Didn't discover game until after 9/11, now Scrafford's in Cooperstown
Her baseball life started after 9/11
By Scott Langdon
Canadian Baseball Network
Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial jets and crashed them into New York City’s World Trade Center and two other locations on Sept. 11, 2001.
The world changed.
Claudette Scrafford’s life changed, too.
Scrafford was living on Long Island, NY at the time. She lost neighbours in the attack. The times were nerve-wracking and motivated her to move her family elsewhere, away from an area she saw as “one big cement pad”. She was looking for a more tranquil, rural environment, similar to her birthplace of Hawkesbury, Ont., near Ottawa. Where she ended up kick-started her career in baseball.
Today, Scrafford is the only manuscript archivist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, NY.
“Cooperstown is the kind of place I was looking for … a quiet village of less than 2,000 people in a beautiful rural setting. I didn’t have any background in baseball or a particular interest in it, but I had my degree in Library and Information Management from Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary. I applied at a couple of places, one of them being the Hall of Fame,” she remembers.
Scrafford’s role chronicling the history is fundamental to the famous and growing collection of artifacts at the Hall. She is responsible for processing anything that is not a book or publication including personal or organizational papers, score books, line-up cards and other items. Scrafford is involved in the long-term process of converting artifacts to a digital asset management system that allows baseball fans to view them online.
“Another of the projects I’m working on is updating our collection of scouting reports donated to us by various baseball scouts and others over the years. The reports date from 1950 to recent times, including one about Hank Aaron when he played in the Negro Leagues. It’s a big job. We have about seven thousand reports and I’m up to the letter J,” she laughs.
Two of the more well-known documents she has processed are the scrapbooks of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, legendary New York Yankees.
“Babe Ruth’s scrapbooks were donated by his manager, Christy Walsh. There were 10 that we have converted into 25 volumes after conservation. Lou Gehrig’s material was donated by his wife after he died. Visitors to the Hall can see the actual scrapbooks or view them on microfilm,” she explained.
While the two scrapbooks and other documents would be of interest to many baseball fans, Scrafford has a personal favorite.
“My family didn’t really follow baseball when I was growing up, but my uncle, Paul Lavigne, was executive director of Baseball Canada at one time. I was going through some photo files one day in our archives and there he was in one of the photos. Then I was processing the papers of former baseball commissioner, Bowie Kuhn, and Uncle Paul was in a few of his photos,” she recalls.
“I was able to send copies of the pictures to family members which was really nice,” she added.
Scrafford has worked as a school librarian in Alberta and at the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths, Adults where she learned sign language, an addition to proficiency in English and French. She was also an oceanographic operator for the Canadian Armed Forces when in the navy from 1980 to 1986.
“We were stationed in Halifax. My job was tracking submarines and ships,” she said.
She has grown to love a sport she didn’t play as a child, nor had much interest in before 2002.
“I’m a big baseball fan now,” she laughs. “History and baseball are a perfect combination for me.”
Scrafford says her career is proof you don’t need knowledge of baseball from a young age to enjoy the sport nor pursue a career in baseball.
“If your skill set is accounting or marketing, for example, there are roles available in baseball. It is easier, of course, if you enjoy the game like I have learned to do,” she said.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Steele Internship Program offers 10-week internships for to up to 25 college or university students each year. It is “highly” competitive”, Scrafford says, with up to 500 applicants some years.
Successful applicants work in all departments of the Hall of Fame including the archives. It could be a life-changing experience.