Failure in baseball is expected.
Ty Cobb, the game’s all-time best hitter for average failed to get a hit 64 out of every 100 at-bats. Rickey Henderson, the game’s all-time stolen base leader, also leads everyone in getting caught flat footed. And the game’s all-time wins leader, Cy Young, lost the most games.
Those who fail with the least frequency, however, are immortalized with bronze plaques on an oak wall inside the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
For all of Cobb, Henderson and Young’s failures, they are among 310 faces enshrined in the hall of fame’s gallery.
Spokesman Craig Muder said the plaque gallery is one of the hall of fame’s most popular rooms, one that he visited as a child.
“I first visited when I was 12 years old, and the outside of the building looks very similar,” he said. “I was going to the mecca. I was in love with the game and sport and I still love it. Walking through the plaque gallery, that’s an experience people won’t forget. It’s like walking in a cathedral. You feel something special in that room.”
One of the most popular features, he said, is an exhibit called “Diamond Dreams: Women in Baseball.”
“The exhibit talks about women in baseball and dates back to long ago, because women have contributed and played for hundreds of years,” he said. “When people see it’s not just a game men have contributed greatly to it really piques their interest.”
One woman had a little too much success for her time, prompting commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis to ban women from baseball for “fear” that they were too delicate to play the game.
Jackie Mitchell, who played for the minor league Chattanooga Lookouts, famously struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in succession. The ban was lifted in 1992.
For all of the contributions women have made to the game, one is in the hall of fame.
Effa Manley was the owner and general manager of the Negro League Newark Eagles.
“That was one of last great Negro franchises before integration,” Muder said. “She scouted and signed talent herself. Two of the players she had were Larry Doby and Monty Irvin, and they are now Hall of Famers. She built a great team.”
State College Spikes broadcaster and media relations manager Joe Putnam visited Cooperstown in 2008.
He examined an exhibit on the evolution of media coverage of the game from typewriters to computers, and some things surprised him.
“I didn’t expect a display of every World Series ring where you can contrast and compare them,” Putnam said. “That probably stuck out most to me.”
He also left the hall of fame with two postcards, one of Cooperstown and the other of John Montgomery Ward, the only Centre County resident to be inducted.
Ward was 19 when he won 47 games in 1879 for the Providence Grays. A shoulder injury derailed his pitching career after he amassed a 2.10 era in about 2,500 innings pitched.
He made the move to middle infielder and accumulated 2,107 hits and 540 stolen bases.
Ward, however, rarely struck out batters and had a career batting average of .275, neither of which jumps off the wall as a Hall of Fame caliber number.
In the era he played in, however, he was one of a select few who failed the least frequently, which earned him a plaque with baseball’s best of all-time.
For the rest of us to get in, the price of a ticket is all it takes.