Then there are the gloves, the masks, the World Series rings and trophies, and many baseballs that figured in great and famous plays. You see the skintight glove used by Neal Ball when he made his unassisted triple play, and other gloves scarcely larger than a man's hand. Looking at the cushions used today, one wonders how a modern player could make an error.
Finally, of course, there are the photographs. When I was a boy, I used to stand out front of a cigar store at 51st Street and Prairie Avenue in Chicago. I would ask every man who came out of the store to give me the picture of the baseball player which came with the package of cigarettes. I remember begging for these pictures on the day that Woodrow Wilson was first elected President of the United States. For some reason or other I, then eight, wanted Wilson to win, but I wanted those baseball pictures more than I wanted Wilson in Washington. Many pictures like the ones I collected, looked at, thought about and treasured, hang on a wall in one of the rooms of the museum.
You cannot remain long in the museum, looking about, watching the other visitors, overhearing chance comments and remarks without sensing that the atmosphere is one of sentiment, nostalgia and even sentimentality. Many gray-haired men come and drift about from case to case. As they stare, their faces soften up. The past comes back to them. Boyhood and young manhood glow once again in them. Those baseballs in the cases are the balls that many of them never pitched, caught or hit on a big-league diamond. The uniforms are the baseball suits they never wore. The plaques speak of the records they never broke, the lives they never led and the boyhood dreams they never fulfilled.
Wives do not always appreciate this. One day an elderly couple showed up. The wife was not interested in baseball. Calling her "dear," the gray-haired husband said that he would only be a few minutes. She sat on a chair impatiently.
The few minutes became a half hour. She grew more nervous and began mumbling complaints about her husband. Then she loudly told herself that her husband was just ridiculous. And every so often the husband would come back to tell the bored and restless wife that he would be finished very quickly. She would upbraid him. He would go back and look fascinatedly at more exhibits. He kept her sitting there most of the afternoon. When they finally left, she was quarreling with him and she seemed convinced that her husband had lost his mind.
Old ballplayers often come to the museum, and sometimes they, too, quarrel, but for different reasons. Not long ago two old-time pitchers, both well over 60, got into a discussion of a game they had pitched against each other many years ago. The younger one said he had won it.
"You never beat me in that game," the second old big-leaguer said.
They grew angry and argued.
"I beat you that game. You never beat me and you never could," the second old-timer said in even greater anger.
The two old ballplayers almost came to blows.