Why the Ted Williams Museum should leave Tropicana Field

On January 31, the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame inducted six new members. These superstars were recognized in a ceremony at Tropicana Field that included the inductees, several Tampa area former ballplayers, a few Rays players, and an actor from the movie Field of Dreams.

Taking nothing from the accomplishments of Tim Raines, Jim Thome, Thurman Munson, Denny McClain, and Jim Kaat, the celebration at the Ted Williams Museum raises two interesting questions: why the museum is where it is and what is the future of the museum.

In 1994, the Ted Williams Museum opened its doors as a living shine to one of the best hitters in baseball history. When it was established, the museum was located in Citrus Hills, Florida, a small community in Hernando County, a little over an hour from the Tampa Bay area. The Citrus Hills location was selected as it was near Williams’s home and was the centerpiece to the Citrus Hills development, owned in part by one-time Red Sox part-owner Sam Tamposi. Williams not only lived in Citrus Hills, he was also the spokesperson for the community.

With attendance dwindling due to its out-of-the-way location (a familiar refrain), the museum moved to Tropicana Field in 2006. Today, the museum is part of the Rays game experience and admission is free on game days.

Besides being a showcase for Williams and other great hitters in Major League history, the museum is also home to the Ted Williams Foundation. According to its website, the Ted Williams Foundation

“is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit institution that provides for the continued existence of the Ted Williams Museum & Hitters Hall of Fame as well as to provide for its youth programs and scholarships for deserving student-athletes. The Ted Williams Foundation also provides assistance to charitable organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club, the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, the Rays, Red Sox, Orioles, Phillies, and Twins Foundations in baseball, the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation in the NHL, and Dolphins Foundation in the NFL, with all funds directly assisting youth programs.

While the existence of the museum is great and the causes the museum stands for are commendable, it’s time to move the Ted Williams Museum from Tropicana Field.

Admittedly, I’m not sure who negotiated the deal to put the Ted Williams Museum in the Trop. Was it the Rays or was it the City of St. Petersburg? Is the museum paying rent to the Rays or to the city? Whoever the deal is with, here are several reasons the Rays or the City of St Pete should cut ties with the Ted Williams Museum.

There is no connection – Yes, Ted Williams loved Florida. He loved the Florida Keys and he loved fishing in the Tarpon Springs area. But that is not a good reason to house the museum in its current location. Williams was born in San Diego and made his career in Boston. The Trop was convenient when the original museum closed, as it was close, but now a permanent home should be found where Williams’s legacy will be better acknowledged and appreciated.

Not built for Florida baseball fans – As mentioned before, Ted Williams was a spokesperson for Citrus Hills in an attempt to help a former Red Sox co-owner. Williams’s mission was to sway New England retirees to move to Citrus Hills. The museum was built with New England fans in mind. It was not built for Florida sports fans. Williams never played baseball in Florida. Outside of general baseball appreciation, there is no reason for Florida baseball fans to visit. The museum does not speak to the history of their community.

Doesn’t help the Rays community – Not only is the Ted Williams Museum devoid of Florida baseball history, its presence actually enforces out-of-state fandom. Ted Williams was a Red Sox. His career is synonymous with the Red Sox. In an area where the baseball demographic is so splendidly splintered, hosting a shrine to a legend of a rival team makes little sense. Using the “retirement location” logic, should we expect a Derek Jeter Museum to also open in the home of the Rays?

There is a better option – Sometime in the very near future, the Tampa Baseball Museum will open. This museum will be located in the Ybor City home of Al Lopez, Tampa’s first Major League Hall of Famer. While the museum will focus primarily on the baseball history of Tampa, why not create a subsidiary museum for baseball across the bay and tell the story of Al Lang and baseball in St Petersburg? The Tampa Baseball Museum is already a cross-Bay venture with support by the Rays and St. Pete-based design group Creative Arts Unlimited.

Social Media embarrassment – Not only is the Ted Williams Museum website seldom updated, but its twitter feed has been controversial to the point of confrontational. For example, following the City Council vote in December to not let the Rays look for other possible stadium locations, the Ted Williams Museum tweeted this:

That’s not smart at all.

The Ted Williams Museum twitter account has also posted such irrelevance such as asking for fantasy football advice and re-tweeting negative comments about Rays pitcher Grant Balfour. Social media should be personable, but that’s not a good look.

Move now before it’s too late – Eventually, the Rays will leave Tropicana Field. They are going somewhere, whether to a new stadium in Pinellas County, a stadium in Hillsborough County, a stadium in Montreal, or a location in Nashville, Columbus, or Sheboygan. Wherever they go, the Rays’ time in Tropicana Field is limited. With the City of St Pete already considering the value of the Tropicana Field property, there is no chance the Ted Williams Museum will stay in its current location past 2027. The museum should explore locations now in preparation for whatever decision the Rays and the City of St Pete make. Moving as soon as possible would give the museum time to establish and could actually make the museum more money if moved to a more profitable area such as San Diego or near Fenway Park.

While convenient, the relationship between Tropicana Field and the Ted Williams Museum has run its course. There is little the Ted Williams Museum can contribute to the Tropicana Field experience that would benefit the Rays. If anything, the museum is detracting from the Rays’ mission of winning the market. Finding a new home for the Ted Williams Museum and Hitter’s Hall of Fame would be in the best interest of the museum, Tropicana Field, and the Tampa Bay Rays.

