Don't panic, we're not suddenly dropping politics just as the presidential campaign heads into the final couple of months. But since it's Labor Day weekend, the dog days of August are coming to a close, and the rosters are getting ready to expand for the final stretch to the playoffs, I thought I'd share my trip to Cooperstown this week.
Visiting the Hall of Fame had long been on my own personal bucket list, and when the opportunity came earlier this year to take a trip to Cooperstown Dreams Park and take part in a week-long tournament of youth baseball as an umpire, with the perk at the end of the trip being a trip to see the Hall, I was happy to olige. Fifteen games later, Friday was getaway day, with the Hall being the first stop out of town.
The weather was great all week. Instead of upstate New York being its traditional hot and humid, it was almost perfect baseball weather the whole time, until today when the remnants of Fay finally moved in after a slow march up the Eastern half of the country. For those of you unfamiliar with this part of New York, it is mile after mile of rolling hills and farmland. It is easily the greenest part of the country I have ever seen. When you arrive into Cooperstown proper, it is remarkable how unchanged by time it is. I'm not exactly sure what I expected, but this community is really a two street community.
You know you are out in the country, but you turn a corner and walk down the main street, and you are suddenly back in time.
This bank probably has looked just like this for over 130 years.
When I first got into town a week ago, everything was green. But today...
The leaves all over the place were just starting to turn, just as the summer baseball camp here that largely drives this town, ended operations until next summer. By Saturday, this strip will be a ghost town.
A look in one of the store windows. The top picture is considered a rarity - Babe Ruth actually having to slide into home instead of trotting in after hitting one out.
Before you go down the four or five blocks to the hall, tucked behind the strip of shops is Doubleday Field.
The annual Hall of Fame game has probably come to an end in a disappointing way. This year, the exhibition game around the induction ceremony was supposed to be between the Padres and Cubs, but was rained out. The economics of the game and scheduling are such that it's probably not feasible for teams to make this commitment in the middle of the season in the future, so Doubleday may have seen its last major league game.
Wrigley Field in Chicago is known as the 'friendly confines', but this field looks positively tiny by comparison.
The dugouts are that close to the plate, currently under the tarp, and there is literally not a bad seat in the house.
This is "Doc" Gary. Doc is one heck of a good umpire who served for years over in Okinawa, and was also in Fallujah in 2004. He's a really good guy...considering he lives in Jersey.
About a three minute walk from Doubleday Field, and you're at the Hall. Again, I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it seemed smaller than I imagined, considering how much history baseball has.
C-shaped building, three stories, and just like when you walk into Doubleday Field, if you are a baseball fan, regardless which team is your team, you do feel at home when you walk into the Hall.
This painting of Cy Young awaits you when you walk into the ticket room.
So do lifesize replicas of two of the greatest lefty hitters the game has ever seen, Ted Williams and George Herman Ruth.
What's this, you ask?
One of Phil Rizzuto's Holy Cows. We'll come back to the first floor a little later. You really have to start on the second floor.
I took this for Tarzana Joe's benefit, our resident poet laureate
. The first use of baseball in verse was in 1744.
In 1791, Pittsfield, Massachusetts issued this hand-written ordinance banning the playing of "base ball" near the town meeting house, the first baseball reference of American origin.
Still in the wayback room, this is a turn of the century Cincinnati jersey. I'm sure my pal Frank Pastore is glad he played for the Reds when he did, because just looking at this uniform makes you itch.
A team picture of Paterson, New Jersey from 1897, with a future legend on the team in the name of Honus Wagner.
In case you can't quite read the sign, this ball is from September, 1858, the first recorded time when a baseball game charged admission.
A fine collection of prehistoric baseball equipment, none of which you would dare to be caught with on the field today if you wanted to survive.
Honus Wagner's more familiar Pirates uniform, bats and shoes.
Chicago Cubs artifacts from the Tinkers to Evers to Chance era. Note the gold watch fob - it is Joe Tinker's World's Championship fob. Will this finally be the Cubs' return to greatness?
They call Yankee Stadium the House That Ruth Built. They could probably also say close to the same thing about Cooperstown, because the Babe was so larger than life, and left such an imprint on the game, that you see him everywhere around here. This is his silver cigar box along with his bronzed glove and shoe.
Remember the legend about Babe Ruth pointing to center field, calling his shot? There is a video you can watch just to the left of this display where you see footage of that event, with an interview with Ruth talking about it. The bat on the left is the one that did it.
The Babe's actual locker from Yankee Stadium. There are a few of these around the Hall, but these exhibits are for the most revered legends of the game.
Filling out the tour of the second floor is this 15 minute video of baseball's characters, past, present and future.
One of the travesties, if you ask me. The Black Sox scandal was a stain on the integrity of the game to be sure, and there were crooked ballplayers that for whatever motivation threw the World Series they easily should have won. Shoeless Joe Jackson was implicated and acquitted with his fellow teammates, but was banned for life by MLB's first commissioner, Kennesaw Mountain Landis for the appearance of impropriety. Jackson didn't make an error in the 1919 Series, and batted .375. If he took the money to throw the Series, he sure did a poor job laying down. He was one of the greatest pure hitters of all time, and never could clear his name.
This is for Hugh's benefit. I'm not sure who this is...some guy named Cy somebody...Young I think his name is, played for Cleveland. I guess he was a pretty good pitcher, and they give some award out every year in his name to the best pitchers of the year.
The golden era of the Indians. You know Hugh's motto, right? Just wait until 1954?
First ball is from Bob Feller's 12th career one-hitter, and the second one is from his final victory in 1955.
