One for the Books exhibit opens to rave reviews from fans, Hall of Famers
With three of the game's greatest players on hand, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum's newest exhibit, One for the Books: Baseball Records and the Stories Behind Them, opened to the public on Saturday.
Beforehand, a ribbon cutting took place in which Hall of Fame officials as well as enshrinees Joe Morgan, Phil Niekro and Cal Ripken Jr., a trio that combined played 67 big league seasons and had its share of records, joined in the festivities.
"It just blows your mind away when you come up here and see the names behind the records and the second guy and the third and the fourth," said Niekro minutes after the opening. "I've always said that records were made to be broken; some of them have and some of them will not be.
"Records, for me, really don't come into play as you're playing your career until you get right next to one, and all of a sudden it becomes real big."
As for those records that will never be broken, Niekro put Ripken's consecutive games played streak at the top of the list.
Nearby Niekro was Ripken, talking in front of an exhibit case that included a helmet, tickets and a scoresheet from the night when his amazing consecutive games played streak surpassed Lou Gehrig's.
"Once the streak was formed, I tried to keep the same exact approach to the game after that. I was resilient enough, I was healthy enough, mentally I was strong enough to do it, and the managers kept choosing me," Ripken said. "I don't look at the streak as an unbreakable record. If I could do it, certainly somebody else has that ability. And it happens not because you're obsessed with it but because you feel you should be coming to the ballpark ready to play. You should be trying to meet the challenges of each and every day. That's what a team does.
"Every body wants to fulfill a dream in whatever they do. Mine was to be a baseball player. You fulfill a dream by first making it, and then after you're in it you'd like to leave your mark in some way as a contribution to the sport," Ripken added. "Being celebrated here in this Hall of Fame exhibit is part of that mark. But I've got to tell you, it's surreal in many ways and almost seems like, 'Did that part of my life really happen? Did I play all those games?'"
According to Morgan, he was both thrilled to be there and amazed by some of the numbers.
"I didn't realize that so many guys hit four home runs in a game. And I wasn't aware that a couple guys stole seven bases in a game. This just tells you about a lot of things that we just weren't aware of," Morgan said. "Honestly, I didn't realize I was second to (Hall of Famer) Eddie Collins as far as games played by a second baseman. There are a lot of things in here that are going to open people's eyes that they probably didn't know about. For me, already, it's been enlightening.
"You grow up and the numbers you remember are 714, 61, 56, but obviously some of those numbers have changed now, but Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak is still there," Morgan added. "I was with Pete Rose when he got to 44 consecutive games and I actually thought Pete was going to make it. When Pete set his sights on something, he usually accomplished it."
Thanks to the generosity of Presenting Sponsor Legendary Pictures, along with its founder Thomas Tull, the exhibit is the most interactive in the Museum's history – featuring the Top Ten Tower, a database of records dating back to the game's infancy.
"This is truly awe-inspiring," Tull said. "The exhibit, when you hear the pitch, when you hear what it's going to be, it sounds really great, but it pales in comparison, frankly, to the presentation, the artifacts that are here, it's just truly awe-inspiring."
From Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson came only high praise for those that played a part in the institution's latest prize destination.
"When I first saw the exhibit, I thought how lucky are we to have the most professional, the most dedicated, the most outstanding staff I've worked with here at the Hall of Fame," Idelson said. "From the curators to the designers to the research team to the development office to raise the funds, to the maintenance staff that keeps it looking great, top to bottom, across the board, this staff knows how to put together a world class exhibit.
"And the exhibit truly captures the essence of what baseball records are all about. Not only are the artifacts there to tell the story, but the stories about those records are put into their proper historical context so you understand why records were set, how records were set, what the conditions were."
Bill Francis is a library associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum