CGP Community Stories

Homer Osterhoudt, November 11, 2008

Title

Homer Osterhoudt, November 11, 2008

Subject

Cooperstown, New York Baseball Hall of Fame Hall of Fame Game South Pacific Army Air Corps Pearl Harbor Post Office Ted Williams

Description

Homer Osterhoudt is a lifelong resident of New York’s Otsego County and the Cooperstown area. Born January 17, 1918 in Oneonta, Mr. Osterhoudt grew up primarily in Phoenix Mills on his father’s farm until moving into Cooperstown with his wife Marion following World War II. Working as a mail carrier in Cooperstown for more than 30 years, Mr. Osterhoudt has been around the town long enough to hold the distinction of attending every Hall of Fame Game and Baseball Hall of Fame Induction in the institutions exist, except from 1941 to 1945, when he served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He actually helped lay the foundation for the Hall of Fame building before it opened in 1939, has supplied his personal photographs of the earliest ceremonies to the Hall of Fame and has, in recent years, been an invaluable source for those interested in the transformation of Cooperstown into a baseball Mecca.

Like many in his generation, Mr. Osterhoudt answered the call to serve during the War. His return home found him take a 30-year career which allowed him to be present as his town found its identity with the sport of baseball. He represents not only a figure in the constant in American life that is baseball, but also a firsthand expert on the change of the town and baseball’s place in its history.

Mr. Osterhoudt has enjoyed recent notoriety accompanying his experiences with the Baseball Hall of Fame, serving as a wonderful primary source for those interested in two of the Hall’s key events and their change over time. His stories and photographs are treasures for many across the world who love baseball. His war experience is also quite remarkable, from his brother’s involvement with Pearl Harbor, to another brother losing his life as an airborne soldier in Europe. One of the most interesting of his recollections was that he sent home a Japanese parachute, from which silk was used for his future wife’s wedding gown.

Without offering an introspective memory of his lifetime, Mr. Osterhoudt seemed genuinely amused at recollecting many of his memories. His stories were at many times quite matter-of-fact, but infused with his own humor and delight in retelling them. I have tried to include notation of when he, and myself as the interviewer, laughed or chuckled during a statement. I have also omitted some verbal pauses and grammatical errors that took place when Mr. Osterhoudt was talking through some of his memories.

Creator

Dan Winklebleck

Publisher

Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta

Date

2008-11-11

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library,
Cooperstown, NY

Online Submission

No

Interviewer

Dan Winklebleck

Interviewee

Homer Osterhoudt

Location

Cooperstown, NY

Transcription

Cooperstown Graduate Program
Research and Fieldwork Course (HMUS 520)
Oral History Project
Fall 2008

Interview with Homer Osterhoudt by Dan Winklebleck

Interviewer: Winklebleck, Dan
Interviewee: Osterhoudt, Homer
Date: November 8, 2008
Location of interview: Cooperstown, New York

Archive or Library Repository: New York State Historical Association Library,
Cooperstown, NY

Description:
Homer Osterhoudt is a lifelong resident of New York’s Otsego County and the Cooperstown area. Born January 17, 1918 in Oneonta, Mr. Osterhoudt grew up primarily in Phoenix Mills on his father’s farm until moving into Cooperstown with his wife Marion following World War II. Working as a mail carrier in Cooperstown for more than 30 years, Mr. Osterhoudt has been around the town long enough to hold the distinction of attending every Hall of Fame Game and Baseball Hall of Fame Induction in the institutions exist, except from 1941 to 1945, when he served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He actually helped lay the foundation for the Hall of Fame building before it opened in 1939, has supplied his personal photographs of the earliest ceremonies to the Hall of Fame and has, in recent years, been an invaluable source for those interested in the transformation of Cooperstown into a baseball Mecca.

Like many in his generation, Mr. Osterhoudt answered the call to serve during the War. His return home found him take a 30-year career which allowed him to be present as his town found its identity with the sport of baseball. He represents not only a figure in the constant in American life that is baseball, but also a firsthand expert on the change of the town and baseball’s place in its history.

Mr. Osterhoudt has enjoyed recent notoriety accompanying his experiences with the Baseball Hall of Fame, serving as a wonderful primary source for those interested in two of the Hall’s key events and their change over time. His stories and photographs are treasures for many across the world who love baseball. His war experience is also quite remarkable, from his brother’s involvement with Pearl Harbor, to another brother losing his life as an airborne soldier in Europe. One of the most interesting of his recollections was that he sent home a Japanese parachute, from which silk was used for his future wife’s wedding gown.

