In its 18 years in existence, the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center in Little Falls, N.J., has served not just as a repository for items celebrating the extraordinary life of the all-time great, Hall of Famer and national treasure. It has also used his amazing story to serve as an educational model, with thousands each year benefiting from its programs, in addition to those perusing the permanent displays of some of the items and photos that tell only his story but that of baseball.
But, as David Kaplan, director of programs for the museum, notes, rotating exhibitions are a key element in attracting new patrons and keeping them coming back.
“It keeps things fresh, getting new people to come through the door and allows returning fans to experience the museum in a new way,” Kaplan told SmallBizStar during a recent event unveiling the new “LeRoy Neiman’s Fall Classics” exhibit, running through March. “The exhibits help us keep up with the times, and adds variety every six months or so to what we offer.”
A selection of Neiman’s work is currently on display at the museum, including full pieces depicting Cal Ripken, Thurman Munson, Mike Piazza and Sandy Koufax as well as sketches drawn commemorating baseball moments, some monumental, like the 1986 World Series, and some more subtle, like Johnny Bench holding Joe Rudi‘s bat when the A’s slugger returned to home plate after a foul.
“LeRoy Neiman is an icon, giving instant recognition and credibility,” added Kaplan. “For years, there was no big event that Neiman wasn’t present for, and he captured so many of them in his art. And although he was first known for his amazing work with boxing and the Olympics, his baseball art is a great fit.”
Kaplan has overseen dozens of exhibits at the museum, as varied as “Jersey Girls,” which celebrated outstanding women in the state, and “Saving Face,” which explored the marvels of masks in sports. They continue to evolve as important to its mission.
“Yogi loved connecting different generations and as diverse a group of fans as he could,” noted Kaplan. “The museum represents what he considered important: sportsmanship, respect, integrity, humility. He was particularly proud of how many children have come to our programs. Family-friendly programming allows those generations to share in the experience.”
Located on the campus of Montclair State University in northern N.J., the stated mission of the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center is to “preserve and promote the values of social justice, respect, sportsmanship and educational excellence through inclusive, culturally diverse sports-based educational programs and exhibits.” According to Kaplan, support comes from events like the annual golf outing featuring former stars like Willie Randolph and Ron Guidry, direct contributions and other high profile events like the upcoming “Yakkin’ at Yogi’s Charity Dinner” in November.
“Yogi played more than 50 years ago,” added Kaplan of the longtime Montclair, N.J. resident who died at age 90 last September. “But he continues to inspire fans of all ages and he was so proud of the museum’s role as one of the area’s premier sports education centers.”