In A New York (Yankees) State of Mind
By Victoria Kidd
BRIAN RICHARDS ’06 stops in front of a framed black and white photograph on the H&R Block Suite Level of the new Yankee Stadium. It’s one of many lining the contoured hallway leading to party suites where VIPs watch the games. “This photo is of Babe Ruth’s viewing,” Richards says. As evidence, he points to a line of people in the photograph stretched around the block of the old stadium, now under demolition across the street from the new $1.5 billion complex—the most expensive sports venue built in the United States.
“People are wearing short-sleeved shirts. It’s summertime. Babe Ruth died in August 1948,” he says. “There are only two monuments in center field—one for Lou Gehrig and one for Miller Huggins. Ruth’s monument wasn’t added until the spring of 1949,” he adds. “But the flag is at half-staff, and The Babe lay in state in the old stadium.”
It’s a historian’s deduction coupled with the keen eye of a curator, the combined impact of his years at Susquehanna and specialized training in museum studies at the Cooperstown Graduate Program (CGP), the premier program for training museum professionals in the United States. The program is offered through a partnership between the State University of New York College at Oneonta and the New York State Historical Association.
After graduating with a Master of Arts degree in history museum studies, Richards thought he’d have a job after applying for 10 or fewer jobs. He applied for 35 jobs and didn’t get any of them. Then his luck changed. He received a call from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, where Richards had done two internships as part of his graduate studies. The New York Yankees organization was looking for a curator for the Yankees Museum, being built as part of the new stadium.
Unknown to Richards, Lonn Trost, chief operating officer for the Yankees, had been in conversation with Ted Spencer, the former chief curator of the Baseball Hall of Fame. In turn, Spencer had consulted with CGP director Gretchen Sullivan Sorin. They decided Richards could do the job before he even knew he was under consideration.
Richards interviewed with the Yankees on the Friday before Labor Day and was hired on Sept. 4, 2008. “It’s the only job that I literally ran to the phone to call Mom and Dad about,” he says. But for a young man from Hughesville, Pa., who never lived in a town with more than 2,000 people and three traffic lights, elation soon was tempered by a sense of trepidation. “It was the biggest high and low. On one hand, I had been offered a job with the New York Yankees. On the other hand, I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I have to live in the city,'” Richards says.