The year was 1975, decades before Cumberland County entered the museum business, when Pittsburgh sports entrepreneur Joel Platt proposed to build a major sports museum on the Harrisburg Pike just east of I-81 exit 52 in Middlesex Township. The Sports Immortals complex was to consist of a hotel, restaurant, recreational facilities and a museum containing over a million pieces of sports memorabilia. At the time Platt’s acquisitions dwarfed the combined collections of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, and the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. It may still as Platt continued to acquire significant items after that.
Rep. Bud Shuster (the congressman who never met a road-building project he didn’t like) enlisted the support of former Cardinals pitcher “Vinegar Bend” Mizell, then Asst. Sec. of Commerce, in an attempt to get federal funds for the Sports Immortals museum. However, it was to be build in Shuster’s district near Breezewood where the Pennsylvania Turnpike and I-70 meet. Apparently this undertaking was unsuccessful because Platt showed up in Carlisle.
Carlisle’s leaders of the day were apparently unimpressed. Word has it that the owner of a motel located near the proposed site was strongly opposed to the project. His concerns had nothing to do with having competition for his restaurant and motel move in nearby; he was concerned about the impact on the community by the element that would be attracted by such a facility. Freddie Wardecker lent me his copy of the brochure that Platt handed out at his presentation and I scanned it into a PDF for your viewing pleasure. It would be interesting to see what the reaction would be today if such a facility was proposed for County land near the Military History Institute. Click on the image below to view the Sports Immortals brochure.