Sports Museum of Los Angeles – Los Angeles

“Cooperstown West”

P1080675Sports Museum of Los Angeles – Los Angeles

Visited:  August 2016

(in October 2016, it was announced that the museum will be closed until they find a new location)

Although it is not officially dubbed “Cooperstown West,” the Sports Museum of Los Angeles could, in reality, use that title and have no qualms in doing so (well, other than the fact Cooperstown might sue them).  Simply stated, however, this is a tremendous sports museum, and to me was just as memorable…or maybe even more memorable…than my visit to Cooperstown.

Sports Museum of Los AngelesThe Sports Museum of Los Angeles contains a treasure trove of historical sports memorabilia that is truly one-of-a-kind.  According to former Dodgers’ owner Peter O’Malley, “It’s the best sports museum in the world.”  That’s a hard point to argue.

Interior - Sports Museum of Los AngelesLocated on the corner of Washington Blvd. and Main Street in L.A. in a warehouse district, the museum is the brainchild of former New York resident Gary Cypres, who over the course of three decades collected some 10,000 pieces of memorabilia that are encompassed in this 32,000-foot warehouse (kind of makes my Sports Room at home pale in comparison).

Turnstyle - Sports Museum of Los AngelesIt had been closed for a few years, but recently reopened in mid-July.

Thirty galleries contain everything from replicas of old ballparks, Gold Gloves, World Series Trophies from 1970 to 2000, the history of the Negro Leagues and historic (and very valuable) baseball trading cards…including a Honus Wagner card, which has been dubbed “The Mona Lisa” of trading cards (it’s only a little bit smaller than the painting)…to a countless number of other incredible sports artifacts from the 19th through the 21st centuries. Memorabilia from other sports are also on display.

P1080593      P1080569Being from New York, Mr. Cypres accumulated a large amount of collectables from the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers, New York/San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees. Nearly 20,000 square feet are devoted to the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, which was my favorite team until I ruined my sports life and became a Padres’ fan when I attended San Diego State in 1970.

P1080545                                             Willie Mays - Sports Museum of Los Angeles

In the understatement of the year, the items I will show you only touch the tip of the iceberg of what is on display in this museum.  If you are a sports fan, this place is like being a kid in a candy store. Tracy and I toured the museum for more than two hours recently (it must be a fantastic museum because Tracy, who is not much of a sports’ fan, thinks Ty Cobb is a new corn variety…she’s spending too much time in Tracy’s Kitchen).

Rooms at Sports Museum of Los AngelesWalking into the museum (I’ll try to go in some semblance of order of what we saw…we meandered a lot), the first thing you will notice are large paintings of famous baseball players that adorn the walls. It makes sense, because some of these players were certainly larger than life.

P1080497In 1963, former Detroit Tigers second baseman Tony Piet commissioned Carl Tolpo to create these paintings to decorate Piet’s Detroit Pontiac dealership.  It was called, “The Gallery of Greats.”

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Besides being beautiful, these paintings incorporate interesting facts about each player.

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Moving on, I suddenly became angry with my sister who threw out my baseball card collection when I was a kid (I could have retired at 40 with some of those cards I had collected).  In these rooms we looked at cards through the decades…

01 Baseball cards Los Angeles Sports Museum                       P1080506

…including that famed Honus Wagner card.  His cards virtually disappeared, so a Wagner card today is quite valuable (one card sold for $2.8 million).

02 Honus Wagner CardAs we walked through the museum, periodically we would come upon replicas of historic ballparks: from Wrigley Field and the Polo Grounds…

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…to Fenway Park and Dodger Stadium (sadly, no Dodger Dogs).  Somehow I missed Ebbets Field.  I hope it didn’t get demolished.

12 Fenway Park                       17 Dodger Stadium

We took a swing at viewing some Hall of Fame Bats.  Fortunately, Juan Marichal was nowhere in sight, although we will check in with Johnny Roseboro shortly.

P1080516There’s a room dedicated to old ads featuring players, managers and a movie stars (pardon the glare on some of the photos…no way around that).

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It seemed that to be a good player in the old days meant to light up a cigarette.

P1080517Perhaps that’s why the Bambino huffed and puffed around the bases.  Oh that William Bendix, always living the “Life of Riley.”

P1080518We paid our respects to “Stan the Man” and “The Splendid Splinter” and moved on.

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An interesting painting beckoned us. Otto Boetticher was a New York commercial artist who was captured by the Confederate Army in 1862. He painted Union soldiers playing baseball at a Confederate prison camp. This was the first time southerners had been indoctrinated to baseball and it actually “helped spread the game to all parts of the country after the war.”

