When you tell an out-of-towner that you live in Hoboken, odds are that they’ll associate the city with Frank Sinatra. However, in 1846—69 years before Mr. Sinatra was born—Hoboken hosted the first recorded game of baseball at Elysian Fields. This is a fact that Hobokenites are reminded of every time we walk by Maxwell’s Tavern (11th & Washington Sts).
Yet just as the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame is strangely located in Cleveland, the National Baseball Hall Of Fame is strangely located in Cooperstown. Helping bring light to this situation, and ultimately improve upon it, is the World Baseball Hall Of Fame.
Bruce Prentice, the President of the Toronto-based World Baseball Hall Of Fame, is looking to create a physical presence of sorts for the WBHF—ideally here in Hoboken. Mr. Prentice took the time to answer some questions for hMAG about the Hall and how locals like us can help make this dream a reality.
hMAG: The World Baseball Hall Of Fame has its eyes on Hoboken. When did you first become aware of Hoboken and what were your initial impressions?
Bruce Prentice: Most baseball people who follow the game, like myself, know of the game played in 1846. Hoboken has a lot of history, and I believe [Hoboken] would like to capitalize on it, but perhaps is not sure how to go about it. The WBHF would like to help, if we could.
H: You’ve been a scout for the Toronto Blue Jays. How do you feel about baseball today versus the professional baseball of years past? Does it still give you the same excitement?
B: The game is the same between the lines once the game starts. The finances and the drug issues are mostly outside of the game that we all are still excited about.
H: You’ve said that the “hall” sort of hall of fame is an outdated concept, instead hoping that the World Baseball Hall Of Fame may instead be a monument inside a park plus a gift shop. Why do you think the hall concept itself is outdated?
B: If I may, attendance is dwindling at all museums and all halls of fame. The public perception is that “why spend money traveling to look at a few displays, as wonderful they may be, when they can look on the internet and take a viral tour of the same museum”…And not being critical, but how does the public really know what they are looking at is a real artifact or an authentic autograph?
H: What sort of feedback has your organization received from the people in Cooperstown?
B: Nothing from Cooperstown, which is not unexpected.
H: Where would you say you are right now with trying to get this project launched in Hoboken?
B: We are at first base.
H: If the World Baseball Hall Of Fame were approved for Hoboken, would you be looking to hold events in Hoboken? If so, what sorts of events?
B: In time, the Induction event would include a parade of the baseball greats, autograph days, a baseball movie fest, and other baseball-related events.
H: What are the eligibility requirements for entry into the World Baseball Hall Of Fame?
B: Must be retired 5 years, and have contributed to the game both on and off the field, while not having influenced the game in a negative manner.
H: Where does Pete Rose stand with your organization?
B: Both Pete Rose and Joe Jackson are on this years ballot, have garnered votes, but only the final tabulation of the votes will tell the story.
H: Finally, for the people of Hoboken who’d like to see the World Baseball Hall Of Fame come to town, what can they do to help?
B: Like most things these days, the people have a say—and rightfully so. How the populace really feel about being recognized as the home of baseball, and tourists coming to town to see what the WBHF is all about, I guess it’s up to them to decide. Send letters to the Mayor and news media, talk it up around town, and maybe signs in local restaurants and bar windows. We hope they are on our side, but it will be eventually up to the City Council in the end.