First-time visitors to Tropicana Field might be surprised to see a Ted Williams Museum across from the concession stands. After all, why would a legendary Boston Red Sox star be celebrated in the home of the Tampa Bay Rays? Doesn’t this museum belong at Fenway Park?
It turns out that Williams, aka “The Splendid Splinter,” spent much of his retirement years in Citrus County, FL, and helped raise funds for a baseball diamond-shaped museum that opened there in 1994. Poor attendance — the rural county is far off the tourist radar — forced the museum to relocate in 2006. The Rays offered to house the 10,000-square-foot facility when it was clear that the Red Sox didn’t have the space.
The quality and rarity of the baseball memorabilia at the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame is on par with the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Williams’ childhood baseball bat and glove are here, as are his fishing tackle box (he’s also in the Fishing Hall of Fame) and artifacts from his service in World War II and the Korean War. Yet, there’s also plenty to see for the fans of the other 29 Major League Baseball teams.
The Hitters Hall of Fame honors the greatest offensive players in history, including both current and retired players. “Kids want to see the stars of today,” explains executive director Dave McCarthy. “Once they get pumped up about players they can relate to, there’s a window for them to get excited about the history.”
When you first walk into the museum, which is only open during Rays home games, appearances can be deceiving. The first floor is a small group of display cases and a painting gallery by artist-in-residence Justyn Farano, whom on most days visitors can watch in action. But at the back of the room, a staircase leads to an exhibit area 10 times as large.
“A lot of visitors tell us that they enjoy us even more than Cooperstown,” says McCarthy. “I don’t think we have a more impressive collection, but I think people love seeing this stuff in a ballpark setting. For every wine and cheese guy out there, there are 100 beer and hot dog guys — we’re a museum that caters to the beer and hot dog guy.”
Another difference from Cooperstown: This Hall of Fame honors all-time hit leader Pete Rose, who was banned from the MLB for gambling on Cincinnati Reds games while he was the manager. McCarthy says he’s been flooded with compliments for including Rose.
“Most fans feel that he should be forgiven. The crime doesn’t fit the punishment. He didn’t throw games. He bet on his own team to win,” he says. “The steroids era is another story — we’re steering away from that whole mess for now.”
Outside the gates of the Ted Williams Museum, there’s a bevy of family-friendly activities. Kids can pose for their own Topps baseball cards for $5 each and there’s a coloring wall where they are challenged to draw Raymond, the blue furry mascot of the Rays.
There’s also a giant fish tank in the centerfield stands, teeming with real rays of varying sizes. Staff from Tampa’s Florida Aquarium instruct fans how to safely touch and feed the animals without disturbing them. Lines are usually long, so be sure to show up early.
With the Tampa Bay Rays currently fighting for one of the Wild Card berths in the playoffs, the Hitters Hall of Fame could potentially be open for business deep into October. Regardless of how the Rays do, fans planning the ultimate baseball road trip should mark February 1 on their calendars. That’s when the new inductees are officially honored.
In addition to the ceremonies for the Class of 2014, which has yet to be announced, the Ted Williams Museum hosts a fundraising dinner on the Tropicana baseball diamond and invites fans to participate in photo and autograph sessions with up to 2 dozen retired and current stars. So far, confirmed guests include Cy Young Award winner David Price, Grant Balfour, Tony Oliva, Denny McClain, Ron LeFlore, Darrell Evans and Oscar Gamble.
“Players tell me that they’ve never had dinner on a Major League Baseball field before,” McCarthy smiles. “It’s a night when they become little kids again.”
For more information on the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame, visit TedWilliamsMuseum.com.
By Darren Garnick
Over a million people visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam each year, but on Friday the museum opened its doors to a celebrity (19-year-old pop star Justin Bieber, to be exact) and controversy followed.
Prior to a concert in Arnhem in the Netherlands, Beiber toured the home where Anne Frank spent 2 years hiding from the Nazis during World War II and wrote her world-famous diary. However, it was his guestbook message that set the Internet on fire.
For its part, the Anne Frank House released a short statement on its Facebook page earlier today gracious for Bieber’s visit and encouraging renewed interest in the museum and Anne Frank’s story.
“The Anne Frank House was pleased to welcome Justin Bieber to the Anne Frank House last Friday. We think it is very positive that he took the time and effort to visit our museum. He was very interested in the story of Anne Frank and stayed for over an hour. We hope that his visit will inspire his fans to learn more about her life and hopefully read the diary.”
Controversy aside, if you haven’t visited the Anne Frank House, it’s an intimate, moving experience to step behind the bookshelf into the secret annex.
If you feel inspired to plan a trip to Amsterdam, Bourdain’s travel guide is a good place to start.
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by Jimmy Im
When it comes to Belfast, more Americans remember its dark political history and forget that the New York-bound Titanic ship was built and made its maiden voyage from there 100 years ago this month. Belfast is hot on its heels of erasing the repercussions of its late civil war (the city is known as the safest city in all of Europe based on nationwide crime figures), and the Titanic is luring travelers the world over to check out the new and improved Belfast.
This month, the $156 million Titanic Building opened its doors, providing the world’s largest Titanic memorial. The museum center stands the same height as the original Titanic — about 10 stories high — and is designed to look like the hull of the ship. And don’t expect tributes to Jack and Rose. The Titanic Building is the real deal, with 9 informative galleries that start with Boomtown Belfast (when the city was at the forefront of shipbuilding) and the launch of the Titanic, ending with the Oceanic Exploration Center. So visitors can explore the wreckage discovered 2 1/2 miles on the ocean floor in 1985. Interactive features allow visitors to feel like they were actually on the ship. READ MORE
The National Museum of African American History and Culture, the 19th Smithsonian museum, is set to open in Washington, DC, in 2015. At Wednesday’s ground-breaking ceremony on the National Mall, President Obama said the museum will rose on ground where “lives were once traded, where hundreds of thousands once marched for jobs and for freedom. It was here that the pillars of democracy were built often by black hands.”
The museum, a 7-level structure with much of its exhibit space below ground, will sit between the Washington Monument and the National Museum of American History. According to the new museum’s director, Lonnie Bunch, it will be the new home for more than 30,000 artifacts, including Harriet Tubman’s shawl, a Jim Crow-era segregated railroad car and Emmett Till’s casket, as well as galleries devoted to military, sports and entertainment history.