Baseball Paradise in the Rocky Mountains

September 20, 2012 — In early September, I spent a day at B’s Ballpark Museum in Colorado, learning about one of the most unique collections in the world.

My feature story in the October Issue of Yankees Magazine will be on the downtown Denver Museum, which is dedicated to America’s most iconic ballparks.

The museum’s curator, Bruce Hellerstein, has had a life-long interest in ballparks, and he began collecting rare pieces in the mid-’80s. Within a few years, he had more than 500 items on display in the basement of his house.

A few years later, Hellerstein formed a 501(c)(3) organization and brought his museum to a building that is located a stone’s throw from Coors Field.

“The vast majority of the items we have are unique,” said Hellerstein, a 63-year old CPA. “This is not your run-of-the-mill museum, and it was never intended to be that way. The primary focus is on ballparks, and there’s no other museum in the country that can make that claim. Even the Hall of Fame, which has a section dedicated to ballparks, doesn’t have a collection that is as comprehensive as what we have.”

The museum holds turnstiles from the original Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, light fixtures from Ebbets Field, and an autographed copy of The Babe Ruth Story. There are also several distinct sections in the 1,000 square-foot room, including one dedicated to the classic ballparks that were built between 1909 and 1923.

In total, 14 major league ballparks were built during that time, and there are two original seats from each of those parks in the museum. That group of ballparks includes Boston’s Fenway Park, Chicago’s Wrigley Field, Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, Detroit’s Tiger Stadium, Manhattan’s Polo Grounds, Philadelphia’s Shibe Park and the original Yankee Stadium.

There is a section in the back of the museum displaying several pieces of memorabilia from Wrigley Field, including six flags, one of which reads “WF.” That flag flew at the ballpark during the 1945 World Series, the last Fall Classic the Cubs ever played in.

Nearby the Wrigley Field shrine area is a corner of the museum dedicated to Fenway Park, and it includes an 8-foot piece of the Green Monster, which has an imprint of a major league baseball on it.

Last but not least, there is a section of the museum dedicated to the old Yankee Stadium, and it’s full of one-of-a-kind treasures. The most unique piece in that space (and for all intent and purposes, in the entire museum) is a drain cover from the 1951 World Series, the same Fall Classic in which Mickey Mantle tripped over a drain cover and permanently damaged his knee. While Hellerstein can’t confirm that he owns the actual drain cover that Mantle was injured on, he knows that it came from the same outfield that The Mick patrolled during that era.

There are many more rare collectables in B’s Ballpark Museum, and you can read about them in my feature story, which will appear in the October Issue of Yankees Magazine.

And, if you’re from Colorado or you happen to find yourself in the Rocky Mountains, I suggest you visit this baseball paradise.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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