The Board of Directors of the Baseball Reliquary is pleased to announce that Ralph Carhart has been selected as the recipient of the 2019 Hilda Award. The award will be formally presented at the Shrine of the Eternals Induction Day on Sunday, July 14, 2019 at the Donald R. Wright Auditorium in the Pasadena Central Library, Pasadena, California. The festivities will also include the presentation of the 2019 Tony Salin Memorial Award and the induction of the 2019 class of electees to the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals: J.R. Richard, Billy Beane, and Lisa Fernandez.
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 2019 recipient, RALPH CARHART lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is a production manager in the Department of Drama, Theater, and Dance at Queens College. In 2010, Carhart fished a simple baseball from the small creek that runs next to Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, New York, thus beginning an epic quest spanning the United States and beyond.
Beginning in August 2010, The Hall Ball has crisscrossed the country on a journey to have its picture taken with each member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, both living and deceased, thus utilizing this unique artifact to create a link between generations of the game’s greatest figures. Starting with a visit to the then-unmarked grave of Sol White, just a few miles from Carhart’s home, and culminating with a trip to Hawaii to photograph the ball at Alexander Cartwright’s grave, Carhart has traveled over 40,000 miles, including to Puerto Rico and Cuba, and has seen 34 states and almost 200 cities and towns.
Carhart’s Hall Ball Project – described by baseball historian John Thorn as “perplexing to some, and profound to others” – has been featured in the New York Times and on the CBS Evening News. At this point, Carhart has photographed the ball with all 240 deceased members of the Hall of Fame, as well as 77 living ones. The photos are documented on The Hall Ball Project’s Web site. Carhart notes, “I’ve met Bobby Doerr, who played his first game in 1937, ten years before my own father was born. And I’ve met Greg Maddux, whose rookie card was part of my own collection, with a career that began concurrent with the time when my youthful love of the game ran its hottest. I’ve met tender souls like Ernie Banks and Yogi Berra who have, since I photographed them, gone on to the other side. I’ve met hard men like Bob Gibson and Jim Bunning, whose pictures for the project felt more like work than fun.”
While The Hall Ball was intended to be donated to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the august institution’s accessions committee recently declined the donation. Carhart now plans for the ball to travel to a number of museums and destinations, beginning in the year 2020, when his book on the project, entitled The Hall Ball: A Journey to Unite the Game’s Greatest with a Single Baseball, will be published by McFarland & Company, with the Baseball Reliquary eventually serving as the ball’s permanent home.
A New York Mets fan, Carhart is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research, and his Hall Ball work led to his involvement with SABR’s 19th Century Baseball Grave Marker Project, dedicated to placing stones at the previously unmarked graves of the game’s pioneers. As a contributor to the Protoball Database, a web-based effort to chronicle every instance of the game before it became a professional enterprise in 1870, Carhart has been transposing the game books of the New York Knickerbockers into digital format so that future historians can understand how the game evolved from a loose collection of guidelines to the 172-page document that constitutes the current Major League Baseball Rulebook.
Ralph Carhart will attend the Shrine of the Eternals 2019 Induction Day in Pasadena, California on Sunday, July 14 to personally accept the Hilda Award.