The sons of Mrs. Righteous told us back in 1964 that “You’ve Lost That Lovin Feeling” and it appears that is the way many of us feel about our Halls of Fame and Museums in sports. With the access we all have to the Internet it would appear that we do not have as much of a desire to see displays of memorabilia from our former heroes of the game.
The sports media giants like ESPN and Fox like to remind us that today’s athletes are bigger, faster, stronger all the time. The best has to be happening right now before our eyes and not in a vintage black and white newsreel from long ago. We need to celebrate the here and now because the talents and skills of 21st Century athletes are so incredible, or at least so we are told by the talking heads on radio and television.
Do we have a need or an interest to reflect on the contributions of Babe Ruth, Bob Gibson or Roberto Clemente when we have the talents of Miguel Cabrera, Andrew McCutchen, Joey Votto or Chris Davis to enjoy in the here and now?
Is it more fun to speculate on what Mike Trout of the Angels, Bryce Harper of the Nationals, Manny Machado of the Orioles or Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers might do than what Willie Stargell, Juan Marichal, or Stan Musial actually did accomplish in the past? Do we want to spend the time looking back when the present and future seems so tantalizing?
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum posted a net loss of $2.36 million in 2010, according to its recently filed tax return. It is the eighth such loss in 10 years as the baseball shrine has shown a slow, steady attendance decline.
And the trend seems to be continuing in Cooperstown, New York, with museum attendance dropping from 352,000 in 2007 to approximately 260,000 in 2012. The highest annual attendance topped 400,000 in peak years of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Next year it will be the 75th anniversary of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. One solution to consider to revitalize attendance may be to move the near 40,000 artifacts from rural Cooperstown, N.Y., to the metropolitan setting four hours down the road in New York City. While the Hockey Hall of Fame in downtown Toronto used to draw 500,000 annual visitors 20 years ago, the current attendance has been holding steady around 300,000 for several years. I believe a shift in location could help push the baseball attendance numbers in the right direction.
Another idea would be to take a page from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame by creating interactive collections that go on the road to the fans to create interest in the history of the sport.
It is in the best interest of commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball to not only preserve the past, but also embrace and celebrate its legacy for all to see.