Thursday, May 9, 2013

Reds Hall of Fame and Museum Review

Reds Hall of Fame and Museum. Cincinnati Reds Organization. Christ Eckes, Building, Operations Manager, and Chief Curator; Greg Rhodes, Team Historian.
The Reds Hall of Fame and Museum, located at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, Ohio, is a two-story museum, filled with Reds memorabilia and history. Upon admittance to the museum, visitors receive a small brochure with a guide to the museum’s layout and exhibits. On the back of the guide, it says,
Celebrating Greatness, Preserving History, Providing Inspiration. A not-for-profit 501(c) (3) organization, and widely recognized as the premier team Hall of Fame in the country, the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum encompasses 15,000 sq. ft. of interactive and informative exhibits. The museum also boasts impactful, educational, and entertaining programming for baseball fans young and old.”
The Reds Hall of Fame and Museum is funded by the Reds organization and the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce as well as private donations. Its intended audience is Reds fans, members of the community, and fans of other teams who may be in the area.
On the whole, the museum does an excellent job with the above stated goals. There are a number of exhibits, two being temporary, and presented as the 2013 feature exhibits. The first of these exhibits is entitled, “Signature Reds: A Century of Reds Autographs,” and is sponsored by the Dinsmore legal firm. There are mounted and framed autographs hanging on the walls along the perimeter of the room, all divided by decade, dating from the pre-1920s era, through the 2000s. Each decade has its own sign underneath, giving visitors a synopsis of the Reds during that decade. In the middle of the room stand a number of display cases holding autographed baseballs, equipment, bobble heads, photographs, magazine and newspaper covers and articles, and similar items. My only criticism of this display regards the two display cases containing autographed items from television, music, and movie stars, as there is no explanation tying those autographs to the Reds in any way. Because the rest of the museum is exclusively about the Reds, or topics directly related to the Reds, these two cases stand out as not fitting in.
The staircase leading to the second story and other displays focused on the career of Pete Rose. The “Wall of Baseballs” contained 4,256 game- and practice-used baseballs, each ball representing one of Pete Rose’s career hits. While the museum utilized this space well, I do have one criticism: The photos in the hallway are exposed to a large amount of sunlight, causing significant sun damage to the photos. Though the photos are clearly not originals, I found the sun damage distracting. The concept of using a stairwell for displaying extra information is good, but I would suggest investing in fade-resistant prints or refraining from displaying them altogether.
The second temporary exhibit of 2013 is on former Reds second baseman, Joe Morgan. The wall is paneled with enlarged photos and headlines regarding Morgan’s career, and there is a flatscreen television with a video in which Morgan’s former teammates comment on his career. While most are nationally recognizable, one player on the video is mostly only recognizable by those from the Cincinnati area, Tracy Jones. While Jones played for the Reds for two years, and for a number of other organizations, he was a career utility player, and never did anything to gain himself any significant recognition. However, including him in the video was a wise move by the exhibit designer, as Jones is a regular talk show host on local radio station 700WLW, with a fairly large audience. Most locals know his name and feel more connected to Jones than they would to someone such as Johnny Bench or Sparky Anderson. A large display case exhibiting some of Morgan’s game-worn jerseys, two Golden Glove awards, as well as a Jackie Robinson  award, among other relevant items, concluded the Morgan exhibit.
The rest of the museum contained impressive collections of pre-1920s Reds memorabilia. One room highlighted the 2012 Reds season, from beginning, to post-season, leading into a long room with hands-on opportunities for visitors. These activities included a replica of the Center Field fence, and an activity for fielding balls, as well as chances to try calling strikes or balls behind home plate, pitching the ball over the plate, trying on catcher’s equipment, and even making calls from the radio booth. The same room contains two replicas of Crosley Field, lockers and seats from Riverfront Stadium, and sundry facts about both stadiums. A few stations had video monitors with signs telling visitors to press a button to watch catching tips from Johnny Bench, or batting tips from Sean Casey.
The final room of the museum is a tribute to the greatest teams in Reds history, especially the Big Red Machine of the 1970s, and the “Great Eight,” including such players as Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, and Davey Concepcion. It highlighted the Reds pennant and World Series wins, team statistics, and included a few World Series team trophies in display cases. In the middle stands a large sculpture, entitled “The Great Eight,” with life-sized replicas of each player from the Great Eight. Like the Morgan exhibit, the walls were paneled with enlarged photos and headlines from the Big Red Machine era, and contained another flatscreen television, with a video detailing the successes of the Big Red Machine. This exhibit is very engaging for Reds fans- or even baseball fans in general who remember it. I have one criticism of this display, and it is perhaps the most significant of my three criticisms in this review. While the video showed footage of the 1976 World Series win, with voice-overs of Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman calling it, the background music on the video was the Kyrie Elision. Because the words, when translated into English, literally mean, “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy,” it really stood out as not fitting the supposedly celebratory mood of the World Series win. I looked at it thinking I should be watching footage of the collapsed World Trade Center buildings or the destroyed Oklahoma City federal building, rather than that of a World Series win. The museum then gives way to the Reds Hall of Fame, which is a simple display of plaques for each player in the Hall, containing an engraving of the player’s face, and a synopsis of the player’s career, and their Reds Hall of Fame induction date.
Overall, the museum is excellent. While I was unable to visit the museum’s theater, which was closed to the public for a school field trip, the rest of the museum is impressive, not only from the standpoint of a Reds or baseball fan, but also from the historian’s standpoint. The presented history was very informative, accurate, and comprehensive. The museum’s curator and historian did an excellent job of creating a museum which would cater to its target audience. It maintained a good balance of entertainment with historical education. Throughout the museum, aside from the faded photos, there were no indications that funding could be a problem- there were many activities and displays which would too expensive for many museums not attached to a major sports organization. Though I have not been to museums for any other baseball teams, after my visit to the museum, I have no trouble believing the brochure’s claim, that the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum is “widely recognized as the premier team Hall of Fame in the country.” 

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