While there are many great reasons to visit the St. Petersburg Museum of History, including exhibits that highlight the first commercial airline flight, the history of piers in the bay area, and primitive medical tools (in the Odditorium), baseball fans have a special reason for visiting the museum.
Schrader’s Little Cooperstown makes reference to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. However, the Little Cooperstown collection is more tightly focused—just baseballs. In fact, the museum contains the world’s largest collection of autographed baseballs—as certified by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2011. The collection eclipsed the 5,000 ball milestone on April 15, 2022, on the same day that Major League Baseball celebrates Jackie Robinson Day (yes, Robinson signed one of the baseballs in the collection.)
These baseballs cover the recorded history of the game and go beyond Major League Baseball to highlight the Negro Baseball Leagues and the Women’s Professional Baseball League. However, there are as many curveballs as fastballs displayed among the signers. The autographs go well beyond the players and coaches in the game. While the usual baseball superstars are well represented, from Babe Ruth to Henry Aaron, you can also find signed balls featuring U.S. Presidents, stars from many fields of entertainment, and even foreign heads of state.
Over the course of 60+ years, Dennis Schrader has collected more than 5,000 autographed balls, starting with Mickey Mantle in 1956. Many of the autographs were acquired directly by Schrader, either in person or through a mailed or emailed request. He is also active in the collectibles market. In 2021 he reached an agreement with the St. Petersburg Museum of History to make the collection available to the public for their viewing pleasure.
Know Before You Go
If you are heading to the St. Petersburg area, plan a visit to the museum. Check the museum website for current visiting hours and admission prices.