4/7/2014 5:10 P.M. ET
Hall of Famers in awe of Cardinals Museum
Schoendienst describes facility as 'stunning'; separate gallery dedicated to fans
By Bill Hester / Special to MLB.com
It was a walk down memory lane for Red Schoendienst, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Whitey Herzog and Tony La Russa on Monday at the opening of the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame and Museum.
The six Hall of Famers were among the first to tour the over 8,000-square-foot facility on the second floor of Cardinals Nation.
The 91-year-old Schoendienst, who has worn a Major League uniform for 69 years and been involved with the game for eight decades, was impressed.
"It is stunning," said Schoendienst, a 1989 Hall of Fame inductee who played for the Cardinals from 1945-56 and again from 1961-63 and managed the team from 1965-76. "The DeWitts have done one great job here. It is very worthwhile to come down here, and you can really spend some time here. Today brought back some great memories not only for myself but the rest of the guys here. It is an amazing thing to see. They wanted to do it, they did it and they did it the right way."
It was a big day indeed for Cardinals chairman and chief executive officer Bill DeWitt Jr.
"The group of Hall of Famers we have here along with the other 16 who have their plaques on the wall [Jim Bottomley, Dizzy Dean, Frankie Frisch, Chick Haley, Jesse Haines, Rogers Hornsby, Joe Medwick, Johnny Mize, Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, Billy Southworth, Bruce Sutter, Ken Boyer, Jack Buck, August Busch, Jr., and Branch Rickey] represent the essence of Cardinal baseball, a history and tradition of excellence for over 100 years," DeWitt said.
"We have the largest team-held collection in all of baseball, second only to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown."
The collection has over 16,000 memorabilia items and hundreds of thousands of archival photographs.
"Virtually all of it is original," DeWitt said. "We wanted to complete this for a number of years, but we only wanted to do it the right way and in the proper venue. I think we have done that. Everyone who visits it will be in for a good treat."
There are a number of exhibits, some of which highlight the Browns/Cardinals all St. Louis World Series in 1944, Stan Musial: Baseball's Perfect Knight, All-Star Games played in St. Louis, the comeback kids of 1964, the El Birdos, Whitey Ball of the '80s, all the way to the current Cardinals.
The final gallery in the new museum is all about the fans. Visitors can input their hometown location on a massive screen, which showcases how "Cardinal Nation" reaches across the globe. Ozzie Smith, who wore No. 1, was the first person Monday to input his information.
"We have made this baseball heaven, right here in St. Louis," Brock said. "[The Cardinals] have a place for you somewhere in history -- they do not throw us out with the dishwater. We are part of that fabric. They probably named it best when they called it Cardinal Nation. You become a member of that nation, whether you were a fan or player."
Whitey Herzog is pleased that the Cardinals decided to add this to Ballpark Village.
"What a storied franchise this is," Herzog said. "I think it is really done well. I have to give the DeWitts credit. It is high class. This will be the first place fans are going to come on a weekend, right here to see the Cardinal Hall of Fame."
The Stan Musial exhibit was Herzog's favorite.
"He's the guy," Herzog said of Stan the Man. "I grew up in an era of Red, Stan and Enos. I really enjoyed all of Stan's stuff."
Herzog also said there is enough room for the future, and he has something he is willing to donate.
"I have stuff in boxes at home that I will never use," Herzog said. "I have one thing that is very special that I might want to put in this Hall of Fame. I won the first Man of the Year Award issued by the Sporting News. That might be something to put in that trophy case. Only four were issued, and I got the first. Bowie Kuhn, who was the Commissioner, got the second, [Peter] Ueberroth the third and Pete Rose the fourth. It might be something people will want to see."
The Cardinals Hall of Fame will be open from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. from Sunday-Saturday and will be open until the end of the seventh inning during evening home games.
Cost is $12 for adults. Senior citizens (60 and over) and active military will get in for $10. The price for children 4-15 will be $8, while children under 3 will be admitted for free. It is a self-guided hour and is wheelchair and stroller accessible.
Bill Hester is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.