Without offering an introspective memory of his lifetime, Mr. Osterhoudt seemed genuinely amused at recollecting many of his memories. His stories were at many times quite matter-of-fact, but infused with his own humor and delight in retelling them. I have tried to include notation of when he, and myself as the interviewer, laughed or chuckled during a statement. I have also omitted some verbal pauses and grammatical errors that took place when Mr. Osterhoudt was talking through some of his memories.


Key Terms:
Homer Oserthoudt
Cooperstown, New York
Baseball Hall of Fame
Hall of Fame Game
South Pacific
Army Air Corps
Pearl Harbor
Post Office
Ted Williams


Cooperstown Graduate Program
Oral History Project Fall 2008
HO = Homer Osterhoudt
DW = Dan Winklebleck
[Start of Track 1, 0:00]
DW: This is Daniel Winklebleck. I’m here with Homer Osterhoudt, and it is Saturday, November 8th, at around 1:30 p.m. And we’re going to be doing an oral history, and we’re at Mr. Osterhoudt’s home on Chestnut Avenue in Cooperstown, New York.
HO: Chestnut Street.
DW: Oh? Yes.
HO: [laughing]
DW: So, I know that you grew up in the area, we talked about that before. Can you tell me, we’ll just go over a little bit about your family again and just growing up in the area?
HO: I was born in Oneonta and I was only there about six months and my father got a job up at the Fenimore Farm carrying milk, delivering milk with a horse and wagon for the Fenimore Farm Dairy. He did that for about two years and then after that he bought a farm in a little place about three miles outside of town called Phoenix Mills, and that’s where I grew up, and that’s where I … spent my young life, until I got married.
DW: Your father was hauling milk. Was your mother working? Was she at home?
HO: No. She was at home, taking care of me [laughing].
DW: I know you had brothers, were they older, younger brothers?
HO: I’m the oldest one.
DW: What year were you born?
HO: 1918.
DW: When was the latest brother—how did they kind of
HO: The latest was my brother Howard and my youngest brother. As far as knowing, I mean, just when he was born, I can’t remember. I had a sister, I had two sisters. My one sister died about, when she was about 5. She died of Bright’s Disease. It’s a kidney disease. And I had a sister, which was below me, the third one down [laughs]. She died in 1950. A long time ago. So, she had cancer. So that’s… and of course my brother Lincoln who was in the Air Force with the 82nd Airborne Division, a paratrooper, and he was killed in Holland in 1944. In September of 1944. Any more that you want to know about… about my family [laughing]?
DW: What was it like growing up with the brothers and sisters, being the oldest?
HO: Well, we seemed to get along well. There was certain farm chores that we had to do. Being on a farm and a lot of young people close by in the neighborhood, in Phoenix Mills. We used to get together and do sledding and that, and play ball and things like that. Ice skating.
Growing up on the farm, of course we had different chores we had to do. And also, some of us, brothers and myself. We caddied at a local golf course. So, we used to walk-until we got a bike- we used to walk from Phoenix Mills, which is about 3 miles away, to the golf course. Usually, we got up early because the first one out was … to get out first to carry for somebody. The first one out, so maybe he could get in two rounds of golf in a day. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. [Starting Track 2, 0:00] So latecomers, they probably would only be able to get out once. So, it helped us earn some money and kinda helped do different things.
So, I can’t remember now just when, but we used to roller skate up at Canadarago Lake up near Richfield Springs. We did quite a lot of roller skating. We went different places roller skating. [Those were] some of the things we did. On the farm we belonged to the 4H and that was quite something: making things and learning about agriculture.
DW: Did you think you would have your own farm or work on a farm. When you were younger, did you think that’s what you were going to be doing?
HO: No, I didn’t realize what maybe I might be doing. I took a home-study course in air-conditioning and refrigeration and that didn’t work out. Of all the people, all of our family members on the farm, none of us really kept up the farming. I had a sister, she married a farmer, but otherwise everybody else did different kinds of work.
DW: Now, you said nobody kind of stayed with the farm. Did your other siblings move away, or did you guys all stay in kind of the same general area?
HO: Well, until we got to be teenagers … the folks generally in the area, except some of them went to-a couple of them went to college, so that made a difference. So, you’d be away from home going to college. Otherwise… I don’t know just what else you might want [to know].
DW: I mean, after college, did anyone sort of move away? Did anybody move to New York City or a different state?
HO: No, all of our family stayed generally close by. My one brother that went to college, he moved to Upstate New York and then he moved to Western New York. Otherwise, our family, our originally family, didn’t move very far from the area. Sharon Springs is about the farthest away.
