Osterhoudt photographs preserved in Hall’s collection

Part of the BASEBALL HISTORY series
Written by: Steven Walters

June 12, 1939 marked the first Hall of Fame Induction ceremony in history. It also marked the first of 71 Induction Ceremonies that Cooperstown resident Homer Osterhoudt would attend.

Though he wasn’t the biggest baseball fan growing up, Osterhoudt documented the day by snapping photos with his camera. He captured Babe Ruth standing at the microphone platform on Main Street, Honus Wagner signing an autograph for a woman and Walter Johnson signing a photograph at the induction platform.

Little did he know that these photos would later be part of history in the Hall of Fame’s collection.

Osterhoudt, born in Oneonta, N.Y. (about 30 minutes from Cooperstown) on Jan. 17, 1918, moved to Cooperstown as a boy. He worked various jobs in the area growing up from caddying to grocery delivering.

As a 19-year-old, Osterhoudt even had a part to play in the creation of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 1937. He worked as a cement mixer for Bedford Construction Co., the company that helped construct the original building, and the cement was used all throughout the building. He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1941 and served until 1945. He received three medals for his service.

Osterhoudt then made his way back to Cooperstown. In 1946, Osterhoudt took a job with the Cooperstown post office served as a mail carrier. He served in that capacity for 34 years, running a 10-mile route each day. After his retirement in 1980, he volunteered in various capacities in his church and in local leadership roles.

The Hall of Fame houses 34 photographs Osterhoudt took from various baseball events. Thirty of Osterhoudt’s photos from that June 12 day are preserved in the Hall of Fame’s collection. He documented all aspects of the induction and the accompanying events, from baseball legends to everyday people.

Osterhoudt captured people coming off the trains in suits and hats to join the centennial celebration of the founding of baseball. The television media were also subjects in his photographs. One photograph depicts seven cameras tightly set up in makeshift scaffolding, a miniscule number compared to the number of media members and cameras present at recent celebrations.

On the parade side, Osterhoudt captured baseball players walking down Main Street with spectators observing from the sidewalks and even the ledge of a building. Another image features what seems to be a high school marching band dressed in white uniforms making their way down Main Street in the centennial parade.

At the baseball game played at Doubleday Field, he captured the bleachers of Doubleday with not a person in sight. He then showed Johnny Vander Meer pitching in the Hall of Fame Game with a sea of spectators in the background.

After attending that first induction ceremony in 1939, Osterhoudt attended all but three of the ceremonies dating up to 2017. The only three he missed were due to serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps.

At recent inductions, Osterhoudt showcased a photo from the first induction, though it was not taken by him. A photo of the inductees on the stage in 1939, accompanied by the words “I was at the First Induction,” hung around his neck for him to proudly display. Pictured in the photo are Ruth, Wagner and other inductees among a large crowd of hats and suited people outside the Museum.

After celebrating his 100th birthday on Jan. 14, Osterhoudt passed away on June 30, 2018 in Cooperstown.

Steven Walters is the 2018 public relations intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development

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Part of the BASEBALL HISTORY series