World Series Glory Awaits

By the start of the 1970 World Series, Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson was already a 10-time Gold Glove Award winner who appeared headed for Cooperstown.

But for six days that October, the Baltimore hero stepped onto the national stage like never before. And by the time the O’s had defeated the Reds for the title, Robinson was a legend.

The postseason never disappoints.

Robinson’s story – and countless others – are preserved forever at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum through artifacts and photos. It happens every year as players and teams generously donate items to the Museum, knowing Cooperstown is where heroes live throughout time.

Robinson used his glove – which he gave to the Museum in 1971 – for several spectacular plays during that 1970 World Series, robbing Reds batters of hits with his lightning-fast reflexes and uncannily accurate throws. But it was a Game 1 gem – where Robinson ranged into Riverfront Stadium foul territory to rob Lee May of a double in a 3-3 game – that, for many, is the ever-lasting image of Robinson’s greatness.

The Museum’s “Autumn Glory” exhibit features several of these iconic artifacts, with many more displayed throughout the Museum. Take the Cardinals, for example: From Grover Cleveland Alexander’s jersey from the 1926 World Series (where he saved Game 7 with his improbable strikeout of Tony Lazzeri) to Albert Pujols’ spikes from his three-home run game against the Rangers in 2011, artifacts allow fans to relive moments that defined some of the greatest teams of all-time.

Giants-Royals World Series

The 2014 National League Champion San Francisco Giants have a modern-era postseason history that dates back to 1905 when the New York Giants played in the second-ever World Series against the Philadelphia Athletics. The Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958 and won their first World Series in California in 2010 – following that with another title in 2012.

From shirts, caps and spikes from Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, respectively, from 2010 to a jacket worn by manager Bruce Bochy in 2012, the Giants’ recent run of success is featured throughout the Museum. Will they add another chapter in this World Series?

Standing in the Giants’ way of a third title in five years are the Kansas City Royals, who are back in the World Series for the first time since 1985. The Royals return to the postseason in 2014 has thrilled the fan base of a team that – for a decade in the late 1970s and early 1980s – was the picture of consistency. From 1976 through 1985, the Royals qualified for the postseason in seven of 10 seasons, winning the 1980 American League pennant and capturing the World Series title in 1985.

George Brett of the Kansas City Royals bats during the 1985 World Series - BL-539-2003 (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

Future Hall of Famer George Brett powered those teams, and Brett – who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1999 – donated several artifacts to the Museum, including a bat he used during the 1985 ALCS and World Series.

With artifacts like a fielder’s glove used by All-Star second baseman Frank White to the bat Willie Mays Aikens used to hit four home runs in the 1980 World Series, the story of the Royals’ consistent excellence can be told in Cooperstown for generations to come.

A number of players from the Royals and Giants 2014 World Series teams have donated artifacts to Cooperstown from feats throughout their career.

The 2014 veteran Giants squad features 10 players – along with Bochy – who have donated items to Cooperstown. Two previous World Series titles have contributed to the large number of artifacts representing the San Francisco bunch.

Though the Royals feature far-less postseason experience, three Kansas City players have items in Cooperstown from feats in their career including manager Ned Yost's jersey in honor of becoming the first manager ever to start his post-season career with an 8-0 record.

As the first World Series to feature the Royals and Giants, more history awaits and artifacts are sure to follow. Just one of the storylines already on tap: If he makes an appearance in the series, Royals rookie left-hander Brandon Finnegan would be the first player ever to appear in the College World Series and the MLB World Series in the same year, as the Texas Christian University grad pitched for the Horned Frogs in Omaha in June.

Stories Behind the Artifacts

When the celebration concludes and a 2014 champion is crowned, the artifact collection will begin. Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson and Vice President Brad Horn have combined to handle artifact acquisition duties for the Museum for the last 20 years. The stories behind the artifacts are often as celebratory as the moments themselves.

The challenge for Idelson and Horn: Seek donations of artifacts from key moment and milestones in the Series so that the Museum’s curators and exhibits teams can tell the story through artifacts and ephemera. Idelson and Horn target 8-10 storylines that can be represented through artifacts. Sometimes the stories unfold in-Series. Often, the story begins when the last game ends. The result is always a compelling tribute to each year’s World Champion as part of the “Autumn Glory” exhibit.

Over the years, players have donated artifacts generously to the Museum, not just from post-season excellence but in commemoration of regular-season achievements and accomplishments. The generosity of the players, along with the cooperation of Major League Baseball and its teams, makes possible the collection of items that tell the story of baseball greatness.

Throughout the years, players have embraced the moment – and shared in the excitement – upon learning of an item’s potential place in history, in perpetuity, at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In 2004, after the Boston Red Sox ended the 86-year Championship drought felt throughout New England, pitcher Derek Lowe – who became the first pitcher to win three clinching games in a single post-season – was approached by Horn to consider the donation of his jersey to Cooperstown. An elated Lowe told Horn, “Wait, just wait, Brad.” Upon his return after a few minutes, Lowe returned and said, “Brad, meet my mom and dad. Now, tell them what you just told me?”

Even in moments of pure elation, Cooperstown stands above them all.

The stories change every fall, but the memories remain forever at the home of baseball.

World Series Heroes Become Hall of Famers

“World Series Champion” is a title that many players treasure more than any other achievement. It’s the reason they play the game, they say.

But later in life, sometimes another honor awaits: Election to the Hall of Fame.

For many World Series heroes, a place in Cooperstown trumps even the sweet success of winning it all. Those who win both the World Series and earn election to the Hall of Fame are perhaps among the most charmed to have ever worn a uniform.

Amazingly, 50 Hall of Fame players did not appear in a World Series. Of those, 23 played prior to the first Fall Classic in 1903, with the other 27 featuring some of the sport’s biggest names. 2014 inductee Frank Thomas didn’t play in 2005 when his Chicago White Sox won it all. Andre Dawson, Phil Niekro, Rod Carew, Ernie Banks, Ryne Sandberg, Billy Williams, Jim Bunning, Fergie Jenkins and Gaylord Perry are the other living members of the Hall of Fame who never played in a World Series game.

And then there are World Series MVPs who have earned a spot in Cooperstown. Series MVP was first presented in 1955 (when pitcher Johnny Podres was the winner with his fantastic Game 7 2-0 shutout to give the Brooklyn Dodgers their lone title). Though Podres is not in the Hall of Fame, there have been 13 World Series Most Valuable Players elected to Cooperstown, with Sandy Koufax (1963 and 1965), Bob Gibson (1964 and 1967) and Reggie Jackson (1973 and 1977) each two-time Series MVPs. The others: Whitey Ford (1961), Frank Robinson (1966), Brooks Robinson (1970), Roberto Clemente (1971), Rollie Fingers (1974), Johnny Bench (1976), Willie Stargell (1979), Mike Schmidt (1980), Paul Molitor (1993) and 2014 Hall of Fame inductee Tom Glavine (1995).

The 2014 World Series is upon us. Who will create an historic moment that will live on forever? Who will total an MVP performance? And will that player one day make it to Cooperstown? These are all storylines that will unfold over the next week.

When the celebration begins, so too does the preservation of this moment, forever.