The mugs of nearly 200 Hoosier baseball players hang on the wall of the Indiana Baseball Museum in Jasper, Indiana.
Beyond the hundreds of honored athletes, one man is tasked with sharing those stories. Executive director Ray Howard first explains how he and the hall wound up in Jasper.
“I’m originally from Indianapolis. And we have something in common. We both went to Ben Davis High School. Then I went to Indiana Central and now it’s U of Indy. Where I pitched and played ball there,” says Howard.
From there Coach Howard would begin his high school baseball coaching career at Decatur Central before arriving in Jasper in the 1970s to lead the wildcats.
In 1971, the first of 189 eventual Hall of Fame inductees were honored long before breaking ground on the future home in the early 1990s.
As for induction into the hall, Howard explains besides players and coaches, those that contribute to the game outside the baselines also have a place.
“You can be inducted in the Hall of Game as either a coach in high school and college, as a player like Don Mattingly, Andy Benes and some of the other guys, Scott Rolen. Or you can go in as a contributor,” says Howard.
And its no secret southern Indiana has produced a long list of successful teams and professional players over the years.
Howard tries to explain the reason for such an abundance of southern Indiana talent.
“I don’t know what it is. If you go back to the old days of the Deer Trail League, Three-I League. They played in Kentucky, Illinois, and southern Indiana. Every small town had a baseball team. And that’s what you did on the weekends. On Saturday and Sunday, you went to the ballpark,” says Howard.
Although the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame is just over 3300 square feet it has preserved artifacts that even Howard says sports historians around the country would be envious of.
One example, a 48-ounce bat used at the big league level by Oakland City native Edd Roush just two ounces shy of what was being swung by Babe Ruth at the time.
“Cooperstown doesn’t have that. This is the 100th year anniversary of the Negro League. We’ve got five pictures of actual signatures of guys that played in the Negro League. And they don’t have that. So, there’s some unique things here,” says Howard.
The hall scales back its hours of operation from August until May where it’s open Thursday through Sunday. Then seven-days a week after school lets out for the summer.
Admission to the Hall of Fame is $4 for adults, $3 for those 12 and under, and $2 for seniors. Future Hall of Famers under five are free.
As the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame plans for its next big fundraiser– an annual golf outing in the fall– coach Howard shares his hopes for the hall in the new decade.
“I haven’t thought about it. I just hope I’m here to see it,” says Howard.