The Writing on the Plaque

Lou Brock postcard from the Hall of Fame

I’ve been to Cooperstown twice. It’s a great place, but like most enterprises of its type it has a store. Of course there’s going to be crass commercialization and the stuff will be overpriced. One of the cheaper items is the postcard collection. These are 4×6 standard sized postcards with a picture of the player’s plaque in the Hall of Fame hall. They’re 50 cents each so you can get 20 for $10 (plus tax). I picked up some and was looking them over the other day. That led to this post.

The one above is the card for Lou Brock. It’s kind of hard to read at this size, but it basically says he has the record for most stolen bases in a season and for a career. One of the things I noticed was that you can almost always tell when a player was inducted into the Hall of Fame by reading the plaque. Older plaques tend to be shorter and a bit more vague (that’s not universally true). There’s a lot more emphasis on batting average in the older ones and more on wins and losses by pitchers (again not true every time).

The Brock card struck me because it’s no longer true. Brock holds neither the seasonal nor career stolen base record. They both belong to Rickey Henderson. Of course Henderson’s plaque notes that he now holds both records. And I decided that it was fine to show both men as record holders because it does two things that, to me, are important.

Rickey Henderson postcard from the Hall of Fame

First, it shows the upward progression of the stolen base record and thus celebrates both players and their achievement. And before you ask, Billy Hamilton’s plaque also gives him credit for both records. So by simply reading these plaques you can follow the stolen base record, both seasonal and career, from the 1890s into the 21st Century.

“Slidin'” Billy Hamilton postcard from the Hall of Fame

Second, I think a lot of people who simply look over the Hall of Fame list wonder “What the heck is he doing here?” I know I do and will continue to do so because there are several questionable inductees. But sometimes the plaque tells you exactly why the guy is in the Hall of Fame because it makes a point of giving you information that was, when the player was chosen, critical to his election. So when someone asks why Billy Hamilton is in the Hall of Fame (and I suppose there are a lot of visitors who know nothing about 19th Century base ball–correct spelling in the 19th Century) you can read that the Hall decided that the man who had more stolen bases than anyone else ought to be in the Hall of Fame. When you get to Lou Brock’s plaque you find the same is still true and then again when you stand in front of Rickey Henderson’s.

So the plaques are more than just a celebration of a player and a game. They are also an historical record of the course of the seasons and of careers.

For those interested the postcards are available at the Hall of Fame website’s shop (and I don’t get a cut).

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9 Responses to “The Writing on the Plaque”

  1. rjkitch13 Says:

    I’ve never been, but my wife and I will be going in September. I’m excited to see Cooperstown!

    • verdun2 Says:

      If you’re a fan, it’s worth it. Beginning with a post titled “Heading to the Hall” on 22 July 2014, I wrote 3 articles on my first visit to Cooperstown (the last one is the Hall itself). On the upper right side of the page is an area that says “search the site.” You can type in the title of the first post “Heading to the Hall” and read all 3 if you like. The 3rd one will be of most use to you as it looks at the Hall.
      Hope you enjoy it, and take time on your own blog to tell us about your impressions.
      v

  2. wkkortas Says:

    I wonder if Harold Baines plaque will simply read “Oops.”

    • glenrussellslater Says:

      And Tony Perez, too. I liked Tony a lot, but the way he whined and whined until they voted him in was very disappointing behavior from him.

      Glen

    • glenrussellslater Says:

      Harold Baines belongs in there more than Andre Dawson does, I’ll say that. I think that people should just get over the Harold Baines thing already. Why didn’t they protest about Andre Dawson, who pretty much had one great season with the Cubs, and that was about it?

      Glen

      • wkkortas Says:

        Your points are well taken–I think Perez and Dawson may have better arguments that Baines (actually, Dawson was a legitimately great player in his Montreal years), but neither guy as anything in the neighborhood of a slam-dunk HOF guy.

  3. glenrussellslater Says:

    Harold Baines belongs in there more than Andre Dawson does, I’ll say that. I think that people should just get over the Harold Baines thing already. Why didn’t they protest about Andre Dawson, who pretty much had one great season with the Cubs, and that was about it?

    Glen

  4. glenrussellslater Says:

    You make a lot of really good points in this, V, and I found it to be interesting.

    Glen

  5. glenrussellslater Says:

    In my opinion, Perez: Yes. Dawson: No. I don’t think that Dawson is HOF material. I feel a little compromised here about Baines, being that Baines is the favorite player of my good friend in Montreal via Milwaukee.

    Glen

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