Harold Baines tours Hall of Fame during Orientation Visit
The honor may not have changed Baines’ outlook, but the change in surroundings was not lost on the Windy City slugging legend, who spent 14 of his 22 big league seasons calling Chicago’s South Side home as a member of the White Sox.
The Museum in Cooperstown features more than 50,000 square feet of exhibits devoted to the National Pastime.
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But Baines has also contemplated standing on stage this summer with dozens of Hall of Famers seated behind him, tens of thousands in the crowd, and a national audience watching on television.
“I’ve played in front of 50,000 fans, but standing in front of a mic trying to speak … I can hit a 100-miles-an-hour fastball, but standing in front of crowd, I have to be honest, is going to be tough,” Baines said. “But like they say, this too shall pass.”
The Museum tour, given by Erik Strohl, the Hall of Fame’s Vice President of Exhibitions and Collections, began in the 19th century baseball exhibit, Taking the Field, where Baines leaned down to check out the three-dimensional images on a stereoscope.
Making sure to examine the exhibit of fellow Maryland native Babe Ruth, Baines also toured Pride and Passion, remarking “Strong man” when passing a Jackie Robinson photo.
Along the way, Baines made a point of looking at artifacts of fellow White Sox Hall of Famers, whether it be a Luis Aparicio jersey or an Al Lopez pair of spikes. Baines also saw a pair of shorts the White Sox players wore for a few games in the 1970s.
A final tour stop was in the collections facility, where Baines could hold Joe Morgan’s cleats, a Roberto Clemente cap and a Willie Mays bat (“Where do you find this stuff?” a surprised Baines said a few times). Shown a Randy Johnson glove, Baines exclaimed, “That was usually my day off when he was pitching.”
Some special artifacts pulled especially for Baines included a Tony La Russa cap (“He taught me how to play the game correctly”), Tom Seaver spikes (“The way he could drive the ball through the zone was very impressive”) and a Carlton Fisk catcher’s mask (“He was an example. I learned from that example”).
Baines was also reunited with a bat he generously donated 35 years ago. The Hall of Famer used it on May 9, 1984, to hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 25th inning in the longest game in American League history, a 7-6 win for the White Sox over Milwaukee.
“That got here first,” Baines recalled, “but now I’m fortunate enough to be here with it.”
The six newest members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame will take their permanent place in Cooperstown on Sunday, July 21, with the ceremony beginning at 1:30 p.m. EDT – televised live on MLB Network, highlighting four days of celebratory events and programs for baseball fans of all ages, as part of Hall of Fame Weekend 2019, July 19-22.
Hall of Fame Weekend 2019 will also feature the Saturday, July 20, Awards Presentation, when J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Jayson Stark and Ford. C. Frick Award winner Al Helfer will be honored. The Weekend will include family programming for baseball fans of all ages, including the July 20 Parade of Legends and a July 22 Legends of the Game roundtable discussion event with the five living inductees.
Bill Francis is the senior research and writing specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum