HITTING THE HALLS Visits to Five Sports Museums Make for a Winning Weekend

THE BALTIMORE SUN

"We can do it! Look at the map. It's possible."

"What's possible?"

"We can visit five sports halls of fame in one long weekend."

"So?"

"Think of it. Baseball, basketball, boxing, soccer and horse racing."

"You want to visit five sports places in five different towns in three days? Get serious."

Springfield, Mass., is the home of the Basketball Hall of Fame. It's a big, handsome new building just off Interstate Route 91 at 1150 W. Columbus Ave. Terrific. Starring Bob Cousy and Wilt and Kareem and Bill Russell. All the great ones.

The place is more than a shrine, however. It's fun.

See how high you can jump for that rebound. Shoot at any of a dozen baskets. Watch the 1976 championship game that took Boston and Phoenix into triple overtime, or view video tributes to the likes of Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Go into the theater that shows you how a strong-side motion play works on screens that literally surround you.

Terrific.

The museum traces the history of the game back to 1891 when James A. Naismith invented an indoor sport to occupy some of the "incorrigibles" he was charged with keeping busy at the Springfield YMCA. And there's the peach basket he tacked to the wall as a target.

Find out about the evolution of the backboard, the dribble, posting up, the foul shot. It's all there -- the statistics, the balls and trophies and jerseys.

The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. Admission is $6 for adults; $4 for seniors; $3 for children ages 7-15; and children 6 years and under are free. For more information, call (413) 781-5759.

Now, it's possible you have a traveling companion who is not thrilled by roundball legends and glory and doesn't even want to shoot some hoops.

In that case, there is the Quadrangle, a pretty Springfield city park with a museum on each of its four sides. There's the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum, which is noted for its regional furniture, silver, pewter and period rooms; call (413) 732-3080. There's also the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, known for its jade, Oriental rugs, arms and armor and 19th-century paintings; call (413) 733-4214. Also on the Quadrangle are the Museum of Fine Arts, (413) 732-6092; and the Springfield Science Museum and Planetarium, (413) 733-1199.

When you are finally dragged from the Basketball Hall of Fame, you hop in the car and head for Saratoga Springs, N.Y., a mere 120 miles west, and the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

Portraits and sculpture depict the great horses -- Man o' War, Secretariat, Seabiscuit, Seattle Slew -- and the legendary jockeys and trainers.

Videos show the great races, and a dramatic film, "Race America," shown regularly in the Hall of Fame portion of the museum, captures the excitement of the sport of kings.

The museum traces the history of the Thoroughbred, from racing in New York and Virginia in the 17th and 18th centuries to the present day. There is a full skeleton of a Thoroughbred and a photo essay that tells the story of the birth and development of a foal.

The track atmosphere is re-created, as are jockeys' quarters, paddocks and other racetrack areas. Near the entrance is an actual starting gate, and an audio tape captures the sounds of jockeys, horses and starters getting the horses in the gate for the start of the race. Television monitors let you call up statistics on dozens of horses and jockeys.

Paintings of great horses of the past abound here, many of them by the famous equine artist Edward Troye, whose studio is re-created in the museum.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from noon to 4:30 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is $3 for adults and $2 for students and seniors. Children under 5 are admitted free. For more information, phone (518) 584-0400.

Of course, the thrill of magnificent Thoroughbred horses hurtling toward the finish line and the glamour and tradition of the track may be lost on some people.

These people have only to leave the museum, turn right and walk a few blocks down Union Avenue to Congress Park. They can walk through the small park and come to the Chamber of Commerce, a good place to begin a visit here.

Union Avenue is lined with some wonderful Victorian-era homes, and the park is the home of the Historical Society of Saratoga Springs Museum in the Canfield Casino, (518) 584-6920. Built in 1870 by Congressman John Morrissey, a former boxing champion, the Italianate-style building was a gambling casino right up to 1907.

These days, the building has a more genteel function. On the first floor is a gallery showing works of local artists. The second floor features Historical Society of Saratoga Springs exhibitions. They trace the town's history from its early days, when the mineral waters attracted the attention of physicians, through its lavish days as "Queen of the Spas." Displays include vintage clothing, paintings, maps and personal articles. There are also some original furnishings from the casino's glory days.

On the third floor, the Walworth Memorial Museum preserves the history of a prominent local family and includes several rooms of furnishings from their home, Pine Grove.

Other attractions here include the National Museum of Dance and the Saratoga Spa State Park. The museum contains photographs, videos and costumes worn in Hollywood and Broadway productions. Call (518) 584-2225. The park is the home of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, which is the July home of the New York City Ballet and the August home of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Call (518) 584-9330.

From Saratoga Springs, it's a mere 105 miles south to Oneonta, N.Y., and the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

This one opened in 1982, and there are plans to move it to a larger building on the outskirts of town where a 61-acre complex containing seven soccer fields, a stadium and other facilities is planned. There are already four soccer fields there.

Hartwick College in Oneonta perennially fields championship soccer teams and the sport is very big there. In fact, there are 1,400 participants in Oneonta's youth soccer program, one-tenth the town's population of 14,000.

At this museum, you again have a wide choice of action videos. Old uniforms and equipment are on display, and you can read about the game's origins and development.

The National Soccer Hall of Fame winter hours (Oct. 1 until the end of May) are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Starting in June the hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays and from noon to 7 p.m. Sundays. Admission: $3 a person age 16 and older; $1.50 for children. Call (607) 432-3351. or write to 5-11 Ford Ave., Oneonta, N.Y., 13820.

The traveling companion incapable of mustering any enthusiasm for the Western world's most popular sport may want to check out Hartwick College, where Yager Hall houses four art galleries.

