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             Named in memory of legendary Brooklyn Dodgers baseball fan Hilda Chester, the Hilda Award was established in 2001 by the Baseball Reliquary to recognize distinguished service to the game by a baseball fan. The award is an old cowbell, Hilda Chester’s signature noisemaker, encased and mounted in a Plexiglas box bearing an engraved inscription. The Hilda is awarded annually at the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals Induction Day. The recipients are as follows:

            In the summer of 2000, at the age of 77, Rea Wilson of Seal Beach, California made a pilgrimage to all thirty Major League ballparks, traveling alone and sleeping in her van, making a trip that she and her husband had dreamed of before he succumbed to cancer in 1993.

            Affectionately referred to by his friends as Dr. Fan, retired professor and St. Paul, Minnesota resident Seth Hawkins has pursued a lifelong desire to bear witness to baseball history. Among the many baseball milestones he has been present for is every 3,000th hit recorded in the Major Leagues since 1959 (total of 19). He also witnessed Henry Aaron’s 715th career home run and Pete Rose’s 4000th career hit as well as numbers 4,191 and 4,192, the hits that tied and broke Ty Cobb’s all-time career mark. He was on hand for the 300th career wins of Phil Niekro, Don Sutton, and Tom Glavine. And the list goes on.

            A lifelong New York baseball fan, Ruth Roberts of Port Chester, New York has expressed her love of the game through writing music and lyrics for some of the liveliest baseball anthems of the last half century. Along with her frequent collaborator, Bill Katz, Roberts wrote the 1956 song, "I Love Mickey," a celebration of Mickey Mantle which was recorded by Teresa Brewer, and followed that up in 1960 with "It’s a Beautiful Day for a Ball Game." In 1963, she wrote "Meet the Mets," which is played before every Mets home game. In fact, the song is such a staple among generations of New York baseball enthusiasts that some diehard Mets fans have requested that, upon their death, "Meet the Mets" be sung at their funeral before their casket is closed.

            A graduate of Pitzer College in Claremont, California, where she majored in American History, Jennie Reiff is so obsessed with baseball played in a bygone era that she goes to Halloween parties dressed up as her favorite 19th century ballplayer, Big Ed Delahanty, and hands out cards with his biography since no one at the parties has any idea who he is.

            Among an extremely rare breed of Chicago baseball fans who root for both the White Sox and the Cubs, Dr. David Fletcher started a campaign and Web site to reinstate to the ranks of Organized Baseball one of the most acclaimed infielders of the deadball era, Buck Weaver, one of the notorious Black Sox players who was banished from professional baseball for life in 1920. Fletcher, who in 1998 was married at home plate where the old Comiskey Park once stood, has also launched an ambitious project to build the Chicago Baseball Museum.

            Comedian and actor Bill Murray, the first "celebrity fan" to receive the Hilda, is a Chicago Cubs fan extraordinaire and part owner of the St. Paul Saints (a franchise in the American Association, an independent professional baseball league), for whom he also serves in the capacity of team psychologist.

            In 2006, documentary filmmaker Cass Sapir crisscrossed the nation in an old Honda, traveling to every Minor League and Major League ballpark, a total of 189 stadiums, in an astounding 157 days. The Cambridge, Massachusetts resident used his self-financed road trip (maybe "odyssey" is a more appropriate term) as a means of raising money and awareness for the Jimmy Fund, a Boston-based charity that raises funds for cancer research.

            A baseball fan whose devotion to the hometown team has reached almost mythic proportions, John Adams of Brecksville, Ohio is celebrating in 2008 his 35th consecutive year of pounding his bass drum in the bleachers at Cleveland Indians games, come rain or shine. Adams has twice thrown out a ceremonial first pitch at Jacobs Field and was honored in 2007 with his own bobblehead night (naturally, it was designed so that his arms could be bobbled up and down to bang on a toy drum).

            A Brooklyn-born TV writer now living in Los Angeles, Bob Colleary is a collector of relics from baseball’s past. At one time or another he owned Donn Clendenon’s 1969 Mets World Series ring, Babe Ruth’s spittoon, and the lineup card from Game Six of the 1975 World Series which was won by Carlton Fisk’s 12th-inning homer. As a gift to his long-suffering Bucky Dented Red Sox fan friends, he also performed a complex ritualistic exorcism which Reversed The Curse using a straight razor which had once shaved Babe Ruth. While much of his collection has been redistributed throughout the collecting landscape, his prized possession remains Bill Veeck’s wooden leg, which is the centerpiece of his Strat-o-Matic baseball league of the same name. The annual draft lottery is conducted each New Year’s Eve by placing dice inside the leg and rolling them onto the floor.

            A member of the Roman Catholic women’s religious community of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit since 1962, Sister Mary’s passion for baseball has been focused largely on her beloved Cleveland Indians. She wrote and edited her own segment, “Tribe Habit,” for the ABC television news affiliate in Cleveland.  Baking cookies for the Indians players since 1984 eventually led to a small business operation called “Nun Better” Cookies, with the profits helping support her religious community.  She also had two cameo appearances in the 1989 film, Major League, and even has her own baseball card (made by Upper Deck in 1997).

            Chris Erskine’s weekly columns in the Los Angeles Times, “Man of the House” and “Fan of the House,” have been widely lauded for their wry insights and (often) tongue-in-cheek celebrations of fatherhood, life in the suburbs, and sports as a way of establishing relationships with children and sharing a distinct sense of belonging with others in his community.  His wide-ranging observations on the national pastime always come from the perspective of a fan, engaging baseball with a warmth and poignancy which allow his readers to reflect on the enduring nature of being a true supporter.  Whether ruminating on the experience of being a volunteer coach for Little League baseball or rhapsodizing about a Chicago-style hot dog at an Angels game, he examines the myriad ways that baseball allows fans to pass time and to connect with their personal histories.

            Arnold Hano attended his first baseball game in New York in 1926 as a child, and saw all the greats of that era from his seat in the bleachers.  Memorable moments he witnessed in baseball history include the last game Babe Ruth pitched for the New York Yankees (1933), Don Larsen’s perfect game in the World Series (1956), and Sandy Koufax’s first no-hitter (1962).  His account of the first game of the 1954 World Series between his beloved New York Giants and the Cleveland Indians, A Day in the Bleachers, is a classic of baseball literature and one of the most enduring expressions of the meaning of fanhood, especially of those who sit in the bleacher seats.

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