This month baseball returns to Washington County in a big way. The Hillsboro Hops a Class A short-season baseball team will throw the first pitch at its home stadium in the Gordon Faber Recreation Center Monday, June 17, and usher in a new era of professional baseball in the Portland metro area.
To celebrate the occasion, the Washington County Museum offers Take Me Out to the Ballgame, an exhibit that touches every base of the sports local history, such as the Verboort pitcher who went on to play with Willie Mays on the 1951 New York Giants team.
Opening next Wednesday, June 19, Take Me Out to the Ballgame chronicles Washington Countys 100-plus years of baseball history. The story starts with the town teams of the early 20th century, when the boys of summer from the communities of Banks, Beaverton, Hillsboro, Forest Grove, Tigardville and Verboort faced off in weekly games.
Along with the town teams, the exhibit features the major league careers of some of the areas most famous local players and some contemporary hometown baseball heroes.
Highlights include a baseball signed by the 1951 New York Giants baseball team, including the signatures of Leo Durocher and All-Star pitcher Larry Jansen, a player originally from Verboort.
Exhibit-goers will also get to see a Gold Glove awarded to Portland-based professional player Dale Murphy, along with historic photos, town team jerseys, a pair of bleacher seats from the old Vaughn Street Station in Portland, and more.
The exhibit also examines the rise and fall of professional baseball in the metro area from the loss of the Portland Beavers to the arrival of the Hillsboro Hops.
Many of the artifacts came from the Washington County Museums collection, the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame, the personal collections of local families, and the Old Timers Baseball Association of Portland.
Museum archivist Lindsay Zaborowski searched the museum archives and beyond, seeking out rare and interesting artifacts from around the country.
She was able to pull from library archives, oral histories and newspaper articles to complete the local history of baseball in Washington County communities.
Zaborowski found that it wasnt just about the game it was about community.
Historically, baseball is really a community-building thing, Zaborowski said, pointing to the town teams as major sources of community pride and entertainment. She described how fans would travel what then seemed like great distances to watch the town team games and root for the home team.
Guest Curator Marsha Matthews who retired from the Oregon Historical Society earlier this year worked to bring the story of local baseball to life for all ages in this family-friendly exhibit. Baseball is more than just a sport, Matthew believes.
It is essential to the American spirit, she said.