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New York State Baseball Hall of Fame Museum steps up to the plate in Gloversville

A pilgrimage to Cooperstown is a regular rite of passage in the Northeast, but now a new repository of baseball history is stepping up to the plate. Saturday is the grand opening of the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame Museum.

It’s a beautiful afternoon for a ballgame, but workers inside the new location on Harrison Street in Gloversville are in the bottom of the ninth — racing to put on the finishing touches before the big day.

We walk through a turnstile used by the minor league Albany-Colonie Yankees at the now-gone Heritage Park to enter the museum.

Portraits of diamond heroes past and present cover most of the walls. Lockers with signed jerseys and still dusty gloves celebrate names like Billy Martin, Sandy Koufax and Ed Kranepool; the original Met will be on hand for the ceremony, but for now museum executive director Rene LeRoux is making sure the trophies, posters and plaques are all ready.

“This is Gil Hodges from the Brooklyn Dodgers and he was also the manager of the Miracle Mets in ’69, and those are actually Gil’s gloves and his bat,” he says.

Some of the honorees are also members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame about 45 minutes away, but LeRoux explains others are more obscure.

“Our mantra, our philosophy is body of work,” he said. “So it’s not based on home runs or Cooperstown stats or strikeouts, it’s based on service to the game, what you did in the game.”

Inductees are honored each November and the required New York ties range from Yankee or Met stardom to high school excellence or even a childhood in Middletown.

“The next locker is a really local, special man, Jack McKeon, played in Gloversville for the Gloversville Glovers in 1952,” LeRoux said. “And he actually gave me that jersey, that all-star jersey, and his all-star hat from when he managed the All-Star Game. He is donating part of his personal collection and we’re going to go down and see Jack in North Carolina in the fall.”

The 6,500-square foot space also has a movie theater with game-used stadium seats.

In a city named for its formerly booming leather industry, you’ll definitely find some important mitts here.

“This is Ian Anderson from Clifton Park, and he presented us with this glove, it’s the glove he threw five no-hit innings in the World Series and got the win, so that was nice,” he said.

Fulton County Tourism Coordinator Carla Kolbe says the museum is part of a larger effort to bring baseball fans to a region working on an economic turnaround. Across the street is the rejuvenated Parkhurst Field, which will host youth tournaments in a facility that dates to 1906.

Today the green grass is lush, the dirt raked and the grandstand sporting a fresh coat of paint.

“This is going to make Fulton County such a nice baseball fanatic destination, and I think people will be surprised by the level of professionalism both at the Hall of Fame Museum and at this historic Parkhurst Field,” she said. “They really are amazing feats, both of them.”

Back in the Hall, LeRoux says Yankee great Yogi Berra will be in the next induction class. The Hall of Fame catcher once said “no one goes there nowadays, it’s too crowded.” LeRoux hopes the new space will have the same dilemma.

“I also was in Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame this weekend. My parents took me there when I was 7, 60 years ago, fell in love with that place, I’m still in love with that place,” he said. “And it was a little surreal for me to be there Saturday and knowing that a week later I’m opening up my own Hall of Fame. And we’re starting small, humble, but we’ve got some wonderful artifacts here.”

The museum will be open Thursdays through Sundays 11 to 5, and admission is free.

A lifelong resident of the Capital Region, Ian joined WAMC in late 2008 and became news director in 2013. He began working on Morning Edition and has produced The Capitol Connection, Congressional Corner, and several other WAMC programs. Ian can also be heard as the host of the WAMC News Podcast and on The Roundtable and various newscasts. Ian holds a BA in English and journalism and an MA in English, both from the University at Albany, where he has taught journalism since 2013.