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.