P1080541It was now time to go to New York.

IMG_4837First stop…Flatbush!

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There were tons of Brooklyn Dodger memorabilia to wade through.

07 VollectionTruthfully, if you wanted to see everything on display here in one visit; you couldn’t, which is why I’m already planning my return.

P1080568Among a number of items, we found at an instrument drummed up by some Brooklyn fans, and a Brooklyn Baseball clock commemorating the 1899 championship.  I can just hear them saying, “Well, it’s about time!”

21 Brooklyn Drum                                                                                     11 Brooklyn Clock

Some banners were hanging around.

20 Brooklyn Memorabilia                                                                            P1080583        

…and a pennant of Pasadena’s finest, Jackie Robinson, and his All-Stars; a team comprised of African American players who conducted some barnstorming tours during the post season.

P1080588In one of the rooms a video played of Jackie’s stealing home in the 1955 World Series, and the Yankees’ Yogi Berra going berserk about the call of “safe.” There was also a cool mural depicting the event.

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I also watched the fantastic catch by Sandy Amorós in the ’55 Series, which helped catapult the Dodgers to their first World Championship.

P1080584Then Tracy and I bid adieu to Brooklyn…

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…and it was time to travel west to Los Angeles. The 1959 Dodgers are my first recollection of watching and listening to baseball. I’ll never forget Vin Scully’s call in the playoff with the Milwaukee Braves at the Coliseum: “Big bouncer over the mound, over second base, up with it is Mantilla, throws low and wild! Hodges scores! We go to Chicago!”  It was then, at the ripe old age of seven, that I became a full-fledged baseball junkie.

P1080548 Watching highlights from the 1959 World Series against the ‘Go-Go’ White Sox brought back fond memories…

P1080550…and looking at the surrounding articles and photos was pretty cool.

P1080549Although Sandy Koufax was my favorite Dodger, I also loved Don Drysdale.  There were lots of Drysdale memories here, including his Cy Young Award from 1962.

15 Drysdale jersey                                                                                P1080552

…and pieces that celebrated his record-breaking scoreless inning streak (eventually broken by another Dodger Orel Hershiser in a game that Drysdale announced).

16 Drysdale ballBy the way, Hershiser said of the Sports Museum of Los Angeles, “I’ve never seen anything like it.  It’s spectacular.  Anyone who loves the Dodgers needs to see it.  There’s so much to take in.  I can’t wait to go back.”

When I was a kid, I made my family purchase their gas at Union 76 (“You always get the finest, the very best, the finest, at the sign of the ’76”).  Why?  They always gave out fun Dodger collectables. I still have a number of Dodger tumblers and Dodger prints in my Sports Room (yes, Tracy indulges me).  The museum contains many of these and other pieces that the Union stations handed out.

FullSizeRender-2       Vin Scully      FullSizeRender-1

I loved listening to those Dodger 45s my dad would pick up for me while getting gas at 19 cents a gallon.  “Go, Maury, Go!”

IMG_4868How about gold gloves from catcher John Roseboro and first baseman Gil Hodges?  They’re on display here!

14 Roseboto Gold Glove                       13 Gil Hodges Golden Glove

I’m lucky enough to have numerous Dodger World Series Programs in my collection, and the museum included these large size replicas of some of them.

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The Dodgers swept the damned Yankees (we;ll see them shortly) in 1963, and they didn’t even need “Shoeless” Joe Hardy.

P1080558 (1)Among the hundreds of pieces in this collection, there were assorted jerseys worn by Dodger players through the years and…

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…a painting that might want to be avoided by any fan of the Oakland A’s.

P1080573The entire “Dodgers Collection” gets my “Stamp” of approval.

05 DodgerStampsI think the museum should have a recording of Danny Kaye’s the “D•O•D•G•E•R•S Song” playing in this area (photo from internet). “Oh, Really? No, O’Malley.”

dodgers songIt was time to revisit New York to look at paraphernalia of the longest dynasty in sport history; the New York Yankees…

P1080604…and they have the trophies to prove it (although these are from 1998…a Series to forget for Padre fans…and 1999).

19 Los Angeles SportsMuseumThe first people I ran into were Babe (no, not that Babe)…

piginthecity…and Lou.  Just think…between the three of us we had 1,207 home runs.

IMG_5555They even have Babe’s contract. I remembered Ruth’s famous quote when he was told that he made more money than the President of the United States: “I know, but I had a better year than Hoover.”

