Discovery Station exhibits Hagerstown area's rich baseball history
Quentin Fleming and his grandson Zachary Arensdorf, 7, of Hagerstown check out the grand opening of the new baseball exhibit at the Discovery Station Saturday in Hagerstown featuring local and national baseball history. (By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer / August 4, 2012)
But the sport was not very popular and equipment to play it was hard to come by. His father once saved up half a month’s wages to buy him a mitt. Bats were so expensive, his father decided to make him one.
These days, living in Hagerstown, the game is far more accessible to Zhang’s 9-year-old son, Benjamin.
This is especially so as of Saturday, when Discovery Station hosted a grand-opening ceremony and ribbon cutting for a new exhibit titled “Take Me Out to The Ballgame ... More Than a Game.” The exhibit explores the history of baseball from local, national and worldwide perspectives using an interactive, multimedia format.
The Zhangs visited the exhibit shortly following the ribbon cutting.
“It’s nice to have sports like baseball. It’s a positive thing for kids to learn,” Geng Zhang said. “It’s good that Hagerstown has a baseball team and a museum like this for them. It’s definitely good.”
Featured at the grand-opening event was Hagerstown native Leo Burke, who played professionally for the Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Angels, Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals.
Burke, 78, said he remembers playing games of pickup ball as a fourth-grader near the old Howard Street School, then resting under a mulberry bush with a Coke. He recalls a little later in life when his organized ball team won a championship in Oakland, Md., then proceeded to a state final in Baltimore, where they “weren’t so fortunate.”
“Those are all times you just never forget,” he said. “I still remember those things, growing up and playing. It was a part my life. I still don’t play physically, but in my mind, I play.”
The exhibit includes memorabilia from Hagerstown teams up to the present. Visitors were drawn to autographed baseballs, a 1990 photo of President George H.W. Bush at a Hagerstown Suns game and a display celebrating the Federal Little League team that competed in the 2008 Little League World Series. Documentaries feature interviews with local players and demonstrations on how baseballs and bats are made.
One timeline outlines a claim that Hagerstown’s Torch Light and Public Advertiser was the first newspaper to publish the term “baseball.” The word was used in a descriptive account of a young girl who was lured from her chores by the fascinating game outside her window. It also mentions lore that eventually was discounted as myth that Civil War Union Gen. Abner Doubleday invented the game of baseball. Doubleday did, however, play the sport with Civil War troops in Washington County.
Hagerstown Suns pitchers Brian Rauh and Ben Hawkins signed autographs at the event. Hawkins said he had not been aware of much of the information contained in the exhibit.
“It’s very interesting to see all the history that’s been through here and the history of the Suns in Hagerstown,” he said.
Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said he was pleased with the exhibit, especially in light of plans for a downtown multiuse sports and events center.
“There is a tremendous amount of nostalgia here. Baseball is a great thing to have in Hagerstown and this is a good thing for people to see,” he said. “I think this is great timing.”
Author David Stinson of Silver Spring, Md. sold his book “Deadball: A Metaphysical Baseball Novel” at the event. The plot relates to Suns baseball, he said. His son, Calvin Stinson, 13, said the exhibit offered “a lot of really cool stuff I didn’t know.”
“It is really well done,” Calvin Stinson said. “I think it will be here to help enlighten kids through the next generations and the next years.”
Discovery Station Executive Director B. Marie Byers said the exhibit has been three years in the making. Baseball is important to the heritage of the mid-Atlantic states and a source of pride for Hagerstown, she said.
“I think the magic is that it covers all generations,” Byers said. “It’s a family interest, baseball.”