St. Petersburg, FL was once touted as Baseball City USA because of the hundreds of Major Leaguers and dozens of Hall of Famers who came to the city for Spring Training. Now some of those names are coming back home in the form of over 4,600 autographed baseballs.
Schrader’s Little Cooperstown, what officials call “a world-class baseball exhibit”, opens October 22 in the St. Petersburg Museum of History. The exhibit connects America’s national pastime with historical events from the region and around the world.
The rare collection of memorabilia takes visitors on a journey through baseball’s rich history, with stories and artifacts of baseball legends like Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Joe DiMaggio as well as leagues such as the Women’s Professional Baseball League and the Negro League.
A “Baseball in Pop Culture” display, showcases autographed baseballs and letters signed by hundreds of notable celebrities, actors and world leaders such as Fidel Castro, Elvis Presley, Michael Jordan, Neil Armstrong, Margaret Thatcher and Barack Obama.
The Little Cooperstown exhibit also explores more than 100 years of Tampa Bay’s own history as a Spring Training destination for more than a dozen teams, including the Yankees, Phillies, Pirates, Blue Jays, Cubs, Cardinals and Rays.
With more than 4,600 signed balls, Schrader’s Little Cooperstown is recognized by Guinness World Records as the World’s Largest Collection of Autographed Baseballs.
On loan from collectors Dennis and Mary Schrader, the Little Cooperstown exhibit creates a destination for sports fans – casual or diehard – who will enjoy interactive displays and learn how baseball transformed history.
“We are thrilled to bring this wonderful new attraction to the St. Petersburg Museum of History,” said Bill Heller, Dean of the College of Education at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. “We are very grateful to Dennis and Mary for making this wonderful gift, and we look forward to developing a valuable new educational tool for our community that will use the magic of baseball to teach children and adults about history.”
A full week of events kick off the Little Cooperstown exhibit starting with “Beer, Brats & Baseball” in Al Lang Stadium on October 19, a “Happy Hour with the Historian” lecture series at the Museum of History on October 22 and a formal gala at the Lyceum on October 25.
Museum patrons can become a part of this World Record collection by purchasing and autographing their own baseball for $100 to be included in the exhibit.
The St. Petersburg Museum of History is located at 335 2nd Ave. NE in St. Petersburg. Museum hours are Tuesday-Saturday 10-5 and Sundays 1-5. The museum is closed on Mondays.