DW: When you sort of started working in Cooperstown, when you started getting those jobs in Cooperstown, were you still living with your parents out in Phoenix Mills?
HO: Yeah. MmHm.
DW: What were some of those jobs like? I know you did a lot of different stuff for a while, right? You worked at the mechanics—I’m talking about before you went into the service. What were some of the jobs you had?
HO: Before I went in the service, I started working for Cook’s Garage on Main St., pumping gas, taking care of parts department and he had a taxi business. So , I used to take taxi business going to New York or Connecticut, different places. That was when I was working at Cook’s Garage. That was after I got out of the service …
HO: At this point did you want to know about the service?
DW: We can talk about that. Yeah, we can talk about those years.
[Starting Track 3, 0:00]
HO: Well, I, did I mention before about working for the Grand Union?
DW: The Grand Union?
HO: The Grand Union was a store.
DW: Oh? No.
HO: That was before I went into the Service.
DW: That was a grocery store, right?
HO: That was a grocery store. It was on Main St. And they had a delivery service. People would call in for a grocery order and we’d go and deliver it. When there [were] no deliveries, I worked in the store, you know, as a clerk, stocking shelves… taking care of the costumers that would come in and wanted to buy food. So, I worked that for a couple years and then … of course, that’s after …that was before I went into the Service.
Also, when I worked for the Hall of Fame; that was in 1937. Got my Social Security Card and worked for the Bedford Construction Company of Utica. And we set up a cement mixing machine in front of the Post Office on Main St. We carted, wheel-barrowed cement over for the foundation over across the street for the Hall of Fame. After they got the foundation done they put up the building sides with cement blocks and then bricks. So, we had to take care of the mason’s who did the cement work.
DW: Was that pretty hard work? A tough job?
HO: Well, it was fairly hard, and it was in the winter too. During ‘37 and the first part of ’38. In the meantime, or right after that I was caddie master at the local golf club. Then, of course, when I went to work for the Grand Union, I worked there a couple years until I went into the Service, which was 1941.
DW: You worked downtown; you worked on Main St. What was Main St. like? I mean, now all I see is baseball. Baseball, baseball, baseball. Can you talk a little bit about what it was like before, or while you were putting up the Hall of Fame.
HO: Back then it was grocery stores, it was restaurants. There was shoe stores, there was clothing stores. There was ladies … there was Smart Shop, which carried ladies, mainly women’s clothing, dresses and all sorts of things. … There was several department stores, well not several, [but] a couple department store-type stores. Of course there was the meat market, the grocery stores, of course. Main St. was quite different back then. You had drug stores, an ice cream store, where you had ice cream fountains; where you would go in and have sodas and stuff.
DW: Now, where was your store? Where was the … Union?
HO: Grand Union was right on Main St. It’s about right now where the CVS drug store is.
DW: Uh huh. You said you got your Social Security Card. That was working as the mason’s assistant, with the masons, as the assistant or helper?
HO: Yeah. Really hired as a laborer.
DW: So, what was that like, I mean getting the Social [Starting Track 4, 0:00] Security Card. Was that a big deal? Was it something you told your friends about or anything?
HO: I don’t remember. You had to get a Social Security Card, cause you know, they had to make a record of how much money they were paying you and notify the Social Security people, you know [laughing]. But, I don’t remember much of a problem getting a Social Security Card and I don’t even remember, you know, where I had to go to get to get it or what. Somehow. I think probably the Bedford Construction Company probably told me what to do [laughing] and where to go and whatever else to do.
[Track 4, 1:00]
DW: So, you finish. You’re working for the Hall of Fame and the building gets [put] up. Then there is the first Hall of Fame Game and Induction and everything.
HO: Right.
DW: Were you a fan before? Did you follow any ballplayers before that?
HO: Not really, no. I just…it was quite an event for Cooperstown.
DW: Sure.
HO: You know, the first one. Some 12 thousand people there, so it was quite exciting to have all these notable people coming. And I just started following the thing. Year-after-year, I went to all of the inductions and all of the Hall of Fame Games. It was quite a thing.
DW: Who was your favorite person that you saw? During those early years, during the first year?
