History is a huge part of the baseball experience, whether it be comparing today’s All-Stars to yesterday’s Hall of Famers or envisioning a game at Ebbets Field or the Polo Grounds. Yesterday and today blend together within the ballpark walls.
At most MLB and many MiLB and independent ballparks, you’ll find displays highlighting local baseball history, such as information on the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League at Miller Park or Ashburn Alley and the Phillies Walk of Fame at Citizens Bank Park. Some teams go above and beyond, with large spaces devoted to team and ballpark histories. While none of these approach the vast resources of great baseball museums like the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY or the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, MO, they are great spots to expand your knowledge of the game and connect today’s baseball to the feats of yesteryear. Here are our favorite ballpark museums.
Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum
Expanded and renovated for 2019, the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum is attached to Great American Ball Park and features 16,000 square feet of museum space. This season features something sure to be of interest to ballpark fans: Homes of the Reds, covering all the home ballparks of the Reds from Union Grounds to Palace of the Fans to Crosley Field to Riverfront Stadium to Great American Ball Park. Displays feature seats, turnstiles, fixtures, signage and more from these iconic ballparks. Plenty more is part of the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum experience, including a Reds timeline, a broadcasting exhibit featuring the Brennamans, a Hall of Fame gallery and an in-depth look at the original 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings. There is a separate admission involved—$12.
Monument Garden, SunTrust Park
The Reds may consider 2019 to be the 150th anniversary of the team’s establishment in 1869—a disputable assertion, as those original Red Stockings actually dissolved in 1870—but the Atlanta Braves can trace the team’s direct lineage to 1871, when some of those original Cincinnati Red Stockings formed the Boston Red Stockings, playing in the National Association. That makes the Braves the oldest continuously playing team in professional baseball, providing a rich history highlighted in SunTrust Park’s Monument Garden. It is certainly one of the most interesting spaces in an MLB ballpark devoted to a team history. The Braves’ history, ranging from the team’s roots in Boston to Henry Aaron’s historic accomplishments to more recent World Series wins, isn’t presented in a traditional museum layout, but rather in a series of displays showing how the game was played throughout the decades, with a special emphasis on the achievements of Henry Aaron (shown above).
Monument Park, Yankee Stadium
The New York Yankees embraced history fairly early in the team’s history, erecting a monument to former manager Miller Huggins in dead-center field at the original Yankee Stadium. Dedicated on May 30, 1932, the Huggins monument was located in the field of play, some 460 feet from home plate. It was joined by monuments to Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig over the years, along with plaques honoring Joe DiMaggio, former owner Jacob Ruppert, Mickey Mantle and others.
When the rebuilt Yankee Stadium opened in 1976, that area ended up behind the new center-field wall, and Monument Park was born. Featuring dozens of plaques and commemorations of retired numbers, Monument Park developed into a popular attraction and a centerpiece of ballpark tours. When the new Yankee Stadium opened in 2009, it was expanded to highlight all parts of Yankees and Yankee Stadium history, incorporating all the plaques and moments in the former Yankee Stadium and includes tributes to other big events in Yankee Stadium history, including papal masses and more. Plus, the new Monument Park has one additional important element: it includes plenty of space for future monuments and commemorations.
Royals Hall of Fame, Kauffman Stadium
Located beyond the left-field fence at Kauffman Stadium, the Royals Hall of Fame is not only a celebration of former Kansas City greats like George Brett and Frank White, it’s also a celebration of pro baseball in the area. You’ll see memories of the folks who worked to bring the American League back to Kansas City, as well as plaques honoring the 26 members of the Royals Hall of Fame, including original inductees Amos Otis and Steve Busby. Combine a visit (admission is free during games) with a run to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in town, where the careers of greats like Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson are explained and celebrated.
City of Baseball, St. Paul Saints
At the new City of Baseball Museum at CHS Field, the St. Paul Saints (independent; American Association) extend the Minnesota capital’s rich diamond history in an entertaining ballpark space. We wrote about the City of Baseball Museum when it opened in May: It covers St. Paul’s extensive baseball history back to the mid-1860s, with the North Star Base Ball Club of St. Paul winning the first state tournament in 1867. After that teams like the St. Paul Red Caps entertained crowds in the mid-1870s, opening Red Cap Park in 1876. Along the way the museum covers Charlie Comiskey’s St. Paul Saints, which he ended up moving to Chicago in 1900 and launched play as the Chicago White Stockings (now the White Sox), as well as the years St. Paul hosting Dodgers and Yankees farm teams. There is plenty of Saints memorabilia, including some nifty turn-of-the-century trophies, a bat used by former Saints catcher Roy Campanella, and a great map showing historic city baseball sites. But that’s only part of the story: You’ll also see a baseball signed by Toni Stone, the Twin Citian considered to be the first woman to play pro baseball during her time in the Negro Leagues, as well as a Minneapolis Millers uniform worn by Carl Yastrzemski when Nicollet Park hosted Red Sox prospects. (Ted Williams also spent time as a Miller; Willie Mays did when the Giants’ Horace Stoneham owned the team.) Displays highlighting the history of African-American baseball in St. Paul, including info about the St. Paul Colored Gophers, is a window to undertold stories.
Negro Southern League Museum, Birmingham
Though technically located outside the Regions Field walls, the Negro Southern League Museum will be part of a Birmingham Barons (Class AA; Southern League) visit for many fans, as it’s located just outside the ballpark walls. The focus here is the Negro Southern League (1920-1951), billed as a feeder for many players who ended up playing in the Negro American League and Negro National League. Legendary teams like the Birmingham Black Barons, Atlanta Black Crackers and Memphis Red Sox were Negro Southern League mainstays; stars like Willie Mays, Satchel Paige, Hilton Smith and Turkey Stearnes spent many seasons playing at Negro Southern League ballparks. If you are in Birmingham on a ballpark pilgrimage, take some time to visit Rickwood Field, the historic ballpark that opened in 1910 as home of the Birmingham Barons and the aforementioned Black Barons; it’s a ballpark museum onto itself.
Other ballpark museums worth a visit: Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center at Montclair State University in Little Falls, NJ; the Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum at Hank Aaron Stadium in Mobile, AL; the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum and Library on the Fluor Field grounds in Greenville, SC; the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame at Tropicana Field; and the North Carolina Baseball Museum, located at Fleming Stadium in Wilson, NC.
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