In downtown Cleveland around lunchtime and need a baseball fix? You could always stop at the Cleveland Baseball Heritage Museum.
The museum is tucked away in the Colonial Arcade on Euclid Avenue. It started when Bob Zimmer displayed some baseball memorabilia in his family jewelry store downtown in 1997 during festivities surrounding the All-Star Game at Jacobs Field. Nine years later, he got some space in the Colonial Marketplace, one of the historic arcades along Euclid Avenue.
I consider myself a baseball fan and a master of arcane sports knowledge, but I had no idea this place existed until one of the players for the Blues, Cleveland’s vintage baseball team that plays at the Indians’ former home of League Park, shared it with me when I was in town for the Frozen Diamond Faceoff.
The museum, across from the food court that joins the Colonial and Euclid arcades, is around 5,800 square feet. It’s open from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but has expanded hours for special occasions (they were open late on Opening Day, for instance) and other hours are available by appointment. The facility also is available for rentals.
The museum pays attention to the Indians, but its focus is of all the other teams and players from the Cleveland area, particularly the Negro Leagues, the Mexican League and barnstorming teams that were, in some instances, the only live exposure to major league baseball that some towns got.
When you walk in, you’re greeted by a strange-looking device with a baseball in its grip. As it turns out, it’s a clamp to hold the ball for the days when baseballs were stitched by hand. There are uniforms, stadium chairs and bats from years before. Also, newspaper front pages and photos detailing great baseball achievements and players in Cleveland’s history and the history of the game. The bottom floor has an exhibit of baseball broadcasting, including a replica radio studio.
There is no shortage of restaurants in the area. I’m partial to the Fourth Street Grill in the Corner Alleyat the corner of Euclid and East Fourth. I was there before the Frozen Diamond Faceoff, NCAA tournament games and at least one Bruce Springsteen concert. There’s also Flannery’s Pub , a little farther down East Fourth.
Arcades at the time were a novelty, a chance for people to shop indoors – really, a forerunner to shopping malls. The Colonial Arcade was built in 1898, eight years after the opening of the Cleveland Arcade, nearly across the street on Euclid Avenue. That arcade was the first building in Cleveland added to the National Register of Historic Places, and is worth a walk through, preferably on a day when the sun shines through the gaping skylights. It’ll make you say, “They just don’t build ‘em like this anymore.”