Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I’m Steve Ember. And I'm Faith Lapidus. The best people in a sport may be elected to a hall of fame. The United States is home to national or international halls of fame in golf, hockey, lacrosse, volleyball, swimming, bowling bicycling, motor sports and more. This week on our program, we tell you about three of them: the ones for baseball, basketball and professional football.
Our first stop is the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, in the northeastern United States. The full name is the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
In eighteen ninety-one, a man named James Naismith was teaching physical education at a school in Springfield. One long, cold winter, he had to create a game for eighteen young men to play indoors. So the Canadian-born Naismith wrote some rules.
Rule number one: "The ball may be thrown in any direction with one or both hands." Two: "The ball may be batted in any direction with one or both hands (never with the fist)."
In all, there were thirteen rules – the original rules of basketball. James Naismith is recognized as the inventor of basketball.
The National Association of Basketball Coaches established the Hall of Fame in nineteen forty-nine. It opened in nineteen sixty-eight at Springfield College. A new, larger building opened in nineteen eighty-five. And, four years ago, the Hall of Fame moved into a newer building, just south of its former home. The new building increased the size by almost one hundred percent.
The Basketball Hall of Fame is a museum and entertainment center. It combines history with technology. And it tries to capture the energy and excitement of the game. In the Center Court area, for example, visitors can play interactive games of basketball and take part in skill competitions.
The Hall of Fame explores basketball at every level of the game. Visitors learn about professional basketball in the United States and other countries. They learn about women's teams and how the game is played at the college level. They also learn about basketball for disabled people.
The Hall of Fame honors the best players, teams, coaches and officials in basketball. Earlier this month, six more honorees joined the more than two hundred fifty people in the Hall of Fame. The six new members are Geno Auriemma, Charles Barkley, Joe Dumars, Sandro Gamba, David Gavitt and Dominique Wilkins.
Our next stop is also in the Northeast. The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is in Cooperstown, in New York State.
Some people believe that a man named Abner Doubleday invented the game of baseball in that small town in eighteen thirty-nine. Doubleday and his friends used to chase cows out of a field so they could play a game called "town ball." Town ball involved twenty to fifty boys. The boys attempted to catch a ball hit by a "tosser" who used a flat piece of wood.
One day, or so the story goes, Abner Doubleday made changes to the game of town ball. He reduced the number of players. He added a pitcher, who threw the ball, and a catcher. He used a stick to draw a square-shaped area in the dirt. And he added bases for the batter to run around after he hit the ball.
A century ago the Mills Commission, appointed to investigate the history of baseball, declared that Abner Doubleday invented it. The Mills report, however, was disputed.
In any case, in nineteen thirty-four, an old baseball was discovered in a farmhouse near Cooperstown. It was said to have belonged to one of the boys who played the first game of baseball with Abner Doubleday.
A local businessman, Stephen Clark, wanted to show the old baseball to the public. So he decided to establish a national baseball museum.
People from all over the country sent money and baseball-related objects for the new museum. Ford Frick was president of baseball’s National League at the time. He proposed that a Hall of Fame also be established to honor baseball’s best players.
The first election for members in the Hall of Fame took place in nineteen thirty-six. Five players were chosen. They were Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Matthewson and Walter Johnson. More players were elected every year.
The Hall of Fame opened officially in nineteen thirty-nine. The event celebrated the one hundredth anniversary of the game.
Each year, more than three hundred fifty thousand people visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The museum collection has thousands of objects from the history of baseball. These include seats and signs from some of the fields where early baseball games were played.
There is also a yearly Hall of Fame Game. Major League teams play on the field where baseball is said to have been first played.
Two hundred seventy-eight people are currently honored in the Hall of Fame. The eighteen newest members were admitted in July.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, is sometimes called a national treasure. Visitors learn not just about the game, but about American culture.
Americans have been playing football in some form since the earliest colonies were established more than three centuries ago. Settlers brought the game with them from England. The game was played about the same way soccer is played.
In the middle of the eighteen hundreds, American colleges played a form of football called "association." Each team had its own rules. In eighteen seventy-six, officials from several universities established a set of rules for all teams to follow. The new game was officially called football.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame is in the Midwest, in Canton, Ohio, about eighty-five kilometers south of the city of Cleveland. There were several reasons why Canton was chosen. A successful, professional football team, the Canton Bulldogs, played there in the early days of the sport. Jim Thorpe, one of the first great professional players, played with the Bulldogs for a time.
Another reason was that the American Professional Football Association was founded in Canton in nineteen twenty. And the citizens of Canton led a well-organized campaign to build the Hall of Fame in their city. It opened in nineteen sixty-three.
More than seven million people have visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It explores the history of the sport. It also honors the game's greatest players.
At the Hall of Fame, visitors can test their knowledge of American football. And they can learn about each of the thirty-two teams in the National Football League.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame has more than two hundred thirty members. They include players, coaches and team owners. There is a statue and picture of each one. New members are chosen each year.
Six new members were added at a ceremony on August fifth. The six are Troy Aikman, Harry Carson, John Madden, Warren Moon, Reggie White and Rayfield Wright.
Our program was written by George Grow and produced by Caty Weaver. You can read transcripts of our shows and download audio files at voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Steve Ember. And I'm Faith Lapidus. We hope you can join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.