Albuquerque is a city with a rich baseball history, but for most of its residents the dream of visiting Cooperstown, N.Y., is pretty far fetched.
As if the Baseball Hall of Fame heard their pleas, it sent its touring exhibit We Are Baseball to the Duke City to coincide with the current Isotopes homestand.
Built around five expanding semi-truck trailers that act as mini-museum wings, plus the world’s only mobile IMAX theater, the entire setup now takes up a portion of the west parking lot of the University of New Mexico’s football stadium, across the street from Isotopes Park.
The local media contingent was granted an advance tour, with Hall of Fame curator Andy Couch guiding us through the exhibits. The five differently colored trailers, which feel just like museum wings inside, are each set up a little differently.
“Our Stories” features memorabilia relating to overcoming adversity and embracing diversity in baseball. There is a San Fernando jersey from a Japanese interment camp’s team, Jackie Robinson’s cap from the 1955 World Series, and the trophy the Yankees gave to Lou Gehrig when he retired as “the luckiest man in the world.”
“Our Traditions” looks at all the interactions between fans and teams over the years. Heck, there is even an image of a “Hunter Pence wears moose pajamas” sign from a Royals fan at the 2015 World Series.
“Our Memories” is the real treat, featuring a dozen items from baseball history—Bobby Thomson’s bat from The Shot Heard Round the World, Babe Ruth’s final home run ball, Cal Ripken’s helmet from game No. 2,131, Roger Maris’ 61st home run ball, Yogi Berra’s catching mitt from Don Larsen’s perfect game in the World Series, the ball from the final out in the 2004 World Series (fear not, Rockies fans, there is nothing from ‘07), Bill Mazeroski’s batting helmet when he walked off on the Yankees in 1960, a jersey from the first All-Star Game, Pete Rose’s cleats from when he broke Ty Cobb’s hits record, David Freese’s jersey from the 2011 World Series, Willie Mays’ glove from “The Catch,” and Nolan Ryan’s Astros hat from his fifth no-hitter.
“Our Hall of Fame” features interactive exhibits as well as some additional memorabilia. The exhibits include the ability to search for the actual plaque of any member of the Hall of Fame. Fans can also take pictures of their own HOF plaque, or have themselves photoshopped into famous baseball moments.
The final trailer, “Our Game Today and Tomorrow,” lets fans take a virtual reality trip back to the 2016 World Series. From hanging in the Cubs booth next to Bill Murray as he sings “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” to spending time in the stands at both stadiums and finally going on the victory parade down Michigan Avenue, it is quite the trip, whether one is a Cubs fan or not.
There is also a spot outside where fans can take a virtual reality trip to the All-Star Home Run Derby. It is harder than it looks to hit home runs, especially when one is dumb enough to pick Fenway Park as the stadium—right-handed.
Finally, the IMAX theater features a 12-minute documentary from MLB Advanced Media that would not be out of place in an addendum to Ken Burns’ Baseball series. It is a short, beautiful film reminding us of all that is good in baseball.
Oh, and if you stick around long enough on the central platform, one can listen to Vin Scully’s recitation of James Earl Jones’ famous speech in Field of Dreams. Be careful, it may bring a tear to your eye.
Any baseball fan within a few hundred miles of Albuquerque should make the trek here before exhibit is packed up after May 27. It will then head to Des Moines, Iowa, and from there to Omaha, where it will be presented during the College World Series.