COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. - Still in his teens and seeking to apply for his social security number, Homer Osterhoudt didn't really have a passion for baseball.
Yet, there he was helping make the cement and assisting the masons while working for a Utica-based construction company build Baseball's Hall of Fame Museum in the late 1930s in the village of Cooperstown, N.Y.
On June 12, 1939, Osterhoudt attended the ceremony which recognized four classes of Hall of Fame inductees. Among those in attendance were Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, George Sisler, Cy Young and Walter Johnson.
Photo courtesy of Edwin Cabaniss
Homer Osterhoudt, right, attended the first Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in 1939. The 96-year-old resident of Cooperstown, N.Y., also helped build the museum.
This past Saturday, I happened to be seated in the same row with Osterhoudt at Doubleday Field as the Hall of Fame committee inducted three new members, including a Texas Rangers broadcaster and a writer for the New Yorker. Osterhoudt was kind enough to give me a few minutes and reflect on baseball history.
"Well, not really," Osterhoudt replied when asked if he was a huge baseball fan as a youngster growing up in Cooperstown. "The only reason I kept following them was because I got the job to help build the Hall of Fame. The thing just grew after the first induction and I just kept coming back year after year."
At the first induction ceremony, access to Hall of Famers was more lenient than today's process and Osterhoudt managed to snag a pair of autographs.
"At that time, security only had a couple of police officers around," Osterhoudt said. "Players would come out and sit on the sidewalk, and finish putting on their shoes. So you could talk to them and take their pictures."
Born Jan. 17, 1918, Osterhoudt lived on his father's farm in Phoenix Mills before moving into Cooperstown with his wife, Marion, following World War II.
"My father delivered milk by horse and wagon," Osterhoudt said.
Osterhoudt worked as a mail carrier for 30 years and might explain why he has lived to witness Baseball Hall of Fame's 75th anniversary induction ceremony this past weekend.
"Someone said they guess all the exercise must have done me good," Osterhoudt said. "I don't know what it was, but I'm still here. Someone said if I would be around for the 100th anniversary. Time will tell."
In order to track down Osterhoudt for a conversation during induction weekend, just look for the kind old man wearing placard signs indicating his presence at the inaugural ceremony. He's well-prepared with signed business cards featuring black and white photos of that momentous day along with his autograph.
"Everybody wants to take my picture and wants my autograph," Osterhoudt said. "I guess I am a celebrity. At least, that's what they say."