Richard Hendricks was thrilled when he received a call from his old friend Lloyd Simmons.
Simmons, the Seminole State baseball coach, had helped orchestrate a deal to have Hendricks' Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame annex in Guthrie display the school's collection of baseballs from former umpire George Barr.
Hendricks and Simmons have known each other for a long time, since the days when Hendricks coached at Fort Cobb High School and Simmons was at Cordell. Simmons thought Hendricks was the perfect person to help give the public a chance to view the display, which is now showcased at the Guthrie museum.
The display includes balls collected by the longtime National League umpire that are signed by players, including Cy Young, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, Jackie Robinson and plenty of others.
There are balls from the All-Star Games and World Series worked by Barr, as well as some from an All-Star offseason barnstorming tour.
From boxes in Seminole to Guthrie
When Lloyd Simmons returned to Seminole State as baseball coach after last season, he couldn't believe that the baseball collection given to the school by George Barr hadn't been given a prominent display.
During Simmons' first stint at Seminole, which ended in 2001, he helped build a display for the collection that started off first in the science building and then moved to the gym.
But when Simmons returned, he found the collection boxed up in the athletic director's office and helped orchestrate the collection being loaned to the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame annex in Guthrie.
“I'm just glad it's in a good, safe place and it's in a place that people can see it an appreciate it,” Simmons said of the collection. “The president and the board of regents here did a great job in helping us make sure that we were able to make that happen.”
Simmons said the collection could be even more impressive, though.
“From what I understand, we've only got half of it,” Simmons said. “The other half is supposed to be up in Tulsa somewhere.”
Also, there was a Babe Ruth autographed ball that was part of the collection when it was first displayed at the school, but when the display was moved from the gym back to the science building around 1989, when the gym was to undergo renovations, the Ruth ball came up missing.
Who was George Barr?
George Barr was born in Kansas but came to Tulsa as a teenager, getting his start in officiating after one of the umpires was a no-show in a game where Barr was working as an usher.
He went on to umpire in the National League from 1931 to 1949.
He umpired in four World Series and two All-Star Games.
Barr ran the George Barr Umpire School from 1935 into the 1960s. The school, recognized as the first of its kind, started in Hot Springs, Ark., but later moved to Florida.
Several of the balls from his collection came from players who went to the school while it was in Arkansas and the cooperating Ray Doan Baseball School to help, including the ball autographed by Cy Young.
Barr died July 26, 1974 in Sulphur.
Some of the memorabilia in the collection
A signed ball from the 1950 Dodgers that includes signatures from Jackie Robinson (top) and Oklahoma City native Bobby Morgan (third from top). The ball also includes a signature from Pee Wee Reese.
A ball signed by members of the St. Louis Cardinals' 1944 World Series team. The ball includes signatures from Hall of Famer Stan Musial and Oklahoma native Harry “The Cat” Brecheen. Brecheen won Game 4 of that World Series against the St. Louis Browns, a game that also featured a home run from Musial.
One of several balls signed by Ted Williams in the collection. Williams' balls include a 1948 All-Star Game ball also signed by Joe DiMaggio as well as balls from the 1940 and 1946 Boston Red Sox. The 1940 ball also includes a signature from Jimmie Foxx.
Johnny Vander Meer
A game-used ball from Johnny Vander Meer's second consecutive no-hitter, June 15, 1948, in Brooklyn. George Barr, who donated the balls to Seminole State College, was the home-plate umpire for that game. Vander Meer is still the only player in major league history to throw back-to-back no-hitters.
Cy Young traveled to Hot Springs, Ark., to help with the Ray Doan Baseball School that cooperated with the George Barr Umpire School there. It's this baseball, also signed by umpire Frosty Peters among others, that Seminole State baseball coach Lloyd Simmons says is his favorite.
1951 Brooklyn Dodgers
This ball from the George Barr collection is signed by the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers. It includes signatures from Roy Campanella (top), Jackie Robinson (third from top) and Ralph Branca (bottom).
This ball includes stacked signatures from Hall of Famer Joe Tinker. Tinker, of Tinker to Evers to Chance fame, played for the Chicago Orphans/Cubs for much of his 15-year career.
One of the newer displays in the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame Annex in Guthrie, the pitching rubber from Milwaukee County Stadium. The Brewers gave it to Warren Spahn's family when the stadium was closed and it includes a display case with dirt from the mound where Spahn starred with the Milwaukee Braves.
One of the newest displays at the museum is a set of seats from Arlington Stadium autographed by former Rangers pitching stars Ferguson Jenkins and Nolan Ryan, both Hall of Famers. Jenkins lived in Guthrie for some time after his career ended and has many memorabilia items on display at the museum.
Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame Museums
Jim Thorpe Museum and Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame
Where: 4040 N. Lincoln Blvd., Oklahoma City
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
Admission: $5, seniors and children 12 and under free
Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame Guthrie Annex
Where: 315 W. Oklahoma Ave., Guthrie
Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
Admission: Free, donations accepted