2018 Hilda Award Recipient: Bart Wilhelm

Hilda Chester painting, “Fan Attic Brand” by artist Ben Sakoguchi, in the collection of the Baseball Reliquary.

The Board of Directors of the Baseball Reliquary is pleased to announce that Bart Wilhelm has been selected as the recipient of the 2018 Hilda Award. The award will be formally presented at the Shrine of the Eternals Induction Day on Sunday, July 22, 2018, beginning at 2:00 p.m., at the Donald R. Wright Auditorium in the Pasadena Central Library, Pasadena, California. The festivities will also include the presentation of the 2018 Tony Salin Memorial Award and the induction of the 2018 class of electees to the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals: Tommy John, Rusty Staub, and Nancy Faust.

Established in 2001 in memory of Hilda Chester, the legendary Brooklyn Dodgers fan, the Hilda Award recognizes distinguished service to the game by a baseball fan. To Baseball Reliquarians, the award is comparable to the Oscar or Emmy: it acknowledges the devotion and passion of baseball fans, and the many ways in which they exhibit their love affair with the national pastime.

The 2018 Hilda recipient, BART WILHELM is a native of Northern Michigan, where he has lived in Traverse City since the age of five. A lifelong fan of the Chicago Cubs and Detroit Tigers, he grew up collecting baseball cards and watching the few games he could get on television in the 1980s. Bart attended his first major league game at Tiger Stadium on August 5, 1984, the year the Tigers started 35-5 en route to the World Championship. “That year the Tigers were unstoppable, but I saw them drop a doubleheader to the Kansas City Royals,” Bart said. “I was only ten, so my memory is a little faded, but it was autograph day, and I do remember getting Barbaro Garbey’s and Johnny Grubb’s autograph.”

In 2003, Bart started going to a game every Tuesday (a four-hour drive to Detroit, and a six-hour drive to Chicago). This gradually turned into two games a week, and now he goes to live games on all his off-days from work, often two or even three games in one day. He also attends about 20 games a year played by the Traverse City Beach Bums of the independent Frontier League.

Bart Wilhelm as a member of the Navin Field Grounds Crew. (Photo courtesy of Tom Derry)

Since that visit to historic Tiger Stadium in 1984, Bart has attended over 1,100 games in 259 different professional ballparks. By the end of this summer, he plans to have made it to all the professional parks. He extends his season every year by going to spring training and the Arizona Fall League, and he has made it to the last three World Baseball Classics. By the time of the Shrine of the Eternals 2018 Induction Day on July 22, Bart will have seen baseball played in 48 different states, including the Midnight Sun Game in Alaska. All in all, he attends about 110-125 games a year.

Bart’s fellow Hilda Award recipient Tom Derry said, “I don’t know anyone who’s obsessed with baseball more than Bart. Besides traveling all over the nation to attend ballgames, Bart was a dedicated member of the Navin Field Grounds Crew. He would drive over four hours each way from Traverse City to Detroit to work on the field.”

Bart Wilhelm will attend the Shrine of the Eternals 2018 Induction Day in Pasadena, California to personally accept the Hilda Award.

Bart Wilhelm building snowmen of the 1984 Detroit Tigers, complete with their numbers on their backs, at Navin Field. (Photo courtesy of Tom Derry)

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