Spring is synonymous with baseball’s opening day, and what better way to kick off the season than with a family road trip? You don’t have to be a die-hard baseball fan to enjoy a pilgrimage to any of the many U.S. museums that showcase this All-American sport and its legendary players. Here are five destinations to get you started.
1. National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum at Cooperstown, New York
Photo courtesy of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
Legend has it that Abner Doubleday invented the game of baseball in a local farmer’s pasture, so it’s only fitting that the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is in Cooperstown. You’ll find everything you ever wanted to know about baseball here.
Exhibits chronicling baseball history pack the museum’s three floors. Some of the most notable items on display include the jersey Hank Aaron wore the day he hit his record-breaking 715th career home run. The centerpiece is the Hall of Fame Gallery, which celebrates inductees, although the museum is also the world’s largest repository of baseball research materials. Doubleday Field stadium, built in 1917 to major league standards on the site where the first game was played, hosts daily games in summer.
Lesson-plan resources: The National Baseball Hall of Fame has a number of resources educators can implement in the classroom.
Driving distances: 1 hour 40 minutes from Syracuse, New York | 3 hours from Hartford, Connecticut | 4 hours from Boston, Massachusetts, and New York City, New York | 4 hours 20 minutes from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
2. Babe Ruth Birthplace & Museum in Baltimore, Maryland
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/CC0 1.0/Smallbones
This humble row house, not far from Oriole Park at Camden Yards, is where baseball’s Home Run King—George Herman Ruth, better known as Babe Ruth—was born in 1895. Take a walk through the narrow house to view the upstairs bedroom where he was born.
An adjacent townhouse contains a number of exhibits, photos and video clips related both to his legendary career—his record of 714 career home runs stood for 39 years—and to his boyhood, including his years at St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys in Baltimore, where he learned how to play the game. You’ll also learn about Ruth’s life as a husband and a father.
Lesson-plan resources: Check out the sports-related resources presented by Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns.
Driving distances: 1 hour from Washington, D.C. | 1 hour 45 minutes from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | 3 hours 15 minutes from New York City, New York | 4 hours from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Where to stay: Quality Inn | Red Roof Inn Baltimore Northwest (be sure to use your NEA Member discount!) | Radisson Hotel Baltimore Downtown-Inner Harbor
3. Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri
Photo courtesy of the Missouri Division of Tourism
Interactive exhibits, posters, photographs and videos, including rare film footage of player interviews and games, provide insight into the Negro Leagues’ storied past. Learn about the days before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, when leagues were segregated. Listen as players describe the hardships of life on the road and what it was like to play baseball during this era.
The Field of Legends at the end of the tour features a mock baseball diamond and an all-star team of bronze statues with Satchel Paige, Buck O’Neil and other talented players, many of whom were later inducted into the major league Baseball Hall of Fame, getting the recognition they deserved.
Lesson-plan resources: Explore the museum’s extensive guide for teachers.
Driving distances: 3 hours from Omaha, Nebraska | 3 hours 40 minutes from St. Louis, Missouri | 4 hours from Tulsa, Oklahoma
4. Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum in Greenville, South Carolina
Photo courtesy of Visit Greenville SC
The infamous Black Sox Scandal may have tarnished Joseph Jefferson “Shoeless Joe” Jackson’s name, but there’s no disputing his place in history as a baseball great. This modest 5-room brick house, where he spent the last decade before his death in 1951, is now a museum chronicling his baseball career, from the textile mill leagues to the majors. Knowledgeable docents share stories of their hometown hero as you browse the photos and exhibits, which include his White Sox jersey and mitt, and a chair and bricks from Comiskey Park.
The research library has more than 2,000 books on baseball. The house is appropriately located across from Fluor Field, home to the Greenville Drive, a single-A minor league team. Ask for directions from the museum to Woodland Memorial Park, where Shoeless Joe and his wife, Kate, are buried.
Driving distances: 2 hours 15 minutes from Atlanta, Georgia | 3 hours from Knoxville, Tennessee | 3 hours 15 minutes from Charleston, South Carolina | 4 hours from Raleigh, North Carolina
5. National Ballpark Museum in Denver, Colorado
Photo courtesy of Steve Crecelius of WonderWorks Studios
Bruce Hellerstein’s love of the game is evident when you push through the stadium turnstile to enter this private museum, located not far from Coors Field, where the Colorado Rockies play. Over the years the Denver native has accumulated a staggering collection of memorabilia, much of it from ballparks of yesteryear, including signage, pennants, souvenir programs, photos, team jerseys and unique items such as the drainage cover that tripped Mickey Mantle in the 1951 World Series.
Hellerstein has also amassed a large collection of seats and bricks from classic ballparks, although it’s his encyclopedic knowledge of the golden age of baseball that’s the real attraction here.
Lesson-plan resources: Colorado educators may avail themselves to a variety of teaching materials that highlight the Colorado Rockies and Coors Field.
Driving distances: 1 hour from Colorado Springs, Colorado | 1 hour 40 minutes from Cheyenne, Wyoming | 4 hours from North Platte, Nebraska | 4 hours 40 minutes from Taos, New Mexico