President & Executive Director, Pro Football Hall of Fame
Leave it to a man of David Baker’s size to come up with a cookie metaphor. Baker has been in town for less than a year, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s president has helped steer a vision of many into what will become the largest undertaking in Stark County history.
The Hall of Fame’s board of trustees gave Baker the green light to proceed with a Hall of Fame Village concept, which will include a four-star hotel and conference center, a renovated Fawcett Stadium, a mixed-use residential and retail area, themed restaurants and other buildings on the Hall’s campus.
As big as Baker is—he’s about 6-foot-9, 400 pounds—his ego could fit in a shoebox.
“I happen to be a guy who loves cookie dough,” Baker said. “I can’t resist it and when it’s around, I can’t eat a little bit of it. I eat all of it. The fascinating thing to me is you would never eat butter by itself, or flour by itself, or the bittersweet chocolate chips alone. But you mix it all together, and it ends up being this spectacular thing I can’t resist.
“That’s how I look at this. The ingredients were already there; I just got to be the guy to come along and mix the ingredients. What came out is, and I say this with great respect, some of the most spectacular chocolate chip cookies you could ask for.”
The Hall of Fame conducted a national search to find someone to replace the big shoes left behind by Stephen Perry, last year’s About magazine Person of the Year. The Hall found Baker in California.
At the time, though, Baker was heavily involved in a $1.5 billion deal to create a health care campus in Henderson, Nevada. He left that opportunity to come to Canton, because Baker knew that Canton was a metaphor for greatness.
“There’s a quote from Churchill that I’m fond of,” Baker said. “He said history is made by those people who are too courageous, or too ignorant, to understand the obstacles. If you understood the obstacles, you probably wouldn’t go forward with it.”
What Baker provided to Canton and the Hall of Fame’s future was a fresh set of eyes. A set of eyes that understood what the Hall stood for. Maybe that’s what Canton needed.
“We don’t understand what can’t be done here, so we think maybe anything can be done here,” Baker said. “Having been here, I can see how the Hall of Fame would develop in this place over time. The people here are so genuine and sincere. They’re true believers. Maybe over time as you lose Hoover, and Goodyear becomes something else, and Timken splits and the area changes, that belief can become stale.”
He knows what he inherited here.
It’s a jewel. The people here can make it happen because “there’s enormous courage in all these great people here.”