Another pretty decent pitcher for the Tribe, Early Wynn, who donated a ball from his 300th win in 1963.
The Ironman, Lou Gehrig. Baseball will never forget him.
The Duke of Flatbush, Duke Snider.
Stan Musial's locker was also rightfully retired to the Hall.
Another Cardinal great, Enos Slaughter's jacket.
Now we're up on the third floor, and yes, the movie A League Of Their Own wasn't complete fiction. Women did baseball for several years, and there is a fine collection of that era on display.
Ted Williams used 77 baseballs to put this display together of where he thought his hot zones were. Unless you pitched him consistently down and away, or just went ahead and walked him, he hurt you.
More Williams artifacts on display on the 3rd floor.
Roger Maris' 61st home run ball in 1961.
Joltin' Joe - The Yankee Clipper - Joe DiMaggio.
The Say Hey Kid, Willie Mays. By the way, we're about an hour into the Hall, and there are lots of different artifacts from individual events or achievements from current players, and there's no mention of Barry Bonds yet.
Probably the greatest left-hander in the modern era, Sandy Koufax.
He hasn't been inducted with the legends downstairs, but Pete Rose's accomplishments on the field are seen here and there. This is a good montage of the Big Red Machine era - Sparky and the boys, Tony Perez, Johnny Bench, Rose, Joe Morgan, Davey Concepcion. I looked for Frank Pastore stuff in here, but couldn't find it. I'm sure it must have been out getting cleaned or something.
From circa 1978 - Billy Martin's pinstripes, Reggie Jackson's bat that hit the three home runs against the Dodgers in the Series that year, earning him the name Mr. October forever, and the late, great Thurman Munson's mask, helmet and mitt.
I would be remiss if I didn't include my adopted national league team's collage, since they were gracious enough to let me throw out the first pitch last year. Rose, Mike Schmidt and Lefty, Steve Carlton, plus a whole lot more.
A collection from the 1981 Series of the legendary Dodger infield that played together the most games ever - Steve Garvey at first, Davey Lopes at second, Bill Russell at short, and Ron Cey at third. Free agency has made sure you will never see a set infield for that long of a period ever again.
Since we're off to Minnesota for the GOP convention next week, here's the obligatory montage of Twins Series artifacts, including the obnoxious homer hanky.
Members of the 3,000 hit club, including the jersey of Eddie Murray when he was with the Tribe. You're welcome, Hugh.
The last room before you go downstairs and actually view the Hall of Fame Gallery. This is a fun room. It is the locker room, with every team represented. Whoever your team is, you'll find a bunch of neat stuff in there from games you will remember from long ago and recent. This is the Indians locker, so I don't care.
...especially since there is so much good stuff in here from the Angels, like Troy Glaus' MVP earning jersey from the '02 Series, the famous thunder sticks, Garrett Anderson's All-Star home run contest winning bat, and the Scott Spezio bat that jump started the epic Game 6 comeback in the Fall Classic that year. Good times.
I had to put this in for my buddy Dean Barnett's benefit, being the Sox fan that he is. In this locker is everything you need to know about the Sox, which apparently means Manny Ramirez...oh wait, he's not there anymore, is he?
The best strikeout pitchers in the game on display here.
If you've never been to a Phillies game, you owe yourself a trip to see the Phillie Phanatic in action. I turned the corner and saw him, and immediately smiled. There are also other artifacts from mascots and pieces of stadiums from days past on display here.
One of my favorite players of all time - The Express, Nolan Ryan, a genuine freak of nature. How anyone could throw that hard into his forties, especially now that I am in my forties, is beyond me. Seven no-hitters - a remarkable feat.
I don't know why this made me laugh, but it did. The Angels' rally monkey perched atop Curt Schilling's storied bloody socks and cleats.
Now it's time to go to what we've come to see, the best in baseball. Just before I left, Hugh and I got into how many Indians were inducted into the Hall versus the Angels. Obviously the Tribe has been around for a hundred years longer than the Halos, but to humor Hugh, here is what I was able to find.
A very bad start. On the first wall, Tris Speaker and Cy Young. 2-0 Hugh.
3-0 Hugh, and the oldest Angel hasn't been born yet.
Just a brief aside, there are some of these plaques you come to where you just stop goofing around and read. This is one of those times.
Some Indians pitcher named Feller. Okay, so this is going to be a route. But they still haven't won anything since what, the end of prohibition?
Sam Rice. I'm sure Hugh is beginning to well up at this point.
Lou Boudreau. I've stopped counting. I'm trying to find anyone born in Southern California in order to cheat.
Joe Sewell. Boy, look at the time - don't we have to be going soon?
Well, this one shouldn't count. He only played with the Indians for one year. I don't think he even unpacked his bags.
The good news? The Angels are finally on the board. The bad news? Hoyt Wilhelm played for the Tribe, too. Who didn't he play for?
Okay, here we go. Rod Carew. I'm so excited to find a legitimate Angel I'm shaking.
Gaylord Perry, who needed CSI to conduct testing to figure out what he used to put on baseballs to get people out.
I got to watch a lot of games around the time Reggie Jackson wrapped up his career in Anaheim.
Again, one year in Cleveland? Disqualified from the contest. He's a Phillie and everyone knows it.
Now see, this counts, because he lives in Orange County.
The strikeout king of baseball.
But while all of these people were great baseball players, these guys are the real heroes, the ones who served our country in time of war and still ended up in the Hall of Fame.
Believe it or not, I didn't capture half of what's in the Hall of Fame. I hope that you get the chance to visit it. It is well worth the trip.