IMG_4902They also have the newspaper chronicling the day he passed away.

22 Babe Ruth Dies newspaper (1)“The Mick” was on display. I’d love to have this painting over my mantle.

P1080592Like the Babe and Lou, Mickey passed away too soon.

P1080594 (1)Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio? Right here at the Sports Museum of Los Angeles. You can get your “Joltin’ Joe” fix here.  The uniform below is the last one he wore during the 1951 World Series.

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Now it was time to go to the movies…

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…with vintage baseball movie posters.

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There was also a bust of Lou Gehrig and a copy of his famed “Luckiest Man” speech.

IMG_4898Tracy and I headed into another wing, where we found some old-time baseball jerseys…

P1080614…and equipment.

23 Evolution of the GloveAre you ready for some football?  Well, the museum contains some football items, too (in September it will open yet another wing featuring the history of the Cleveland-Los Angeles-St. Louis-Los Angeles Rams and lots of college football memorabilia).

P1080680On the day we visited, the Packers and Bart Starr were featured. Since it was 95 degrees outside, there would be no “frozen tundra.”  I’d love to have this game.

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There were a couple of more interesting things to see…

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…before moving on…

24 football…to the “Black Pioneers of Sports” Collection, starting off with “The Negro Leagues.”

P1080629               26 Negro League

There stood a statue of the great Josh Gibson, who many consider the greatest baseball player of all time.  He hit 100 home runs one year as a member of the Homestead Grays. Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson once said, “Josh is worth $250,000 (Babe made 80 grand) to any big league team.”  Unfortunately, integration didn’t come to baseball for many years, and Gibson died at the young age of 35.

25 Josh Gibson                                                      P1080635It’s because players like Gibson, pitcher Satchel Page and hundreds of others were not allowed to play in the big leagues, that I pretty much discount any Major League records until baseball became integrated in 1947 when Jackie Robinson came on the scene.

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We also viewed statues of legendary Negro League players “Buck” Leonard and “Cool Papa” Bell.

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I would love to spend some more time in this section on my next trip here.

P1080655We headed over to catch some hoops. One of my favorite players was Wilt “the Stilt” Chamberlain, who once scored 100 points in a game. I had forgotten he was also once a member of the Harlem Globetrotters.

P1080636Tracy and I went on a fast break to the Basketball Room.

P1080638Of course, it would be tough to start a fast break with these baskets.  I’m not yanking your chain either. “Hey, who brought the darned stick?”

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Boxing was next up, and it packed quite a punch…

28 Boxing                                    P1080646

…with a colorful exhibit.

P1080643Tracy was getting a little punch drunk, so it was about time to throw in the towel.  The final part of our excursion through sports history was a journey through a hodgepodge of fun stuff.

P1080668Subscriber Kevin C would love to get his hands on this vintage baseball pinball machine….or this cool arcade game.

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I only saw this movie about 100 times when I was a kid. “Thanks King!”

P1080656There were still movie posters (by the way, if you get the chance get your paws on a DVD of “Rhubarb,” about a cat who inherits a baseball teams…it’s a “purrfect” baseball movie).

P1080660Old baseball artifacts abound here.   A painting of Cy Young caught our eye. It should win an award.

P1080664If only I had read this book in Pony League.

P1080673A couple of more items…

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…and we were done for our day at the museum.

P1080607I do not have enough superlatives to describe the Sports Museum of Los Angeles. As a sports fan since I was old enough to hold a transistor radio to my ear (thanks Vin!)…

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…I had a ball (of all shapes and sizes)!  I was overwhelmed by the amount of fascinating items this museum houses.

P1080525One of my childhood heroes, Tommy Davis of the Los Angeles Dodgers, said, “Nothing like it anywhere else. It’s the best thing I’ve ever seen. There’s so much information on the history of baseball and all the great players. It would take a week to view it all.” Amen Tommy!!!

IMG_5557If you live in Los Angeles or are a visiting sports fan, I would put the Sports Museum of Los Angeles on your high priority of places to see.

Tell your friends. Tell your neighbors. Your kids will love it. You will love it. Your grandparents will love it. Play ball!

Sports Museum of Los Angeles
1900 S Main Street
Los Angeles, California 90007
Hours: Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. • Sunday 1 a.m. – 5 p.m.
(Starting August 27, the museum will only be open Saturdays)
Cost: Adults: $15 • Seniors (65 and older) and Students with ID $12 • Kids 5-12 $9
Parking: (enter from Main Street) $8
www.sportsmuseumla.com

 

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