Cooperstown, New York is a magical place. For Ralph Carhart, some might say it possesses even divine qualities. This is where his idea, the desire to have a picture taken of an ordinary baseball with all 323 Baseball Hall of Fame was conceived. Carhart’s journey is captured in his new 250-page book, The Hall Ball: One Fan’s Journey to Unite Cooperstown Immortals with a Single Baseball from McFarland Publishing.
Carhart is a Brooklyn-based theatre director and manager, as well as a baseball historian. Active in the Society For American Baseball Research (SABR), he took a one-of-a-kind journey with a baseball that most fans and collectors can only dream about.
Sitting in the stands at Doubleday Field, the quaint baseball diamond within walking distance of the Baseball Hall of Fame while on vacation with his family, Ralph’s wife Anne spotted a baseball sitting in a small brook adjacent to the park. The ball was muddy, weathered and water logged. It was nothing special other than its resting place on hallowed baseball ground, but Ralph asked his two young children to retrieve the ball anyway.
His plan had yet to take shape but things we about to get interesting.
The next day, Carhart and his wife, who only recently had become interested in genealogy, decided to visit a local cemetery in Cooperstown where they stumbled across Abner Doubleday’s grandfather’s grave site. Doubleday is the mythological inventor of baseball and spent time in Cooperstown where he was long purported to have invented the game. That visit was the genesis of an eight-year trek that took him to 34 states and several different countries. It was a 20,000 mile journey with a single goal: to connect the “Hall Ball” with every living and deceased member of the Hall of Fame through photographs.
His journey was not without surprises. Once initial planning was in place, he encountered one huge road block. He lost track of the abandoned baseball that was to accompany him on his adventure. Thankfully, a few weeks into his quest, the ball turned up tucked away in the trunk of Ralph’s car. After going back and retracing his first steps Ralph set forth on this mind blowing endeavor that would be the envy of anyone who ever collected baseball cards.
Carhart chronicles his adventures by providing historical and personal insight for over 323 members of the Hall of Fame (as of the end of his quest in 2018). He located and visited every grave site of each non-living member. We get to see the final resting places of Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb, the simple understated grave stones of Bob Feller and Harmon Killebrew and unique endings of legends like Ted Williams and Roberto Clemente.
The book takes the reader along as Carhart visits the annual Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, attends card shows and private signing events and tracks down scores of living icons in an attempt to capture their picture with the baseball.
Dealing with living baseball legends brought its own unique challenges. He perfected the elevator pitch to explain what he was doing and why he wanted these heroes to hold this dirty baseball and have their picture taken with it. He never wanted these former player to autograph the ball but the last living player he encountered did leave his mark on the now famous ball. He also explains what eventually became of the baseball once he had accomplished his mission.
It’s a book that takes readers on a fascinating trip; one both baseball fans and avid collectors will appreciate.
The Hall Ball available at Amazon.com.
Want to learn more? Listen to my podcast interview with him below and visit his web site where you can virtually visit the grave site of every deceased member of the Hall of Fame.