HO: Well, I think Babe Ruth was probably the man, you know, ‘cause I really had known of him. A ball player, even taking pictures of him and all the Hall of Famers that came that day and afterwards at different times, in following years, the pictures that I took the first time, well even afterwards, I was able to get some autographs of the people.
DW: Oh? Cool.
HO: Cy Young, that was quite the event [laughing].
DW: Yeah, I’m sure. Did you take any of those photos or maybe the autographs, anything that--did you take that into the Service with you, did you have any of that?
HO: I took my camera. Well, I didn’t take my camera with me, cause when we—they told us on the way that you couldn’t take any cameras with you. So, when I was over in Australia, I bought a camera and I took some pictures, I took a lot of pictures of my Army service.
DW: Very nice. Was the Hall of Fame Game and seeing those players something you kind of brag about with your buddies, the guys in your unit? Did they ask you about it at all?
HO: I don’t remember, no, I don’t remember them asking, you know, about the first induction or anything. I just don’t remember any of them asking me about it.
[19:05]
DW: Well, let’s talk a little about being in the Army Air Corps and just your experience in the Service.
HO: I went in at Fort Dix in New Jersey. I probably was there two weeks and then I was sent to Jefferson Barracks, which was just outside of St. Louis, Missouri, for my basic training. Then, after being there a month in basic training I went to Wright-Patterson Field; really, it was Patterson Field at that time, outside of Dayton, Ohio; it’s Fairfield, Ohio. I was there learning mechanics and came in June of [Starting Track 5, 0:00] 1942, they decided that we were going to go to, that a small group of our outfit was gonna’ go to Alaska. We had our bags all packed out on the street, ready to go and the order came that “You’re going to the South Pacific.” And that was that. They had a big sea battle; I think it was over the Pacific there somewhere that changed the course of the war. So, they decided they needed us more over there than they did in Alaska.
DW: So, were you happy to hear that you were going to be in the South Pacific instead of somewhere up in Alaska?
HO: I think I really did, because, you know, you think of Alaska and you think it’s cold and everything. And if you go to the South Pacific, you know it’s going to be warmer. I presume I thought that back then. At least, I would now [laughing]
DW: [laughing] What was it like, I mean you’re a kid from Upstate New York, out there in the South Pacific? What was that like for you? I mean, weather-wise, seeing islands and being in Australia?
HO: I had one fella’ from Cooperstown that was with me, even overseas, through basic training and everywhere. When he came back home, he was killed by a train accident outside of town. Generally, he and I were together all the time. Some of us came home earlier than others, As far as I know, he came home after I did. Some of them, depending on how many points then, if you had so many points then you were able to go home.
DW: Do you remember his name?
HO: Bill Paige. Bill Page. Really, it was Alfred William Page, so I always called him Bill [laughing].
DW: Okay, so you’re in the South Pacific. You talked to me a little bit about this before. Could you explain what your occupation down there was? What your assignment was?
HO: We were an outfit; it was an air-depot group. Repair. Headquarters and repair. We did, in Australia, we did repairing of planes. In fact, when we got to Townsville, we helped build the, they call it the airport, the repair hangers. We did a lot of construction work. When we got the hangers all built, well then the planes came in. They would come in from up in the Pacific, that needed repair. So we would work on the. We also had planes come over on aircraft carriers and at the port, you had to go down and get them off the planes, or, get them off the carriers and take ‘em back [to the base] and assemble ‘em; put them together; get them going. [laughing].
DW: When you take them off the aircraft carrier, do you tow them off? Or is like a crane that lifts them off? How does that work?
HO: They had a crane that lifted them off. They didn’t have any wings on them. You had to assemble them when you got back to the … So, it was quite an experience.
DW: Now, you were over there when [Starting Track 6, 0:00] your brother Lincoln, that was Lincoln, correct? In Amsterdam, or in Europe, in the 82nd?
HO: The 82nd Airborne? Yes.
DW: Right. When he was killed, how did you find out? Did you find out at the base or…?
HO: I had a telegram from my mother saying that he had been killed. I guess I didn’t mention, I mean not right now, I had a brother Ralph. He was in the Signal Corps in Hawaii. He was at Hickam Field. He was there December 7th, 1941.
DW: Oh, wow.
HO: It was about a month before we could find out whether he was alive or [laughing] had passed away or got killed. So it was about a month before we got word.
DW: Was he all right? Or, was he killed at Hickam?
HO: No, he was all right. He didn’t get any, he wasn’t wounded or anything. He was there seeing the Jap planes come over everything. That was a relief to family members.
DW: Now, all your brothers served during the war?
