Now that baseball season is back in full swing, here are seven museums that celebrate the sport. Each offers a different perspective on America’s national pastime. So before the ballgame, take me out to the museum.
The holy ground for baseball fans is undoubtedly the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, which opened its doors 80 years ago in June. The iconic museum can be found on Main Street in picturesque Cooperstown, about 200 miles northwest of New York City.
The museum showcases thousands of artifacts, such as gloves and uniforms. “Shoebox Treasures,” its latest exhibit. You can see more than 2,000 baseball cards, spin a bicycle wheel with cards in its spokes and make virtual baseball cards. That display opens May 25 on the museum’s third floor.
Info: National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum baseballhall.org
Kansas City, Mo.
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City honors the history of African American baseball and its impact on the game as well as the social advancement of America. The museum operates two blocks from the Paseo YMCA, where Andrew “Rube” Foster established the Negro National League in 1920. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Besides exhibits, such as its upcoming “Barrier Breaker” display, the museum hosts a variety of events. Those scheduled for this month include “Jazz & Jackie,” which combines jazz music with a salute to baseball legend Jackie Robinson followed the next day with a free screening of the acclaimed documentary “The Other Boys of Summer.”
Info: Negro Leagues Baseball Museum nlbm.com
The Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, which is in its namesake city, is hard to miss: It’s the building with the 120-foot-tall bat leaning against it. “The Big Bat,” as it’s known, is an exact-scale replica of Babe Ruth’s 34-inch Louisville Slugger.
Inside, pose for a photo on “The Big Glove,” a 17-ton sculpture handcrafted from Kentucky limestone.
The museum — on Louisville’s historic West Street — offers guided factory tours (which include receiving a miniature Louisville Slugger bat). You can also see thousands of signatures from players who have signed contracts with Louisville Slugger to promote the bat, and you can visit its storied Bat Vault featuring the clubs swung by baseball legends, including Ted Williams.
Info: Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory sluggermuseum.com
►You can find that 68,000-pound replica of Ruth’s bat in Louisville, but it’s Baltimore that’s home to the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, which is within walking distance of Camden Yards, where the Baltimore Orioles play. Visitors can see the bedroom where Ruth was born along with several displays about his legendary life. Just recently, a rare scorecard from the game in which Ruth became the first to hit 60 home runs in a season — played Sept. 30, 1927 — was put on display.
Info: Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum baberuthmuseum.org
►The Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center on the campus of Montclair State University in Little Falls, N.J. Berra was actually a native of St. Louis, but spent his professional baseball career in New York, signing a minor league contract with the Yankees in 1942. He then served in the U.S. Navy from 1943-46 and joined the club after his military service. After an outstanding career with the Yankees, he coached them, was fired, coached and managed the Mets, then returned to the Yankees as a coach and manager before he was ultimately fired again.
The museum is home to a permanent collection of photographs and artifacts that document his legacy.
Info: Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center yogiberramuseum.org
►The Roger Maris Museum at the West Acres Shopping Center in Fargo, N.D., about 235 miles northwest of Minneapolis. Maris, who was born in Hibbing, Minn., spent time in Irvine, then moved with his family to Fargo. He played for the Cleveland Indians, the Kansas City Athletics, the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1961, he slugged a then-record 61 homers, exceed only by three players, all of whom played in the steroid era. Many consider his 61 to be the legitimate record.
His museum includes a video room for watching historic footage while sitting on actual Yankee Stadium seats from the Maris era.
Info: Roger Maris Museum, bit.ly/marismuseum
South Williamsport, Pa.
Even the greats have to start somewhere. The World of Little League Museum in South Williamsport, Penn., about 180 miles northwest of Philadelphia, features educational displays and interactive exhibits that aim to tell the story of Little League. The Little League Hall of excellence showcases “graduates” that include not only professional athletes but also politicians, entertainers and everyday heroes.
One of the museum’s top attractions is the Global Connections Touch Table, where the public can access information on more than 750 Little League programs worldwide. Museum visitors click on a state or country on the map and scroll through the leagues in that area. Members of local Little League programs can share their photos with the project by visiting the Touch Table.
Info: World of Little League Museum bit.ly/worldoflittleleaguemuseum