Jeff Idelson, president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum since 2008, made a stop in Omaha for the Bob Gibson Heritage Project banquet a couple of weeks ago. He spoke to the media before the event about the importance of preserving baseball heritage and the way baseball connects generations.
"Preserving history, honoring excellence and connecting generations is our mission," Idelson said. "In Cooperstown, every day we see three generations of families who roll into town.
"We're sort of remote, so it's a journey to get to Cooperstown, and maybe the parent and child and grandparent didn't really talk in the car for a couple of hours, but when they walk in the front door - say they came from downstate New York - the youngster will say, ‘Wow, there's Derek Jeter's jersey. He's the greatest of all-time.' The father might say, ‘You never saw Reggie Jackson play.' And the grandfather says, ‘Mickey Mantle could have blown them both away.
"So baseball provides a language and a connectivity among generations that's great for families."
Idelson got his start in the game as a vendor at Fenway Park before moving into the team's public relations department and then went on to serve as the director of media relations for the Yankees from 1989-'93, so he's worked with some of the greats in the game. But when he speaks about the HOF, he maintains his childlike wonder - saying stepping into the HOF is like stepping into a Rockwell painting.
"I feel like if I close my eyes and then open them, everything might be in black and white because it is so timeless," he said. "It's Americana."
This is the HOF's 75th anniversary and fans who plan to visit this summer have a lot to look forward to. In June, the HOF is opening a new Babe Ruth gallery - The Bambino broke into the majors one-hundred years ago. The HOF has a big induction class this year with six living inductees - the biggest class since President Nixon was in office. And the HOF is hosting a concert with Boston Pops and Paul Simon six days after the induction to celebrate the cultural aspect of baseball.