March Matinee: Meet Hoops Heroes Who Call Cooperstown Home

While in Central New York for basketball, experience National Baseball Hall of Fame

(COOPERSTOWN, NY) – With college basketball tournaments filling the minds of sports fans across Central New York over the next week, a short drive to Cooperstown provides the ideal opportunity to experience the history and majesty of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, in the shadows of two of the region’s iconic arenas.

Starting Friday and continuing through Monday, the four teams comprising the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments will invade Syracuse University’s Carrier Dome and Albany’s Times-Union Center, respectively. Louisville, North Carolina State, Michigan State and Oklahoma comprise the four men’s teams participating in the East Regional in Syracuse on Friday and Sunday, while Dayton, Texas and the winners of tonight’s UConn/Rutgers and South Florida/Louisville games will play on Saturday and Monday in Albany.

The Museum’s collections feature many basketball-related artifacts, including a bat Michael Jordan used with the Double-A Birmingham Barons in 1994 and a bat used by Dave Winfield – the only Hall of Famer who also played in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament – to hit his 400th career home run.

Winfield played two seasons of varsity basketball for the University of Minnesota and appeared in the Golden Gophers’ 1972 NCAA Tournament game, the school’s first appearance in the “big dance.”

Other Hall of Famers who shined on the collegiate hardwood include:

• Walter Alston, who won three varsity letters in basketball at Miami University of Ohio
• Lou Boudreau, who played two varsity seasons for the University of Illinois and led the Big 10 co-champion Illini in scoring in 1936-37 at 8.7 points per game
• Happy Chandler, who captained the Transylvania University team in 1920-21
• Mickey Cochrane, who played basketball for Boston University
• Earle Combs, who captained his Eastern Kentucky State Normal (now Eastern Kentucky) team for three seasons
• Larry Doby, who played for Virginia Union in 1943 before entering the Navy
• Rick Ferrell, who played for Guilford (N.C.) College
• Frankie Frisch, who captained the Fordham University team
• Bob Gibson, who averaged 20.2 points per game in three seasons at Creighton University in the 1950s
• Tony Gwynn, who averaged 8.6 points and 5.5 assists per game for San Diego State before being drafted by the NBA’s San Diego Clippers in the 10th round in 1981
• Monte Irvin, who played for Lincoln (Pa.) University in the late 1930s
• Sandy Koufax, who averaged 9.7 points per game for the University of Cincinnati’s freshman team in 1953-54
• Ted Lyons, who earned four letters and two All-Southwest Conference first-team honors for Baylor University from 1919-23
• Christy Mathewson, who played basketball, baseball and football for Bucknell University at the turn of the 20th century
• Eppa Rixey, who earned two varsity letters in basketball at the University of Virginia in the second decade of the 20th century
• Robin Roberts, who averaged nearly 10 points per game for Michigan State from 1944-47
• Jackie Robinson, who led the Pacific Coast Conference in scoring in both of his seasons at UCLA from 1939-41

The 6-foot-6 Winfield, elected in 2001, had been the tallest Hall of Famer until this year, when 6-foot-10 Randy Johnson was elected as a member of the Class of 2015. Johnson joins Craig Biggio, Pedro Martínez and John Smoltz as members of the Class of 2015, which will be inducted during the July 24-27 Hall of Fame Weekend in Cooperstown.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is about 80 miles from Albany via Interstate 90 west to Interstate 88, then north on Route 28 into Cooperstown. The Hall of Fame is located just 90 miles from Syracuse, a short drive east on Interstate 90 to Exit 30 and then south on Route 28.