BASEBALL: Stanley sandlot records accepted by National Baseball Hall of Fame

STANLEY — The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is plastered with memorabilia from legends like Ted Williams, Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb.

But now the names of 40 men from Stanley will join the elite fraternity. Their childhood memories of sandlot baseball in the Shenandoah Valley will forever be preserved.

Earlier this month, Donnie Wilson — who was part of a group of friends that played sandlot baseball in Stanley in the mid 1950’s — received a letter from the National Baseball Hall of Fame. After a discussion amongst board members, a decision was made to preserve the record books from the 1955 and 1956 seasons.

Jennings Painter — who meticulously recorded every stat, trade, and memory from those unforgettable summer days — recently found the old records tucked away in his attic.

“I never really thought much of where the records would go,” Painter said. “I’ve always wanted to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.”

At the time, his friends chuckled.

Surely there wasn’t room in one of the most prestigious museums in the country for an old sandlot record book.

But they were wrong.

“There is a wonderful history of sandlot baseball in America, but their is precious little in the way of documentation,” James Gates, Library Director for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, said. “This material represents a piece of that element of American history. When presented for discussion to our Library Accession Committee, there was little debate. Everyone saw it as an opportunity to acquire a very unique item, and the support for the acquisition was basically unanimous.”

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum holds more than three million items including books, periodicals, scrapbooks, photographs, oral history recordings, scorecards, programs and document collections.

But according to Gates, the sandlot record book from Stanley will be the first of its kind.

“I am not aware of anything else like this donation,” Gates said. “That is why we are so excited about this acquisition.”

This summer, Wilson plans on hand delivering the record books on a trip to Cooperstown. They will then be filed in the library, making the material available to researchers, museum staff and the general public. They can also be selected for a display in the museum at anytime.

Sixty years ago, a group of Stanley youngsters spent their summer days playing the game they loved. Today, they are part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

“I feel like we hit a grand slam,” Wilson said.

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