9 comments for “Why the Ted Williams Museum should leave Tropicana Field

  1. David McCarthy
    February 2, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    It would have been good if you had interviewed someone from the Museum so you could have had all of the facts, many of which in your article are not true.. Your article fails to mention the Museum is considered second only to Cooperstown and is enjoyed by thousands of visitors each year. The Museum has a section on baseball in St. Petersburg along with a beautiful collection from the Negro leagues. Ted Williams threw out the first pitch for the Devil Rays and that ball is displayed at Museum. Ted visited Tropicana many times and was a supporter of Wade Boggs and his quest for 3,000 hits. The Boggs game used collection is displayed there. If you love baseball, every team is represented. The Rays section documents their history from original uniforms to today’s team and it’s cases are constantly updated. It appears you have never visited the Museum or you would have mentioned it’s about all teams, not just St. Petersburg. The Negro Leagues wing has 5 outstanding displays. Strange article, asking a free baseball Museum that supports Tampa Bay causes to move. Not sure why your so negative but feel free to call anytime and we’d be happy to give you a tour. Baseball is about the love of the game. I think you missed that point.

    • Michael Lortz
      February 3, 2015 at 2:13 pm

      David – Thanks for the comment. Would love to visit again. I went twice when the museum was in Citrus Hills and have been a few times since at the Trop. Would definitely be interested in talking further.

    • Bill Saunders
      January 10, 2017 at 5:57 am

      thanks we from Canada where Ted spent a lot of time fishing on the Miramichi River really enjoy it where it is as we spend a lot of time in the winter in that area

  2. Linda
    October 21, 2015 at 6:23 am

    Citrus Hills is in a TOWN called Hernando which is in Citrus County not Hernando County.

    • Michael Lortz
      October 21, 2015 at 8:11 pm

      Thank you for the correction.

  3. John G. Studebaker
    June 14, 2016 at 7:57 pm

    In an ideal world, the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame would be located either around Boston where he played his entire MLB career or San Diego where he was born, raised and learned the game. But everything is business today. I was reminded of this last night when I went to a game in Toronto with the Blue Jays and Phillies and saw how perfunctory and business like batting practice was. I remembered as a kid of 16 seeing Ted Williams in his last year (1960, age 42) taking batting practice in his favourite stadium, Briggs Stadium in Detroit. Over 2000 of we fans came out early to see The Splendid Splinter take his cuts (double the usual amount) in BP with almost every one of them a rising line drive into the second deck and a couple over the roof. The other players ALL stopped warming up just to watch this baseball icon who was putting on a show and laughing and kibitzing with the players gathered around the batting cage.

    Let us not even think about removing this tribute to the John Wayne of baseball and the wing man in Korea for John Glenn and the only one in both the baseball and the anglers hall of fame and the guy who gave and raised so much for the Jimmy Fund for kids with cancer and for so many other charities, usually unsung, including ballplayers down on their luck.

    Was Williams the last authentic American hero? I don’t know. But I do know that it would be criminal to close the Miami site of his Hitters Hall of fame without having already lined up an alternative and superior site.

  4. John Cunnally Jr
    September 5, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    I was amused today 05 Sept 2016 to visit the hitters museum at the Tropicana Stadium to find out it was the Ted Williams Museum. Having grown up in Boston with my Dad being a Boston Firefighter I spent many a day sitting in left field where my Father was detailed as the fire protection watch at the Left Field stands. Ted was the idle of all young aspiring ball players from Dorchester, a section of the City of Boston. I played in the Catholic Leagues both little league and Holy Name.

    I regret that the Boston fans would call him a bum unless he hit constantly and it was not a pretty sight.when he finally lost it in 1956. I am repeating the article below and would love to see the museum moved to Boston whee the Fans have named a major tunnel under Boston Harbor for “Teddy Ballgame”

    Wednesday, November 19, 2003
    Williams: “I was right and I’d spit again”
    By Larry Schwartz
    Special to ESPN.com

    Aug. 7, 1956

    When the Boston fans get on Ted Williams, the Red Sox left-fielder is spitting mad. With two outs in the 11th inning, Williams misjudges Mickey Mantle’s fly and drops it for a two-base error. The overflow crowd of 36,350 in Fenway Park erupts in boos.

    Not even when Williams makes an outstanding catch on the Yankees’ next batter, Yogi Berra, to preserve the scoreless tie and end the inning do the fans let up. As tempestuous Ted approaches the dugout — with the boos far outweighing the cheers — he spits at the crowd. Just to make sure there is no mistake, the splendid spitter comes out of the dugout and directs another salivary attack at the fans.

    In the bottom of the inning, Williams walks with the bases loaded to give the Red Sox a 1-0 victory. As he heads to first base, he throws his bat some 40 feet in the air.

    Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey hears Mel Allen’s broadcast of the game on radio in New York and calls general manager Joe Cronin, who fines the $100,000-a-year slugger $5,000 for spitting. While Cronin says Williams told him he is sorry about his actions, Williams is unrepentant when he talks with the press.

    “I’m not a bit sorry for what I did,” Williams says. “I was right and I’d spit again at the same fans who booed me today. Some of them are the worst in the world. Nobody’s going to stop me from spitting.”

    Thanks John Bud Cunnally now living in “Gods Waiting Room”

  5. KG Lockwood
    July 7, 2017 at 9:45 pm

    First, I am a lifelong Red Sox fan who lived in NH for over 50 years and retired to the south. My wife and I attended the game on 07/06/2017. It was our first trip to Tropicana Field and we both thought the museum added to a great experience. My wife and I found the museum to be all inclusive and covering many teams and the histories of many great players. We thought it was wonderful to have something to do prior to the start of the game and feel the Ted Williams museum is a great added benefit. We will attend more games there because of the overall great times we had !!

    • Michael Lortz
      July 8, 2017 at 12:24 pm

      KG, I appreciate your comment. As I wrote, while it is a good museum, it would be better placed in another location. Attracting out of town fans to a general baseball museum named after a Boston superstar isn’t what Tropicana Field needs when there is a need to build a deeper, more loyal local fanbase.

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