Sandomir: When Cooperstown almost changed from museum to mausoleum

From Richard Sandomir at the New York Times on July 29, 2017:

The plaque gallery at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is a place of reverence for fans, who can gaze at the bronze images of 312 players, managers, umpires and executives affixed to the walls.

There is often a hush in the high-ceilinged room, which after Sunday’s annual induction ceremony will welcome five new members: Ivan Rodriguez, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, the former commissioner Bud Selig and John Schuerholz, a top executive for the Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves.

They will become part of an American institution that, to this day, overshadows other sports’ Halls of Fame. In effect, Cooperstown is a place where baseball can still comfortably claim to be the country’s No. 1 sport.

It is also a place that might have loomed even larger all these years if a long-ago plan to bring the cremated remains of Hall of Famers to Cooperstown had actually come to pass.

That story begins with Lou Gehrig, who was cremated on June 4, 1941, two days after his death at 37. The urn containing his ashes was soon locked into a small crypt within his stone monument at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, N.Y.

The grave site quickly became a lure for fans who wanted to pay their respects to the Iron Horse, whose career ended abruptly in 1939 when he was found to have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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Originally published: August 3, 2017. Last Updated: August 3, 2017.