The hall is named for Willard Yager, a local anthropologist who collected more than 6,000 American Indian objects, from the Oneonta area and from the American Southwest. Some of these objects are beautifully displayed in one of the galleries. The other galleries are devoted to changing exhibitions. Information: (607) 432-4200.

Twenty miles north of Oneonta is Cooperstown and perhaps the most famous of all of America's halls of fame.

Baseball.

And it's done right. The spirit and tradition of the great American pastime are captured in this great shrine to a great game. Like the Basketball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown lets the visitor participate. Dozens of television screens allow you to call up the statistics on any Hall of Fame inductee, a feature to be cherished by people who want to show off their knowledge of the game or win bets.

Baseballs, bats, uniforms, photographs, films and more await the fans. See the exhibits about "Baseball Today," visit Grandstand Theater. Watch the film about the fabulous Bambino or the one with Abbott and Costello doing their hilarious "Who's on First" routine.

The hall is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. May 1 through Oct. 31; and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 1 through April 30. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Admission is $6 for adults and $2.50 for children ages 7 to 15. Information: (607) 547-9988. Or write P.O. Box 590, Cooperstown, N.Y. 13326.

Of course, there are "some" people . . .

The Fenimore House and the Farmers' Museum in the Village Crossroads are just across the street from each other in Cooperstown.

The Fenimore House overlooks Lake Otsego, the Glimmerglass Lake of the "Deerslayer" novels. It was built in 1932 on land that had been owned by James Fenimore Cooper. Reminders of the novelist and his family are in the former study on the first floor. Also on the first floor is a ballroom with landscape paintings by Hudson River School artists, some of whom were friends of Cooper. There are other paintings and furnishings on the first floor.

Across from the Fenimore House, in what was once a large dairy barn, is the Farmers' Museum, which traces the evolution of farming implements and workers' tools of the pre-industrial 19th century in the state.

Call (607) 547-2533 for the house, museum and Village Crossroads.

It's only 70 miles from Cooperstown to Canastota, N.Y., and the International Boxing Hall of Fame. The best part of visiting this place is the continuous running of films of great fights. And there are the gloves and robes and other memorabilia of some of the great ones. Does anyone remember John L. Sullivan, Gentleman Jim Corbett, Bob Fitzsimmons, Benny Leonard?

The museum is located right at Exit 34 of the New York Thruway (Interstate Route 90). It's a small place right now, but there are plans for expansion and for the creation of a training camp on the site where fighters can train for matches and the public can watch. The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day April to December; winter hours beginning Jan. 1 are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $3 for adults; $2.50 for seniors; $2 for ages 9 to 15. For more information, call (315) 697-7095.

Of course, there is no accounting for taste, and if by chance someone is somehow not interested in the greats of boxing and the evolution of the manly art of self-defense, Canastota is a charming little town with gift shops and restaurants.

And just down the Thruway from Canastota is Oneida, founded in 1848 as the home of a religious and social communal experiment. The community was abandoned in 1880, but the house that was at its center, the Mansion House in Oneida, is still the town's foremost tourist attraction. Here, you can learn about the community that believed that the worst sin was selfishness, and in which individuals surrendered personal property and strove to relinquish all influence over the lives of others. The Mansion House is also home to a hotel and restaurant. Call (315) 363-0745 for more information. Call (315) 361-3671 for hotel reservations.

SPORTS SPOTS NOT TO BE MISSED

VACATIONERS, START YOUR ENGINES. In addition to the five halls of fame profiled in the accompanying story, here are 17 more for you to race to.

International Motor Sports Hall of Fame, Speedway Boulevard, Talladega, Ala. 35160, (205) 362-5002

Lacrosse Hall of Fame, 113 W. University Parkway, Baltimore, Md. 21210,(410) 235-6882

Babe Ruth Birthplace, Maryland Baseball Hall of Fame, 216 Emory St., Baltimore, Md. 21230, (410) 727-1539

International Swimming Hall of Fame, One Hall of Fame Drive, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 33316, (305) 462-6536 or (305) 468-1580

International Tennis Hall of Fame and Tennis Museum, Newport Casino, 194 Bellevue Ave., Newport, R.I. 02840, (401) 849-3990

ProRodeo Hall of Champions and Museum of the American Cowboy, 101 ProRodeo Drive, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80919, (719) 528-4764

J

Colorado Ski Museum, Vail Village Transportation Center

P.O. Box 1976, Vail, Colo. 81658, (303) 476-1876

National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum, P.O. Box 33, Hall of Fame Drive, Hayward, Wis. 54843, (715) 634-4440

Trap Shooting Hall of Fame and Museum, 601 W. National Road, Vandalia, Ohio 45377, (513) 898-1945

Pro Football Hall of Fame, 2121 George Halas Drive, N.W., Canton, Ohio 44708, (216) 456-8207

National Wrestling Hall of Fame, 405 W. Hall of Fame Ave., Stillwater, Okla. 74075, (405) 377-5243

International Hockey Hall of Fame and Museum Inc., Alfred and

York streets

Kingston, Ontario K7L 476, (613) 544-2355

United States Hockey Hall of Fame 801 Hat Trick Ave., P.O. Box 657 Eveleth, Minn. 55734, (218) 744-5167

Canadian Hockey Hall of Fame and Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, Exhibition Place, Toronto, Ontario M6K 3C3, (416) 595-1046

The Bob Hoffman Weightlifting Hall of Fame, 3300 Board Road, York, Pa. 17402, (717) 767-6481

The Little League Baseball Museum, U.S. Route 15, P.O. Box 3485, Williamsport, Pa. 17701, (717) 326-3607

National Softball Hall of Fame and Museum, 2801 N.E. 50th

St.,Oklahoma City, Okla. 73111, (405) 424-5266

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