In addition to blogging about the Angels and the Ducks, I write a monthly column for OC Family Magazine called “Game Time”, which covers sports for kids and families. No Angels baseball? No Ducks hockey? How about a visit to one of Orange County’s best kept secrets? In the October Issue, I highlight the Newport Sports Museum, a gem of a place with an outstanding collection of sports memorabilia and a fantastic outreach program that supports our local youth.
While Fashion Island in Newport Beach may be a premier shopping and entertainment destination for many, it’s also home to one of the most extensive collections of sport memorabilia in the world. Located in an unassuming building on Newport Center Drive, the Newport Sports Museum houses over 10,000 items in their permanent exhibits, featuring all the major sports, including football, basketball, baseball, and hockey.
The creation of real estate developer John Hamilton, this non-profit opened its doors to the public in 1993. An avid sports fan and collector, Hamilton had amassed such a large amount of memorabilia that he wanted to provide a place to share these treasures with fellow sports fans. Approximately 75% of the items on display at the museum comes from Hamilton’s personal collection. And admission to this Orange County gem is free, as Hamilton feels it’s important not to exclude anyone from being able to enjoy these fantastic exhibits.
The space is comprised of rooms dedicated to each sport and our local professional and college teams, including the Angels, Dodgers, Ducks, Kings, Lakers, USC and UCLA. There is also space dedicated to other sports such as golf, surfing and US Olympic athletes.
Are you a big football fan? Then you won’t want to miss the museum’s collection of jerseys worn by football greats like Dan Marino, Walter Payton, Jerry Rice and Joe Montana. And if you follow college football, you’ll enjoy the display that features footballs signed by every Heisman Trophy winner dating back to 1935.
If you are a fan of “the fastest game on earth”, the museum’s hockey exhibit includes some interesting historic pieces such as original hockey sweaters from the 1930’s, early model hockey helmets from the 1940’s, game used equipment from Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky, and arena seats from the old Montreal Forum.
Fans of the “Grand Ol’ Game” will not be disappointed as the museum’s baseball collection is a list of priceless pieces thought only to be seen in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. There is a collection of autographed baseballs signed by every World Series Championship team since 1940. The museum’s basement houses a unique collection of old stadium seats, many of which are from ballparks that are no longer in existence, including seats from Ebbets Field and Comiskey Park. On display are baseballs signed by the sport’s greats including Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. And what is probably one of the most prized pieces in the entire museum, the ball from Babe Ruth’s final home run, autographed by “the Bambino” himself.
But more impressive than this comprehensive sports memorabilia collection is the commitment the Newport Sports Museum has made to mentor local youth. They use their facility to team with several well-known athletes “as a vehicle to motivate children, those succeeding and struggling alike, to be productive, confident and successful adults.” Through several free programs such as Career Choices, where sports professionals speak to high school students about career options in the sports industry or Sport Yourself which is a program that features female athletes speaking and encouraging young women in the importance of an active lifestyle and self-confidence, the museum and staff are committed to facilitating programs “designed specifically to teach children self confidence, discipline, courage, teamwork and dedication.”
Whether you are a lifelong sports fan or a parent of a little leaguer, make sure you take some time to visit this Orange County hidden treasure. Their great exhibits combined with their commitment to support local kids through their motivational programs make for a winning combination that will not disappoint.