HO: My brother Howard was in the Air Force, too. Ad my brother John, he was in the Air Force. And then my brother Ralph, who was in Hawaii, he was really in the Air Force, but part of the Signal Corps, so we were all, back then it was the Army Air Corps, instead of the Air Force. I don’t remember just when they changed over from Army Air Corps to Air Force, but probably in the 40s or 50s or somewhere in there, I don’t know [laughing].
DW: Was there any reason you guys all chose that, or wanted to go into that instead of the Navy?
HO: I just wanted to be in the Air Force. Well, I don’t know why, I presume my other brothers did too. I never really remember asking them, ‘how come you joined the Air Force?’ [laughing]
DW: [laughing] They were all trying to be like you… Okay, so you got to come home. When did you get to come home?
HO: I got to come home in 1945. I was overseas, besides Australia, I spent some time in the Philippines. The one place, we were sent ahead to a, a special unit, just a small unit taking in all aspects of who could repair what planes might need to be done. We were sent to Lingayen Gulf, up there and the planes [would] come in and we would repair ‘em, so either [they could] get back to combat or sent back to Australia for some major repairs, or whatever [laughing].
Up at Lingayen Gulf, I might add, we were stationed in a big building and it had a lot of Japanese parachutes. One of the parachutes, one of the Japanese parachutes, I brought home, well I sent it home and the silk of the parachute we had, my wife had made for her wedding dress.
DW: Oh, really? Wow.
HO: You know, Japanese silk. Japanese silk was quite good silk.
DW: Did you meet your wife [Starting Track 7, 0:00] after you got back, or did you know her before you went overseas?
HO: No, I knew her before. So, we corresponded. I corresponded with quite a lot of people. Girls, you know, that I had been going out with. When I got back, well then we sort of got together and went roller skating. She didn’t care much for roller skating, and couldn’t do it very good, either. We used to go to some dances around, some square dances, at granges. Got married in 1946.
DW: Could you just say, just for the recording, her first name and maiden name?
HO: She was Marion Potter. P-O-T-T-E-R. Marion: M-A-R-I-O-N, Marion. Potter. She was born in Worcester, New York. That’s where she lived and that’s where she was brought up. She worked in Cooperstown for the Welfare Department.
DW: How old were each of you when you were married?
HO: Well, I was married in 1946. So, she was born in ’22, 1922, so … [you] good at figures?
DW: ’46 and ’22? She’s 24, maybe.
HO: And I was … I’m, what four years older than she is or something? Well, ’18 to ’40… Must have been something like four years…
DW: So, you come back and you work at Cook’s for a little while,
HO: Yeah.
DW: But, then you were a mail carrier, correct?
HO: Yep. I took a civil service test, and I passed that and got a job, started December 1st, 1946, at the local Post Office. [I] worked there until 1980. It was quite a stretch.
I really enjoyed carrying mail. I got to meet people out in the fresh air. Once, I had the opportunity to work inside, but I didn’t care about being inside: a clerk.
DW: Was it a walking route for most of the time, or did you drive?
HO: Walking route. When I first started we made two deliveries a day: the morning and afternoon. So then in 1951, they changed it so you only made one delivery a day. [At] that time we walked, so I can’t remember how long it was before we got a three-wheeled push thing… So, [I] delivered mail that way. Carried the mail, and they had relay boxes around you and you’d go a ways and then pick up some more mail and deliver that. And then they got, they had the jeeps, the mail trucks like they do now. So then, that worked sort of the same way, except you’d drive to the first stop and leave it there and make a loop. They called it loop; carry and loop. Stop there and loop around a street and come back and move the truck, do another loop [laughing].
In fact, I don’t know how many years, they had a dog. It used to follow me every day. He used to — it wasn’t my dog, or what — but he just used to follow me. Every day, he’d follow me around, follow me around/ He used to follow me when I started my route. He’d be waiting there; I think he just wanted company, I don’t know [laughing].
DW: What kind of dog was it? Was it a big one?
HO: It was a shepherd.
DW: Do you remember— you were always in the village [of Cooperstown], right? You weren’t really delivering out [Starting Track 8, 0:00] past the lines there?
HO: Mail?
DW: Yeah, yeah.
HO: No, we just delivered in the village. There [were] three carriers. We had three routes. One route was, they called it, an auxiliary. It was a six-hour route instead of an eight-hour route. … As time went on, [there were] more mail delivery spots. More mail needed to be delivered places, so then they had three routes: three walking routes. They had three rural mail carrier routes out of the Post Office.
DW: So, when you retire in 1980, do you kind of remember your last day at work, your last day mail carrying day?
