Ted Spencer, November, 20, 2021 (video)


Ted Spencer, November, 20, 2021 (video)
Ted Spencer
Matthew Zink
Cooperstown sports
William "Ted" Spencer was born in 1943 in Quincy, Massachusetts. Ted grew up attending Quincy Public schools, where he developed a talent and passion for art. He obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Industrial Design from Massachusetts College of Art in 1969. Ted went on to work in several corporate settings before becoming Curator of Exhibits at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York in 1982.

Ted describes his journey from Quincy, MA to Cooperstown, NY, and details how his formative years and his early career prepared him for his role as Curator, and eventually Vice President and Chief Curator at the Baseball Hall of Fame. In addition, Ted provides insight into what Cooperstown was like when he and his family moved there in the 1980s, how it has developed, and what the community means to them. Despite having retired from the Hall of Fame in 2009, Ted continues to aid the institution in its research and is an active member of the Cooperstown community.

I have placed quotation marks around remembered remarks to place them within the context of either inner thought or external dialogue. I have also removed redundant phrases and grammatical errors for the sake of readability while still preserving Ted's style of speech and narrative flow.
TS = Ted Spencer
MZ = Matthew Zink

So, Ted, can you tell me a little about something you do in the community?

The one thing that I spend a lot of my time on now is my video project. But to go back to my days in Philly, I was a designer, and then I was brought into my boss's office and he said there was going to be a big reorganization and our division was inheriting the company TV studio, and because I was the creative person it was all mine. The only thing I had was an engineer, and they allowed me to hire a producer, and I hired a young guy out of Temple University. And one of the things he told me as I started talking to him, he said, "Remember, this is not television, this is video. Television is in your living room; video is the ultimate communications medium." And I took those words to heart and hired him, and we did great things over the next four years. The department grew and we developed a great reputation within the corporation. I also developed somewhat of an affinity for video, and so when I got to the Hall of Fame and they were running 16-millimeter film, I was surprised. Over the next few years, I started to, as the budget would allow, introduce some aspects of video into the exhibits and replace the film. In 1989, the Fall of '89, my son Matthew was a senior and he was in his senior year of soccer. My wife said, "You know this is Matthew's last year, you should be videoing his sports so we'll have them." And I said, "No, I don't want to do that." But I'm an American husband, I do what I'm told. I think it was for Fathers' Day she bought me a video camera, or she allowed me to pick it out. I videotaped that whole season, and as it turned out it was a spectacular season. They were undefeated, almost unscored upon for the whole season, it was stunning. We get to the post-season sectionals, and we get the first round by and we're the top seed, and five minutes into the game we put a ball in our own goal. We outshoot them 23-3, we hit the crossbar four or five times, and we lose. And the season's over. We didn't know if we would win the state championship, but we expected to be playing for a couple of more weeks. It was very difficult to swallow. Then my friend Bill Guilfoile at the Hall of Fame, what came across his desk was a video of the baseball team in the Olympics the previous year. There was a music video with the music "One Moment in Time" by Whitney Houston. It was a wonderful thing and I said, "You know, I've got all this video from the soccer season – these kids need a catharsis, they need to cry about the season, but they need to feel proud about what it is they've accomplished." The problem is, there was no editing system, and it was all VHS. It would take hours to explain to you what I did, but what I did was take three units and trick two units into thinking they were doing something else, and ultimately, I pulled it off. Then I made the final program—it was six minutes long, I put about one hundred hours into it. And it was fuzzy, but by those standards in 1989 it was OK. Then of course they said, "Oh Mr. Spencer, aren't you going to do it for basketball too?" because Matthew was playing basketball, so I did the same thing for basketball. But then at the end of the year Matthew graduated. At the end of the year, they have an athletics banquet, and the athletic director at that time would go around all year with a 35mm camera and take slides of every senior, and then they put it on a slide carousel, and they set it up. In those days the banquet was in the gym, and they had the carousel set up in one corner—and it would just sit there and run. So, you'd just stand there and go through eighty slides to see your kid pop up once or twice or three times, depending on what sports, for five seconds. And I said, "I can do the program on video," so I went to the