Lap Around Cooperstown

Former NASCAR driver Rusty Wallace visited the Baseball Hall of Fame Thursday

August 05, 2010
Rusty Wallace checks out Ozzie Smith's hat from the 1996 All-Star Game in the Hall of Fame archives. (Craig Muder/National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

By Craig Muder and Samantha Carr

View a photo gallery of Rusty Wallace's visit

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – During his Induction speech in July, Whitey Herzog explained that leading up to his special day, people would ask him what it feels like to be a Hall of Famer – and he couldn’t tell them until it actually happened.

Less than two weeks later in Cooperstown, potential NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace – himself a fan of Herzog’s Cardinals – knew exactly how Herzog felt.

“I’d love to be inducted some day if that ever happens. But to ask me what that would feel like – I won’t know until it happens,” he said. “I hope it happens, but there are a lot of drivers that deserve it more than me that drove before my time. I am sure I would be so honored and so humbled at the same time.”

Wallace, owner of 55 career Sprint Cup victories and the 1989 Cup title, toured the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Thursday. Wallace, a Nationwide Series car owner and ESPN NASCAR analyst, stopped by Cooperstown on Thursday as part of his weekend in Upstate New York. On Saturday and Sunday, NASCAR stops at Watkins Glen International – just a stone's throw from Cooperstown.

"Not a bad way to spend a day off," said Wallace as he toured the Museum's Giamatti Research Center.

But it was about to get better.

Wallace and his group, which included Ed Laukes and David Wilson from Toyota – which sponsor Wallace's Nationwide Series cars – soon headed for the Museum's archive, getting a peak at some items not currently on display, like a No. 2 jersey from former St. Louis Cardinals' manager and Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst.

"No. 2 was pretty good to me," said Wallace, a St. Louis native who drove with the No. 2 emblazoned on his car. "This stuff is so great. I can believe we're looking at something so old."

The NASCAR Hall of Fame opened its doors in Charlotte, N.C., this spring – almost 71 years after the Baseball Hall of Fame opened in Cooperstown. NASCAR officials made several visits to Cooperstown over the last few years to research the layout and design of the world's most famous Hall of Fame.

“Today in the archives, I was looking for the illegal stuff in the Hall of Fame,” Wallace joked. “I didn’t see anything illegal, but a lot of special things. When you go to the NASCAR Hall of Fame archives, you see a lot of illegal things – ways guys tried to stretch the rules with motors and things.”

Wallace’s white and green Kodiak car that he won so many races in is on display on the first floor of the NASCAR Hall of Fame and is one of the first things visitors see upon entering. He hopes it will be preserved as well as some of the artifacts in Cooperstown for his fans to see years from now.

“It was a real educational experience for me. There was a real wow factor when I walked in and it is fun to compare it to our new NASCAR Hall of Fame,” he said. “Being in the Plaque Gallery and seeing all the greats of the game made me think of all our wonderful drivers.”

Craig Muder is the director of communications and Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.