The area in which I live is quite known for one thing — the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
I live about 40 minutes from it. The city where I used to work is about 20 minutes from it. So over the course of my time at the newspaper, I covered the Hall quite a bit, from regular stories to Induction Weekends.
For a time, the National Soccer Hall of Fame was also in the area. Alas, it didn’t make money, wasn’t run the best and eventually had to shut down. The biggest thing it was known for was having a larger-than-life soccer ball blasting out of the side of the building. It didn’t get much traffic though, outside the year Mia Hamm and a few others were inducted in front of a record crowd of about 5,000.
There are other Hall of Fames, of course. I’ve not really ever checked out any of them. The Hockey Hall is in Toronto, the Basketball Hall in Springfield, Mass., and the Football Hall is, of course, in Canton, Ohio.
Two other Hall of Fames are closer to me and I’ve never gone — the International Boxing Hall of Fame (Canastota) and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame (Amsterdam).
I can scratch the Boxing Hall off the list.
I went to the Canastota area Thursday to meet up with two people — including 2010 world champion Eric McCabe — to play a round of disc golf. I have been to that area many times, but never stopped at the Hall. I figured this day was as good as any.
The grounds of the Hall are quite nice. There’s two buildings — the Hall and a bigger space which houses the historic ring from Madison Square Garden, which the arena used from 1925-2007. That building also houses the gift shop and many signed items, which one can purchase. (Some signed gloves were only $35! I was hoping to find somebody I really liked … alas, the first one I saw was Mickey Ward and it was $85. I had to skip it this day.)
For those who have been to places like the Baseball Hall of Fame, get that out of your mind if coming to Canastota. While the artifacts are amazing, the size of the Hall is immensely smaller. There is one large space and a smaller second room and that’s the Hall. You can be through it in 10 minutes if you don’t look at artifacts too long.
But if you are going to zip through something with this much sports history, save your $9.50. However, if you are going to take your time and look things over and take in the history of the sport, then the entry fee is well worth every penny.
I’m a sports history buff, so I knew I’d be here a little while, no matter the size of the place. The first thing that drew my eye were the championship belts. I’ve always been fascinated with title belts — whether it’s in boxing or wrestling or whatever else. The craftmanship that goes into making these items is amazing.
They had newer-style belts and one from eras long gone by. It’s almost a look at the evolution of championship belts in boxing.
Beyond that, there’s so much more.
Robes. Gloves. Tape from hands. Boots. Trunks.
There was a pair of some of the great trunks that Hector “Macho” Camacho used to wear, next to his boots, which in comparison were quite tame!
The robe from Arturo “Thunder” Gatti was incredible to see. He was always one of my favorite boxers.
There were molds of the fists of many boxers. Primo Carnera’s fist was huge!
Being someone who has worked in the sports writing field, one of my favorite pieces was Bert Sugar’s typewriter (photo above). Sugar, an amazing sports historian, is highly regarded as one of the best boxing writers in the history of the sport.
The Hall plaques are much smaller than ones you’ll see at a Baseball Hall. Still, I took time to go through many of them and look them over. It’s quite the who’s who of boxing, that’s for sure.
And, as a Rocky fan, it’s nice to see Sylvester Stallone inducted. He was inducted as an “observer” and I think it would be hard for anyone to not realize Stallone’s place in boxing history.
I’ve always said I wanted to attend one of the induction ceremonies at the Boxing Hall. I should have gone the year Stallone was there. That class also included Julio Cesar Chavez (one of my all-time favorites), Kostya Tszyu, Mike Tyson (another of my favorites), Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain and referee Joe Cortez.
Alas, I didn’t go. Maybe sometime in the future, I’ll get up there and see a ceremony.
Overall, the trip to the Hall was well worth the time and the entry fee. I’m not sure if I’d go back, because I don’t know if they rotate items, such as done at the Baseball Hall. If they don’t rotate the artifacts, it’s a “been there, done that” sort of thing. That being said, if I was with others who wanted to go, I wouldn’t have an issue going in again.
For those of you who are sports fans, if you’re ever in the Canastota area, I would highly encourage you to stop. History buffs, especially. The Hall is small, but it packs a major punch with the artifacts and items to see. There are films as well (which, to be fair, I don’t usually watch when I visit Hall of Fames), if you are into things like that.
The history of the sport is on display in Canastota. And it’s well worth stopping in to see.
More photos from my visit are below:
You can see the rest of the photos I took in this set on my Flickr account.
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