park any day over what the Mets have in the closet...errr Diamond Club Lobby!