HO: Well, I was just glad, in a way, that was going to be my last day. It was in the winter, too, so that was; I was sort of glad that— but the thing that I was going to miss was seeing all the people that I knew, you know. You got to know everybody on the route, and, you know, it was good to see people. You sort of, after that, you sort of lost that daily contact a lot of these people.
DW: Okay, So you’re back now and going to the Hall of Fame Games, and you go to the inductions all the time now. How did that become this part of your life after that, now that you’re here for good?
HO: Well, I’m not sure, but after that first induction and all of the notable people, the players and everything, I just sort of go interested in it. So, I never really followed any specific team, but just, it was something different. It was quite a thing for Cooperstown and some notables coming [laughing].
DW: When you came back, where did you live in town? Did you live in town?
HO: After I came back … I was discharged in July of ’45 and I stayed home until June 16, 1946, so we got married. And then we had different, we stayed in different rooms, different apartments and rooms until we built a house on Walnut Street, in 1949. In November, 1949, we moved in. That’s where I lived until two years ago.
DW: You have one son? Is that correct?
HO: One son.
DW: Just the son? No daughters?
HO: One son and a granddaughter.
DW: Your son’s name is Darrell, correct?
HO: Darrell. D-A-R-R-E-L-L.
DW: When was he born?
HO: He was born in 1950. He was born the last day of December. And our granddaughter was born the day after Christmas. So, he was born the day before New Years [laughing].
DW: That’s interesting. You said they also both live in a Springfield, right? Springfield, Missouri?
HO: Springfield, Missouri. Our granddaughter [is in] Springfield, Missouri. Our son and his wife live in Springfield, Virginia. Our granddaughter went to school in Missouri, graduated from Missouri State and she got a job teaching kindergarten. So, this is her second year teaching kindergarten. She really enjoys it: teaching kindergarten. She’s always been good with taking care of kids, through high school. She worked, [Starting Track 9, 0:00] taking care of kids even summers, and was always taking care of kids. So, she really enjoyed it.
DW: Was all of the baseball-Cooperstown stuff, something you and your son kind of shared at all? Did you take him to the games? Is that something that’s important to him now, too?
HO: No, because he wasn’t really around. He’s sort of interested, and I, you know, all the things I send him: something in the paper or pictures or something. So, he’s going to have all that stuff some time [laughing]. But, he’s not really interested in any particular baseball team. He follows football and basketball; football and basketball. Otherwise, I guess, he’s not really into [laughing] being really interested in baseball.
[Track 9, 1:36]
DW: I’ve read interviews with you, before we did this, about you being at all of the Hall of Fame Games and everything. What’s that like, when people want to ask you about: “you’ve been to all these Hall of Fame Games,” what’s that like for you?
HO: Well, I think, you know, I feel as if they’re interested. I think they like to hear something about, mainly people way back. I had a fellow call me from, he knows me from when our family lived in Jefferson City, Missouri. We went to church out there and used to see him. He was doing a project, so he wanted to know more about it and what I did and so forth. He wanted to check on the Hall of Fame and more about the Hall of Fame, so he called them up and they sent him— he joined the Hall of Fame. ‘Cause I’m a member of the Hall of Fame. He called up and joined up and they sent him this book that I showed you with Babe Ruth on the cover. There’s an article about me inside. So, he took a copy of that and he wanted me to autograph that and send it back to him, so I did [laughing].
DW: Did you say, “Be careful, this is worth a lot of money”?
HO: [laughing] Yeah.
DW: That’s interesting that he asked for your autograph. What are some of the questions you hear the most?
HO: I think, generally, each year the Hall of Fame invites me and a couple others that were there back in 1939, about ‘what was it like;’ ‘what was it like in Cooperstown?’ All the stores and stuff, instead of all baseball stuff. So, that’s the main topic that people want to know: “how was it back then?” And, about the crowds. The Hall of Famers. They used to come in on the train up here: walk down to the Hall of Fame. I think they did that just one year, I mean as far as I can remember: coming in on the train. They made a special trip, but, I mean, it used to be passenger way back.
[Starting Track 10, 0:00]
HO: Something like pictures of ‘em getting off the train up around Main Street and walking down.
DW: Now, I asked that same question, too, you know, “What was it like?” And, you said people ask that all the time. What were the people in the town like? Was everybody excited for this, or were so people maybe didn’t want it going on: what was the mod of the town?
