The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, now celebrating its 60th year, boasts a new president who reveres the national shrine. "This is more than a dream," says Dale Petroskey, '78, just days after taking over the presidency in July. "Anyone who loves and respects the game of baseball the way I do, could not dream this high. I'm really humbled."
Among his first tasks was the 1999 induction ceremony. "I was one of three in the receiving line," Petroskey recalls. "There were 38 Hall of Famers, every one of them a childhood hero of mine - Al Kaline, Harmon Killebrew, Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, Yogi Berra. There were 50,000 people there, an all-time record. Somebody needed to wake me up." Two weeks later, he was presented David Cone's "perfect game" baseball in Yankee Stadium.
"Don Sutton told me, 'You've been handed the keys to the Vatican," says Dale. "He's right." In his control are 2.6 million items in the museum library, 500,000 player files (including ex-Spartan and Hall of Famer Robin Roberts), 165,000 items in the collection, and some 350 gloves - including one that belonged to former MSU baseball coach Danny Litwhiler.
Growing up in Inkster, Dale played organized baseball from age five until his third year in college. As a kid, he volunteered to be an usher at Tiger Stadium so he could watch the games free. As a teenager, he won two Class E national championships in the National Amateur Baseball Federation. "I played with nine guys who made the major leagues," he says. "Lary Sorensen was our pitcher and Todd Cruz and I combined for double plays." His baseball career ended after two years at Central Michigan, when he transferred to Michigan State to study journalism under adviser Stan Soffin.
After MSU, he spent many years in politics, working as an assistant press secretary for President Ronald Reagan and then as Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Public Affairs with Elizabeth Dole. He co-founded the Mayo Smith Society, named after the manager who led the Detroit Tigers to a World Series Championship in 1968. "The society now has 2,000 dues-paying members and is still flourishing," he notes. In 1988, he went to the National Geographic Society, eventually becoming senior vice president for mission programs.
"This is baseball heaven," he says in his office, just across the street from his new home. "They've done it exactly right. They've really preserved a sense of history and the continuum of the game." As president, Dale has two goals. "I want to reach as many people as possible with the information we have, not just having people come to Coopertown, but taking it on the road," he says. " And two, I want to reach kids with the message, 'Good baseball, good grades, good kids.' I want everyone to have that opportunity."
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