PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Jeff Bagwell may be the best player of his generation not yet to earn a spot in the Hall of Fame.
The career .297 hitter retired after 15 Major League seasons, all with the same club, in which he hit 449 home runs, earned a National League MVP trophy, garnered three Silver Slugger awards and was named the NL Rookie of the Year
"What's interesting is Jeff Bagwell is labeled a singles hitter who all of a sudden started to show power, and what did they think? That he was taking something," said Larry Moore, one of the curators of "Baseball and the Berkshires," which opens on Friday at Herman Melville's Arrowhead.
What is more interesting is that one of the artifacts in the "Baseball and the Berkshires" exhibit is a document that shows Bagwell, the all-time home run hitter at the University of Hartford when he left in 1989, was not just a "singles hitter" despite his plus-.300 average and six homers in two full seasons of minor league ball in the Red Sox organization.
Pittsfield's Tom Mooney, a professional scout who eyed Bagwell for the Houston Astros, loaned to "Baseball in the Berkshires" a scouting report that demonstrates Bagwell's potential.
"Under power, he ranked him a 5, which is above average, and for the future, he ranked him a 7," Moore said, reading from the report. "So he said he had the power. Down here, [Mooney] said, 'Classic power stroke. Similar to Steve Balboni,' if you remember 'Bye-Bye Balboni.' "
And to show the accuracy of Mooney's projection, his scouting report indicates that Bagwell likely will move from third base (his position in college) to first, where he ended up starring for more than a decade with the Houston Astros.
It is the hitting assessment that will catch the eye of baseball historians and doubters.
"It throws a monkey wrench into everybody's theory," Moore said.
Moore, Tom Daley, and Andy Mickle curated the inaugural "Baseball and the Berkshires" exhibit last year in Arrowhead's barn.
This year, it has moved to the Melville home itself for a special two-month engagement that opens on Friday, March 4.
An expansion to four rooms allows the three originators along with Jim Overmeyer and Kevin Larkin to display nearly 300 items — ranging from turn-of-the-last-century scorecards to uniforms to photographs — that tell the story of baseball's prominence in the region and the region's place in baseball history.
The exhibit will be open Friday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. through May 2. Berkshire Historical Society spokesman J. Peter Bergman said "Baseball and the Berkshires" is a nice lead-in to Arrowhead's busy summer season.
"It gives us a way to keep this place active and in the public eye and to present an aspect of Berkshire history that most people don't know enough about," Bergman said. "So it's a great opportunity.
"It's a very full experience. And the whole concept of the county of Berkshire and the county of baseball combined is amazing."
A uniform worn by Pittsfield native Turk Wendell.
After May 2, the exhibit's organizers hope to take it on the road for displays at other venues around the county during the baseball season. Moore said the group has had preliminary discussions with venues but did not want to make any firm plans until it had a chance to set up the Arrowhead display and figure out how much space "Baseball and the Berkshires" required.
Even Moore, an educational consultant with the National Baseball Hall of Fame, was surprised by the items that have been added to the collection for this year's show.
He marveled at a 1957 Brooklyn Dodgers uniform on loan from Ed Ladley, the longtime Wahconah Regional High School coach.
"He tried out for [the Dodgers] in 1958," Moore said. "I never realized. I taught with Ed for a long, long time, and I never knew that.
"He graduated from St. Peter's [High School], and the Dodgers were watching him. When he graduated ... he cut his finger. So [instead of pro ball] he went to Niagara on a full boat for basketball and baseball."
Moore has learned more than that about the game's connections to the area and its people.
"It's amazing to see how many connections there are, and it just keeps coming out of the woodwork," Moore said.
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