39¢ Baseball Sluggers
Issue Date: July 15, 2006
City: Bronx, NY
Printed by: Avery Dennison
Printing method: Photogravure
Perforations: Die cut 10 ¾
Please note: Due to the layout of the pane, the se-tenant may or may not be provided in Scott Catalogue order.
Most players only get a hit 25 percent of the time (a batting average of .250). The ball players honored on the "Baseball Sluggers" stamps all have higher batting averages than that: Roy Campanella - .276; Hank Greenberg - .313; Mel Ott - .304; and Mickey Mantle - .298.
Philadelphia native Roy Campanella (1921-93) was a catcher in the American Negro Leagues and Major League Baseball. Campanella signed a Brooklyn Dodgers' contract in 1946. A smart and skilled catcher, he was also impressive at bat. He averaged more than 85 runs batted-in per year over the course of his career. Campanella played every All-Star Game from 1949 to 1956 and was in the 1949, 1952, 1953, and 1955, and 1956 World Series. In 1969, he was the second African-American player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. After a car accident in 1958, Roy Campanella was paralyzed from the chest down and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Henry Benjamin Greenberg (1911-86), baseball's first Jewish superstar, was born in New York. A powerful slugger, Greenberg earned the nickname "Hammerin' Hank." Even though he had only nine full seasons, he had a career total of 331 home runs and averaged more than 141 runs batted-in per year played. Greenberg was the first American League player to enlist after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The 34-year-old war hero returned in 1945 and hit a home run in his first game back. Hank Greenberg played in four World Series (1934-35, 1940, 1945) and on five All-Star teams (1937-40, 1945).
Melvin Thomas Ott (1909-58) was born in Gretna, Louisiana. At 16, he joined a semi-pro team near New Orleans and was an immediate sensation. The owner sent him to Giants' manager John McGraw. At 19 years old, he became the New York Giants' regular right fielder and was outstanding in that position. Ott stayed with the Giants 22 seasons, playing in three World Series. He was an All-Star every year from 1934 to 1945. When he retired, he had 511 career home runs, the first National Leaguer to hit 500. He averaged more than 80 runs batted-in per year. Ott also held the National League career record in bases on balls, mostly because pitchers grew wary of him early in his career.
Mantle (1931-95) hit 536 home runs and averaged 83 runs batted-in per year over the course of his career. His father named him in honor of baseball great Mickey Cochrane and taught him to hit right- and left-handed. As a teenager in Oklahoma, Mantle developed great strength from summers working in the lead mines and doing farm chores. That strength enabled him to hit long home runs. In 1960, he hit a ball against the Detroit Tigers that was estimated to have gone 643 feet. Mantle played 18 years for the New York Yankees. He was in 16 All-Star games and seven World Series.
Opening Of The Baseball Hall Of Fame
On June 12, 1939, the Baseball Hall of Fame opened in Cooperstown, New York.
Plans for a Baseball Hall of Fame date back to 1935. At that time, residents of Cooperstown, New York, sought to improve the small town’s economy in the wake of the Depression.
For years, Cooperstown had been considered the place where baseball began. While other forms of the game had been played before, Abner Doubleday claimed to have formalized the rules of baseball in Cooperstown in 1839. (Though a later investigation would bring his claim into serious doubt.)
In spite of this, the people of Cooperstown lobbied to create a baseball hall of fame in their town. As plans for the museum were in the works, the Hall of Fame selected its first five honorees in 1936 – Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson. In the next three years, 21 other players, managers, and executives would be elected for the hall of fame. The hall of fame’s opening was delayed until 1939 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Doubleday’s claim.
So on June 12, 1939, the small town of Cooperstown was flooded with 15,000 spectators for the museum’s grand opening. They were joined by 32 major league baseball players would play an exhibition game after the ceremony. Among those present were 11 honorees and nine eventual Hall of Famers that were still playing the game. Four of the first five honorees were there – Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, and Walter Johnson. For many people present, this was their first time seeing some of these players.
The museum’s opening was a national event. All major league ballparks closed for the day and the festivities were broadcast nationally over the radio. The induction ceremony and speeches were very short. After that 32 players (two from each of the 16 major league teams) marched down Main Street to Doubleday Field for a special exhibition game. Honus Wagner and Eddie Collins chose teams and soon Mel Ott was catching with Charlie Cehringer while Dizzy Dean and Lefty Grove tossed the ball back and forth. Then Babe Ruth brought on huge cheers from the crown when he pinch-hit, though it was a foul pop out. Wagner’s team won 4 to 2.
In the years since, the Baseball Hall of Fame, often referred to as simply Cooperstown, has become the home of baseball. Over the years, more than 300 people have been inducted, with honorees joining every year.
Click here for a video about the opening ceremony and here for more about the museum.
Click here for more baseball stamps.