HO: I think at first, people really, really liked it. But, I think the last few years, well I don’t know how many. I mean, the Hall of Fame Induction; it used to be, the Hall of Fame Induction and the Hall of Fame Game used to be on the same day. Then they changed it. Some of them, they didn’t like all the traffic and all the people, you know. No place to park [laughing], and streets full of people and all that. It brought a lot of income to the town. Some of them really look forward to the time of the induction … one time they had 75,000 here or so, a couple years ago. I mean, the traffic was terrific [laughing]. Don’t know how long. Out here, we just stood there and stood there and stood there, [laughing]. Well, you know, you get a small town and you get, you know, 75,000 people, I mean [laughing].
DW: I can’t imagine… You told me that some of the photos you took are now in the library. Can you talk about that? Did you decide to give it to the library? Did they approach you and ask?
HO: Well, I’m not sure. I think different ones that the Hall of Fame would like, at the time. They said “get your negatives.” So, [they] made 8-by-10s of the negatives that I had. So, they’re in the Hall of Fame Library. There’s a folder in the Hall of Fame, for anybody that wants to know. Go to the Baseball Hall of Fame Library and ask for the induction in 1939 information, so they’ll bring out all the information they have on the induction. In there is the folder, and it has my name on it; all the pictures that I took. They had me go in, maybe three years ago, four years ago, and write on the back of the photographs who’s who and all that kind of stuff so they would have some kind of record. So, I did that.
I took several, how many years of movies. I’ve still got movies and I [haven’t yet got them] separated, so they would like to get them some time. So, some time this winter, I’m going to dig those out, and they want to make DVDs of them. Now, 8mm film isn’t going to last forever, and [laughing], they’d like to have that for the record in the library. So, I’m going to work on that.
DW: The films you took, did you kind of shoot it like you were broadcasting a game, or was it more like you were taking your own pictures?
HO: Just taking my own pictures. I got one of—I was sitting over in third base. Ted Williams, he was a left-handed hitter, anyway, of him losing his bat and [it] going over into the first-base bleachers. [Starting Track 11, 0:00] He hit a girl from Albany, but no serious damage. But, I got a picture of that and Hall of Fame wanted that portion. So, they; I gave them that part and they made a copy of it. I don’t know, they just wanted to have it for— I don’t know, maybe for any … liability or something. Anyway, but they wanted a copy of that, so they have a copy of that.
DW: You kind of continued doing that over they years; it wasn’t just the early years?
HO: Yeah, I did that every year.
DW: I saw that picture you showed to me in that magazine of “Dizzy” Dean warming up. What were some of your favorite shots; favorite players to photograph?
HO: Well, I think I caddied for a group of New York Yankees. I caddied for … I can’t think of the name right now. But, it was Johnnie Murphy, umm, it was the Yankees. They came up and played somebody from New Jersey, I think. So, all the Yankees came up: Joe DiMaggio, was it George Selkirk, oh, Lefty Gomez was one of them who played golf. … Played golf and then they came up and I caddied for one of them, and I don’t know [how it came to happen] that I caddy for one of them and I don’t remember the other caddies that did at the same time, either.
I probably mention who was in that group of Yankees that played that day. [takes out notebook] No … I thought I had written that down. Yeah: Jake Powell, Lefty Gomez, Bump Headley, George Selkirk and Johnnie Murphy. That was the ones; I caddied for Jake Powell.
DW: What year was that?
HO: That would have been 1939. 1939. I think it was June; the middle of June [laughing] it was. I can’t remember now. … Any more that you want to know about [laughing]?
DW: Actually, did you keep caddying after you got back? Did you golf?
HO: No. I never; I had two brothers that kept on golfing, but I didn’t. When I worked for the grocery store, the Grand Union, that left one day: Sunday, so… I was already working, so as far as playing golf, you know, I just didn’t care that much about playing golf. So, it left one day of the week, you know, I mean [laughing].
[Track 11, 4:28]
DW: Yeah. Now, last year was the last Hall of Fame Game they’re going to have. What are your thoughts on that?
