Eastern Shore

Treasuring Its Heavy Hitters

Friday, March 28, 2008

Do all those sports reports on the Nationals' spring training camp in Viera, Fla., have you jonesing for the ocean? The team spent five weeks in the balmy town tanning and throwing the ball a bit while the rest of Washington navigated through rain and freezing temperatures.

If you have a little cabin fever, head east to the little-known gem that is the Eastern Shore Baseball Hall of Fame Museum in Salisbury, Md.

It's the way a baseball museum should feel: like digging through your grandparents' attic. There is an intimacy in not having to pay to get so close to treasures that make you wonder why they're tucked off Route 50 rather than in Cooperstown, N.Y.

On one wall are photos of every major leaguer to come from the peninsula. All 28, including Jimmie "XX" Foxx and Judy Johnson, are represented with stats and bios in binders on a table.

Foxx, who played first base from 1925 to 1942 and 1944 to 1945, was perhaps the best baseball player from the Eastern Shore. And as the second-youngest player to hit 500 home runs (after the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez), Foxx has a special spot in the museum.

Johnson, one of the best players in the Negro Leagues in the 1920s and '30s, was one of the first African Americans to coach a major league team when baseball was integrated in the late '40s and '50s.

The museum's hours correspond with the home games of the Delmarva Shorebirds, a minor league team; the first game is Thursday. If you are going this weekend, call ahead and a curator will open it for you.

"It's preserving the past, because so many people don't know," says Kenny Green, chairman of the museum's board of directors. "Sunday afternoon was a day at the ballpark; 3,000 people would attend these games."

After the museum, continue on Route 50 to Ocean City. Eat at Thrasher's French Fries on the boardwalk; its fries are better than those served in any stadium. Follow up with caramel popcorn from Fisher's Popcorn (also on the boardwalk). The stick-to-your-teeth goodness of the caramel popcorn surpasses any box of Cracker Jack.

EASTERN SHORE BASEBALL HALL OF FAME MUSEUM 6400 Hobbs Rd., Salisbury. 410-742- 6096, 410-749-3806 or 302-875-3917.http://www.esbhalloffame.orgorhttp://www.theshorebirds.com. Open during Delmarva Shorebirds day games from 1 to 4 and evening games from 6 to 9. Other times, call ahead.

THRASHER'S FRENCH FRIES 401 S. Boardwalk, Ocean City. Open Saturdays and Sundays year- around; extended hours in summer. 410-289-7232.

FISHER'S POPCORN 200 S. Boardwalk, Ocean City. 410-289-5638 or 888-395-0335.http://www.fisherspopcorn.com. Open weekends 9:30 to 4:30; closes earlier Friday and Monday depending on weather, through April. Extended hours in summer.

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