athletic director and said, "I can take that job off your hands, all I have to do is I have to talk the Hall of Fame into buying an editing system, a rudimentary editing system." Which I did. And fortunately, we needed it anyway so I said, "Put it in the budget." It wasn't that much money. I said, "We really do need it. We really need to replace the films." It was what they called cuts only, which is bang, bang, bang—it was no dissolve or anything. And it was SVHS, it was a little bit of a step up. So, I did the first program, and nobody knew what to expect. And it ran about eight minutes, maybe ten minutes. Everybody went bananas—all of a sudden, I was the village hero. But I was thrilled to have done it. So, the next year in September, I had already picked the music for June, so I kind of knew the words and the pace of the music and everything. I didn't go to every single event, but I went to enough events of every sport that I'd have a roster of who the seniors are. I'd make sure what their uniform numbers are, or what they look like so I've got images. I continued to do soccer and boys' basketball in their entirety. So, I ended up with a bunch of soccer games, and a bunch of basketball games. If I was looking for a girl on the basketball team, I would do a whole girls' game, and so any team games—volleyball was the same way—I would have whole events. But things like track, I don't have all the seniors doing track, or wrestling, or swimming, you know? I focused in on the lane where only a swimmer was just to get a closeup. I end up with this group of videos, and then the next year I bought a half-dozen new cassettes and do it. I never recorded over anything I'd already done. Then in 1996, by this time I'd been doing it now for six years, my camera was wearing out. I was going to have to look for a camera. Video technology, even at the home level, was starting to move along but it was getting pricey. After one of the booster club meetings, the president and the vice president and the treasurer came by and said, "We heard you need a new camera." And I said, "Yeah, I'm looking at new cameras and I'll see what I can afford." "Well, what do you want to get?" I said, "Well Sony's got this new camera out which is digital tape." [Pause to check the time] They said, "Here's two thousand dollars." I was able, for the first time in my life, to own the best of everything. I've been doing these programs now for thirty years. I've kept every second that I've ever done. Because of my background is in industrial design I color-code each year, so each year has got its own color, even though obviously there are not thirty-one colors in the printing spectrum. So I've got them all logged up to a certain point. I don't have them all indexed, but I have over six hundred videos with about eighteen hundred kids. Now I'm three or four years into the second generation, which is really cool because what I do now is, and the first year I did it was a stunner for everybody, I start with a kid who graduated in 1993, he or she, and then segue to his or her son or daughter in 2015 or whatever it was. Really cool. So, I've got them. Also, when I retired, the athletic director at the time found boxes and boxes of football films, and I said, "I can migrate those to DVDs," and we now have 230 football games, starting in 1950. So the archive is incredible—the football archive is really neat. The irony is, they only go up to '82, because in '82 VHS came in. And film, you can't record over it, so they've got all the film. Well, they just kept recycling the damn cassettes, so we have no video from '82 until I started in 1990. Which is a bummer. I've been able to give guys in their 70s a full season of their football games, how cool is that? Or a guy who said, "My grandfather played, do you have any games from that year?" And I do, and I've actually been able to do that for a couple of schools, Waterville and Sequoya, because we played them, or Mount Markham, we played them over the years. "Here's the last year of football at West Winfield, here's the first year of football at Mount Markham," and there's a game! It's been very gratifying for me to become so useful, and it's really neat and I'm thrilled. Now, now I'm stuck! Even if I said, "Gee, I'm tired and I'd like to stop." Well, who's graduating this year but my oldest grandson? And I've got seven grandchildren in the queue. I'm in it certainly for the next five years, Lord willing. Then when the last two come along three years after that, who knows? By that time, I'm going to be pushing 90, so I'm not promising anything. But I'll keep doing it till I can. And people need to know that they're all available. All the stuff is available, and they should ask. It costs me twenty-five cents for a blank disc and ten cents for a case. I can afford it, I have a decent pension—I can afford the thirty-five, forty cents. And a two-hour disc takes six minutes to dub. Hopefully if somebody hears this, they'll understand—don't be afraid to give me a call, I'd love to do it. So, there you go.

Great, thanks Ted.
Upstate New York
Cooperstown, NY
Matthew ZInk
Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta
Cooperstown Graduate Association, Cooperstown, NY
Moving Image