HO: Well, I was quite interested in it, being the last game. But, as it turned out, you know, it rained and sleet and hail. They had two storms. Well, [in] [Starting Track 12, 0:00] the first place, in the morning was the Hall of Fame Game Parade, which was very good. I was in that with a couple other people who were there in [1939]. And then as soon as the game started, or was supposed to have started, the clouds got; they knew a storm was coming; the clouds started rolling in. The team came in. They unloaded, got in the grandstand, to their respective places: dugouts. I saw some of them out practicing out a little bit. They were going to have a home run derby. Well, that didn’t come off, because the storm was; it started to rain and pretty soon, thunder and lightening and hail. So, the team was there. We just waited around. I thought “well, there’s going to be a let-up,” and they didn’t know whether it was going to continue or … but, some sun came out, it cleared off some. So, they had part of the ceremony, which was throwing out the first ball, which we did. But, then after that got done, then it started with another big storm came. So, then I thought, we thought “well, maybe they’ll get it in after all.” But then, it kept on, and the weather report wasn’t very good, so they cancelled it.
The last Hall of Fame Game really wasn’t this last year, it was last year. Really, I mean [laughing], at least they got the part of that day’s ceremony after the parade. They got the part of the throwing out the [first] ball; the introduction of the ones taking part in that part. So, I got to throw out the first ball and Ferguson Jenkins, he was there also. He signed the ball that I threw and I got it on my table over there. So, I’m sorry to see that they won’t have the Hall of Fame Game again, but I figured sometime that was going to happen. They try to schedule a game with everything else going on with the players. I figured it was due to happen sometime. I guess it was; it’s done.
DW: You’re probably kind of happy that you got to be there, to see it stop? Not that you’re happy it’s over, but, I mean, part of you might be kind of glad that you were there for basically all of them?
HO: Yeah, yeah. I was able to, except, you know, the couple years that I was in the service. Otherwise, yeah, I’ll miss it. Time marches on.
DW: So, what are your plans for that weekend now that it’s not?
HO: I’ll see what comes up. I think the Hall of Fame will probably do something special this coming year, because that will be 70 years. And, I presume they’ll; on June 12th, or thereabouts, I presume the Hall of Fame will come up something. I don’t know what. And, I imagine they’ll invite me to be part of it, ‘cause they have done, I don’t know how many years now on June 12th, they invited me to participate in the, in one of the theaters there. For an hour program for [Starting Track 13, 0:00] anybody that wants to, it’s in the Hall of Fame there. Anybody can come. They usually fill up the little room, Bullpen Theater. I imagine they’ll have something similar, this coming, I presume [laughing]. I’m just guessing, I don’t know [laughing]. They’re probably working on it.
DW: What was your relationship with the Hall of Fame, I mean, over the years? Now, it seems like you’re included in almost everything, but, when you’re just kind of working here and going to the games, was it, did you have any real relationship with the Hall of Fame?
HO: Well, not really, until how many years ago. I forgot how many years. I’ve probably been a member of the Hall of Fame now for about five years. That includes probably 37,000 people. So, anytime I can go in and see exhibits and whatever and it doesn’t cost me anything. Well, it cost me to join, which is $40 a year, but, you know, you can go in and participate in the activities, whatever they have. And I’m quite friendly with Tim Wiles. Tim sort of, he did the one article in the Memories and Dreams. We’ve known each other for a few years; since he’s been at the Hall of Fame. … Jeff Idelson, who is now President of the Hall of Fame, before that he was; I used to work with him for whatever programs were going to go on.
DW: Did you every do any programs with; did they ever have there with a ballplayer, or anything like that?
HO: Nope. I haven’t.
DW: Okay. Well is there anything you wanted to talk about that I didn’t bring up? Because I would hate to go for this whole time and leave out something that you …
HO: [After laughing at the question] Well, I can’t think of anything, I told you about roller skating…
DW: There was a rink in town, right? Or was that an ice rink? I know some of the other people…
HO: Canadarago Lake [at Richfield Springs]. It’s not there anymore. They used to have a lot of big-name bands come I remember Gene Krupa. Besides roller skating, they used to have … I was president of the skating club for a year or so. Used to go roller skating down different places. We used to go ... I don’t know, if there’s anything else I could think of, that would be of importance [laughing].
DW: Oh, you lived, when you lived on Lake Street, you guys lived right next to the farm?
HO: That was 98 Lake Street, and now it’s quite a big house.
DW: that was before you moved out to Phoenix Mills, right?
HO: Yep. Picture of me right there [showing photograph], that’s 98 Lake Street [laughing]. I mean …
[Starting Track 14, 0:00]
DW: Well, thank you very much, that was great. Thank You.
HO: You’re Welcome.
[End Track 14, 0:11. Total Running Time: 65:10]

Files

Citation

Dan Winklebleck, “Homer Osterhoudt, November 11, 2008,” CGP Community Stories, accessed June 22, 2018, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/8.