Hall of Justice: David Justice visits Cooperstown

Written by: Matt Kelly

All-Star outfielder, postseason hero makes first trek to Cooperstown

Having played with six Hall of Famers and several possible inductees, former major leaguer David Justice knows what it’s like to be around the best names in baseball.

But Tuesday morning was different. On Tuesday, Justice – who was a three-time All-Star and postseason hero himself – added another memory to his baseball life as he stood among some of the most famous artifacts in the game’s history.

“People have always warned me about how hard it is to find this place and get here,” Justice said about his first visit to Cooperstown. “I'm glad I did it.”

Justice is here this week with his son, D.J., and his San Diego-area little league team that is competing in a tournament at the nearby Cooperstown Dreams Park. Father and son, along with D.J.’s friend Logan, toured the Museum collection and Library archives with Erik Strohl, vice president of exhibitions and collections at the Hall.

Visitors who enroll in the Museum’s VIP Experience enjoy a behind-the-scenes library tour and see artifacts from the collection that are not on display in the Museum. VIP Experience tours can be reserved through select Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce accommodations.

The group began their day at the Hall by seeing some artifacts that Justice was very familiar with: The bat he used to hit a home run – and the game's lone run – of the Atlanta Braves’ decisive Game 6 victory in the 1995 World Series, and the cap he wore during the 2000 World Series as a member of the victorious New York Yankees.

Before holding his bat again for the first time since donating it to the Museum 20 years ago, Justice deferred to D.J., who is old enough now to truly appreciate its significance.

“It means so much more to me to share this with my son,” Justice said. “It’s my first time here at age 49 and he gets to see all this stuff at 13, and that’s so special."

Justice, who once held the major league record with 63 career postseason runs batted in (since surpassed by Bernie Williams and Manny Ramirez), still vividly recalls that night in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium 20 years ago, when he helped deliver the Braves’ first and only championship in Atlanta.

Former All-Star David Justice and his son D.J. tour the World Series room on the Museum's third floor during their visit to Cooperstown on Tuesday. (Milo Stewart, Jr. / National Baseball Hall of Fame)

“I can take myself right back to that home run – the at-bat, what I was thinking, what pitches I had seen prior to it,” he recalled of the home run off Cleveland Indians pitcher Jim Poole in the 6th inning. “Personally, I re-live that memory a lot, because when I run into Braves fans they always want to talk about that home run.”

Along with manager Joe Torre in New York and shortstop Roberto Alomar with the Cleveland Indians, Justice was a teammate to four Hall of Famers from the Braves who have been inducted here in just the last two years. Justice said he has fond memories of all of them, especially Bobby Cox – his “favorite manager of all time” – and Class of 2015 inductee John Smoltz.

“Smoltz is like a brother to me, we go all the way back to the minor leagues together,” said Justice. “I remember we’d follow each other on the highway all the way from Spring Training back to Triple-A, and I’m falling asleep and I’m starting to weave and he’d say to me, ‘Come on man, let’s pull off here and get something to eat.’ I’ll never forget that.”

David, D.J. and Logan continued through the collection, holding Babe Ruth’s bat and a baseball used by the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings – the first all-professional team in history. They then traveled up to see the World Series rings on display on the Museum’s third floor, and finished by looking at the Braves’ locker in the second floor’s Today’s Game exhibit.

“I could spend all day here,” said Justice before departing for D.J.’s game Tuesday afternoon. “I learned so many things about the history of the game that I didn’t know, and just learned how fascinating baseball has been since the beginning.”

Now, as Justice turns his attention to D.J.’s time on the diamond, the visit was a fitting prologue to his own time as a major leaguer.

“You know you’re with some guys that are really good, but none of us ever think about the Hall of Fame when we’re playing,” he said. “I had a blessed career – I was in the playoffs for every year I played – and so to not only play with great guys, but all of these great teams, I can’t ask for a better story.”

Matt Kelly is the communications specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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