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THIS IS AMERICA - August 12, 2002:  Sports Halls of Fame - 2002-08-09


Baseball, football and basketball are popular sports in the United States. All three have museums that tell about the sports and honor their best players. I’m Sarah Long.


And I’m Mary Tillotson. The story of three sports halls of fame is our report today on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.

((MUSIC BRIDGE: “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”))


We start our story with a stop in the northeastern United States. The National Baseball Hall of Fame is in Cooperstown, New York. Cooperstown is a small town in the center of the state.

Some people believe that a man named Abner Doubleday invented the game of baseball in Cooperstown in eighteen-thirty-nine. Doubleday and his friends used to chase cows out of a field so they could play a game called “town ball.” Town ball involved twenty to fifty boys. The boys attempted to catch a ball hit by a “tosser” who used a flat piece of wood.


One day, the story goes, Abner Doubleday made changes to the game of town ball. He reduced the number of players. He added a pitcher who threw the ball and a catcher who caught it. He used a stick to draw a square-shaped area in the dirt. He also added bases for the batter to run around after he hit the ball. The new game was called baseball.

In nineteen-thirty-four, an old baseball was discovered in a farmhouse near Cooperstown. It was said to have belonged to one of the boys who played the first game of baseball with Abner Doubleday.


A local businessman, Stephen Clark, wanted to show the old baseball to the public. So he decided to establish a national baseball center. People from all over the United States sent money and baseball objects for the new museum. Ford Frick was president of baseball’s National League at the time. He proposed that a Hall of Fame also be established to honor baseball’s best players.

The first election for members in the Hall of Fame was in nineteen-thirty-six. Five players were named. They were Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Matthewson and Walter Johnson. More players were elected every year. The National Baseball Hall of Fame opened officially in nineteen-thirty-nine. The event celebrated the one-hundredth anniversary of the game.


Today, more than three-hundred-fifty-thousand people visit the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum each year. You can see thousands of objects that were important in the history of baseball. There are seats and signs from some of the fields where early baseball games were played.

You also can see some of the equipment used by the sport’s most famous players. And you can learn about the yearly championship of North American baseball, known as the World Series.


Two-hundred- fifty-four men are honored in the Hall of Fame. The newest member, Ozzie Smith, was admitted in ceremonies last month. Many other members attended the event. It was followed by a game between the Colorado Rockies and Chicago White Sox. The teams played on the field where baseball is said to have been first played.

Some people have called the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum a national treasure. They say anyone who wants to know America must visit this museum in Cooperstown, New York.

((MUSIC BRIDGE: “Mr. Touchdown U.S.A.”))


Americans have been playing the game of football in some form since the earliest colonies were established more than three-hundred years ago.

Settlers brought the game with them from England. The game was played about the same way soccer is played today. In the middle eighteen-hundreds, American colleges played a form of football called “association.” Each team had its own rules. In eighteen-seventy-six, officials from several universities established a set of rules for all teams to follow. The new game was officially called football.


Today, professional sports are a big business in the United States. Most players are paid large amounts of money. Large crowds pay to attend professional football games or other sporting events.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is in Canton, Ohio. It is about eighty-five kilometers south of the city of Cleveland. There are several reasons why Canton was chosen. A successful, professional football team, the Canton Bulldogs, played there in the early days of the sport. Jim Thorpe, one of the first great professional players, played with the Bulldogs for a time.

Another reason is that the American Professional Football Association was founded in Canton in nineteen-twenty. And, in the nineteen-sixties, the citizens of Canton launched a well-organized campaign to build the Hall of Fame in their city.


The Pro Football Hall of Fame opened in nineteen-sixty-three. It shows the history of professional football. It also honors the game’s greatest players.

At the museum, you can see a film about football in a theater than turns into a football stadium. You can learn about the history of professional football in the United States. You can also learn about each of the thirty-two National Football League teams.

There are several special areas of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. One lets visitors test their knowledge about the game. Another tells about the yearly championship game, called the Super Bowl.


There are two-hundred sixteen members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They include players, coaches and team owners. There is a statue, picture and information about each one. New members are chosen each year. Five new members were added in a ceremony on August third. They are George Allen, Dave Casper, Dan Hampton, Jim Kelly and John Stallworth.

More than six-million people have visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame since it opened. Visitors have come from every American state and as many as seventy other countries.

((MUSIC: “Sweet Georgia Brown"))


The Basketball Hall of Fame is the newest of the three sports halls of fame. It is in Springfield, Massachusetts. The museum is named in honor of James Naismith, the man who invented basketball. Its official name is the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Naismith invented basketball in eighteen-ninety-one. He taught a physical education class at a school in Springfield, Massachusetts.

One long, cold winter, he had to create a game for eighteen young men to play indoors. He invented the game of basketball.

In nineteen-forty-nine, the National Association of Basketball Coaches established the Hall of Fame. It opened in nineteen-sixty-eight at Springfield College. A new, larger building opened in nineteen-eighty-five. More than one-hundred-thousand people visit the Hall of Fame each year.


The Basketball Hall of Fame is a museum and entertainment center. It combines history with technology. It tells about basketball at every level of the game. For example, it tells about professional basketball in the United States and in other countries. It tells how the game is played at colleges, by women’s teams and by disabled people.

The Hall of Fame also honors the best players, teams, coaches and officials. Two-hundred-forty-one people and four teams are honored there. More honorees will be added in September. They are Larry Brown, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Lute Olson, Drazen Petrovic, Kay Yow and the world famous Harlem Globetrotters team.


A new Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and Museum will open in late September. The new building will increase the size of the existing Hall of Fame by almost one-hundred percent.

Hall of Fame officials say the building will capture all of the energy and excitement that the game of basketball provides. The most special part of the new museum is an area called the Center Court. It looks like a full-size floor for basketball games. Visitors to the Center Court will be able to play interactive games and take part in skill competitions. Officials are calling the new Basketball Hall of Fame the finest sports museum in the world.

((MUSIC: "Sweet Georgia Brown"))


This program was written and produced by George Grow. I’m Sarah Long.


And I’m Mary Tillotson. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.