Thursday, August 2, 2012

Football Hall of Fame preps for 50th anniversary

The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton is finishing what Joe Horrigan calls Phase 1 of its Future 50 renovation project.

That includes the addition of a 17,000 square feet wing called the Ralph Wilson Research and Preservation Center. Named after the former Buffalo Bills owner, it's will be the archives wing of the Hhall. Horrigan said it will display as many as 20 million paper documents about the history of pro football.

Another project to promote the Hall's 50th anniversary doesn't include 20 million pages (to Horrigan's delight, I'm sure) - 295 to be exact - but it's impressive nonetheless. The Hall has published a book celebrating 50 years simply titled, "The Pro Football Hall of Fame 50th Anniversary Book: Where Greatness Lives."

Horrigan, the Hall's vice president of communications/exhibits, and John Thorn edited the book, which took just under two years to complete. Their work is impressive. If you've never been to the Hall, flipping through the pages is the next best thing.

"That is what we tried to do, among other things," said Horrigan about the book, now in stores. "For people who haven't been (to the Hall), it's a chance to see some of the really fine exhibits we have to offer."

The coffee table-sized book's chapters chronicle each decade beginning with the early days of the game (1892 to 1919), then each decade thereafter. The last chapter is the Hall's 11 greatest moments in Pro Football history, a lesson for fans, young or old.

Browns fans will especially enjoy the chapter of the 1950s, when the team won seven championships, including three NFL titles. Interesting visual tidbits include a metal contraption invented by Paul Brown to dry footballs during raining games (unfortunately for Brown, the invention did not work well) and the helmet worn by quarterback George Ratterman in 1956 that Brown equipped with the first-ever radio receiver. The league immediately banned the receiver, but it paved to way to how coaches and players communicate during a game on Sundays.

"For us, it's been fun looking back," Horrigan said of the book project. "(The book) humanizes what is now a billion-dollar business. But reliving the roots of the game was just so much fun."

Other features in the book include question-and-answer sidebars with living hall of famers, pull quotes and  tidbits galore.

Horrigan said Phase 2 of the Hall's Future 50 renovation will include adding another 17,000 square feet of exhibit space.

"It's been a process for sure," he said.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo


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