Have you ever stood just outside the main gate of any park, restaurant, graduation ceremony and just knew in your heart that just on the other side of that gate, that door, that entryway – something incredible was about to happen. Or were you someone who pushed through the crowds, flew up doors, and just sprinted in with both feet moving so fast it felt you were flying? Good, this begins to set the emotional stage for me standing in front of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum in Cooperstown, NY. Nearing 50, I stood there armed with all of this baseball knowledge of who I was going to see in terms of exhibits, I had Director Scot Mondore’s RI baseball list, what player’s plaques I would locate, the Boston Red Sox stuff I figured would be in the Hall. The anxious and overexcited kid in me (nearing 50, going on 12) wanted to bust down the doors, sprint around the Hall, take a zillion photos, and completely immerse myself in all of the baseball wonder just 10 feet or so away from me. After a deep breath or two, I decided on a fair split of emotions to satisfy the adult and the kid in me.
Rachel and I entered the Hall and found the ticket area, located just outside the first floor of the museum. As promised, and much appreciated, Scot had left a media packet for me with some brochures and yearbooks from recent Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. And very much appreciated, 2 tickets for entry into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. After chatting with one of the Hall’s first floor attendants, I opened up Scot’s list of Rhode Island baseball teams, players, coaches, and references. A large percentage of the references were on the 2nd floor, so we headed up the stairs to start our tour.
Most people refer to the second baseman who played in this legendary infield for the Los Angeles Dodgers as Davey Lopes, although his card reads “Dave Lopes.” Lopes, from East Providence, RI has a Recreation Center named after him located just past Rhode Island Hospital in Providence.
According to his bio, Lopes graduated from LaSalle Academy and went on to play professionally for 4 teams over 16 seasons. Lopes also coached and managed in Major League Baseball for 25 years. What an amazing baseball career for Davey Lopes spanning 4 decades!
The Providence Greys have tons of references in the Hall, including this one in the Babe Ruth section. Here is Babe pictured with his Greys teammates after a winning pennant run in 1914. In the box score, it shows Babe Ruth recording a home run.
In the photo, sits and stands 9 of the greatest baseball players of all time. Babe Ruth, Tris Speaker, Connie Mack, Cy Young, Honus Wagner, and standing 4th from the left, is Woonsocket’s Napoleon “Nap” Lajoie. The photo was taken June 12, 1939, the day Lajoie was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Some of the oldest artifacts located in the Hall were encased in glass or protected in special drawers, like this medal awarded to the Providence Greys and Jim O’Rourke.
In the “Picturing America’s Pastime” section, I found this photo of the Providence Greys at Messer St Grounds, their baseball home in Providence. The baseball field is long gone if you travel to Messer St in Providence today but this photo lives on in the Hall and in the upcoming book.
If you are at the Hall Museum Shop located on the 1st floor, you can pick up a copy. Or go to www.shop.baseballhall.org to order one!!!
At the old McCoy Stadium, in the vendor sections, you could see tons of references to the Longest professional baseball game ever played between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Redwings. 33 innings, over 2 days and several months with a final score of 3-2, PawSox! Here is the bat used by Dave Koza that produced the winning run batted in.
It’s not too often you can say your physical education teacher played professional baseball. Proud to say I can! Wickford Elementary’s Wilma Briggs played in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League from 1948-1954 and even has a cameo in the famous “League Of Their Own” film.
I have followed the Pawtucket Slaterettes Girls and Womens Baseball Team for several years now. I attended their Opening Day in 2021 and have met and befriended several of the current and former Slaterettes board members. I was so proud to photograph and learn more about the Slaterettes place in the history of baseball, the oldest girls baseball league in the USA!!!
Making my way to the third floor, I stopped to read about Providence’s Lolly Hopkins, aka “Megaphone Lolly.” Lolly was a huge baseball fan who took the train to Boston to watch the Braves (Boston Braves) and Red Sox play. Wow, another Hopkins Baseball connection here in Rhode Island? They are everywhere!!!
Two baseball players from Rhode Island have recorded batting averages over .400 – Nap Lajoie, Woonsocket and Hugh Duffy, Cranston. And these two seasons remain in the record books as two of the highest batting averages in the history of professional baseball.
3,243 career hits for Woonsocket’s Nap Lajoie. At the time this list was compiled and exhibited, Lajoie was #14 all time.
The 3rd Floor had these file drawers filled with baseball cards from the 1800s to more modern times. You just pull out a drawer and there are the cards laid out to see. I pulled this one out to find Cleveland’s Nap Lajoie.
Here are some World Series Results from 1884 to the present. I noticed the Providence Greys were now the Providence Grays in this listing. The Grays or Greys were victorious nonetheless in 1884 by beating the New York Metropolitans 3-0.
In Scot’s email about Rhode Island connections in the Hall, he mentioned “two sculptures (one of Babe Ruth made in 1984, the other of Ted Williams from 1985) carved by Armand LaMontagne of North Scituate, RI. Each was carved from a single piece of laminated basswood.” They were incredible and were located in the hall of plaques on the first floor.
Here is Woonsocket, RI’s Gabby Hartnett.
Here is Cranston, RI’s Hugh Duffy.
Here is Woonsocket, RI’s Napoleon Lajoie.
As you can see, Rhode Island has had a huge impact on professional baseball. From the Pawtucket Slaterettes to Hugh Duffy, the Providence Greys to the longest professional baseball game played, Rhode Island born players, Rhode Island based organizations are part of the rich history of professional baseball dating back to the game’s origins in the late 1800s. I took my time reading all of the captions and studying the photos and just soaking it all in. I was a proud Rhode Island baseball fan walking those 3 floors of baseball history and let anyone who stopped to talk to me know it.
In addition to the Rhode Island connections in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, I took some additional (1,000) photos of really cool and interesting and emotionally charged exhibits which I will share with you in Part 5 of my Trip to Cooperstown series.
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