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One of Guilfoile's favorite artifacts is the lifelike wax figure of Roberto Clemente. "There were two of these made," he says, "and the other one is in Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Roberto was still playing when it first arrived there, and Tony Bartirome, the trainer, took it and put it on the trainer's table. He dimmed the lights and called in the team physician, Dr. Joseph Finegold. Tony told him that Roberto had fainted in the outfield. Dr. Finegold saw Roberto lying there, took his pulse and nearly fainted himself."
Heitz, the librarian, naturally favors the treasures found in archives, correspondence and newspapers. His latest find is a yearbook for the 1910 Chicago Giants Base Ball Club, a Negro leagues team in an era about which little is known. In the guide is a profile of hitherto unsung star Joseph (Cyclone) Williams, a pitcher who went 115-31-1 from 1905 to 1909. "If you have ever witnessed the speed of a pebble in a storm, you have not even then seen the equal of the speed possessed by this wonderful Texan Giant," says the guide.
Also in Heitz's possession is a letter from The Sporting News, canceling the subscription of one " Abner Doubleday, Main St., Cooperstown, N.Y." And while the Doubleday myth may indeed have been canceled by cruel fact, the notion that baseball began in Cooperstown still survives. Why, just the other day Heitz received a most intriguing letter from Hugh MacDougall, a village trustee. While doing some unrelated research, MacDougall found this item in the June 6, 1816, issue of the Otsego Herald, under the title VILLAGE ORDINANCES: "Be it ordained, That no person shall play at Ball in Second or West street in this village, under a penalty of one dollar, for each and every offence."
Does this mean that 23 years before Doubleday didn't invent baseball, Cooperstown youths were creating a nuisance playing ball at what is now the corner of Main and Pioneer streets, right at the flagpole, 50 yards from the steps of the museum? It couldn't have been football or basketball, which had not yet been invented. Why, Cooperstown just might be the right place, after all....
"You know, I've never been to Cooperstown," said Johnny Bench, who will be inducted in July. "We [the Reds] were supposed to play in the '81 Hall of Fame game, but that was the year of the strike. After that, I figured I should wait until I was actually inducted.
"I'm not sure what I'm going to say up there, but I do know I have a lot of people to thank. My father, first of all, who taught me to play baseball in Binger, Oklahoma. My idol, Mickey Mantle, for showing me what a boy from Oklahoma could do. All my managers in the minors, guys like Pinky May, Dave Bristol, Don Zimmer. My roommate in Buffalo, Steve Boros, and a pitcher there who helped me a lot, Dom Zanni. Deron Johnson, who taught me about pitchers when I first came up. My teammates on the Reds: Pete, Tony, Joe, Davey. And my manager, Sparky Anderson. I may need the whole afternoon to thank everybody.
"Do you know when I started thinking about the Hall of Fame? It was after my first year in the big leagues. Ted Williams was one of my idols--to me, he and John Wayne are one and the same--and I asked him to sign a ball for me. He took the ball and signed it, to a hall of famer, for sure. He knew it, even if I didn't."
That ball would certainly make a nice 50th birthday gift to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.