New York State of Mind
Some folks like to get away,
– Billy Joel
After spending the weekend in Boston, my son Joe and I rented a car and drove to Cooperstown on Monday. We brought our California weather with us as it was mid-60s and sunny for the entire 240-mile trip. Aside from breaking our piggy bank to pay for the multitude of tolls (what's up with that?), the drive mostly along Interstate 90 could not have been better. Traffic was non-existent, the leaves on the trees were gorgeous, and the final 50 miles or so of back roads was a fun experience for a couple of city slickers from Long Beach. My only regret was that we didn't have an extra day to stop at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts en route to Cooperstown.
We checked into the Cooper Inn about 2:45 p.m. and headed directly to The National Baseball Hall of Fame, knowing full well that it was closing at 5:00 p.m. The Cooper Inn, a classic federal brick landmark built in 1812 as the private residence of publisher Henry Phinney, is located on the northeast corner of Main Street & Chestnut Street and is convenient to all attractions in "America's Most Perfect Village."
Cooperstown is a quaint village situated next to Lake Otsego, Leatherstocking Golf Course, and beautiful old-fashioned homes. If not for the winters, I think I could retire in this town, although I'm sure I would miss having a major-league baseball team – or two – within driving distance of my home. Like all eastern time zone locales, the offset is that you can work a full day and still watch two games on TV at night – as long as you're willing to stay up late (which might not be a very good idea after all if, in fact, you were going to work the next morning).
For a more complete report on Cooperstown, be sure to read Dave Studenmund's highly informative article at The Hardball Times. Dave's mother was raised in Cooperstown, his older brother Woody was born there, and the family owned a summer house in town. As such, Studes spent his summers in Cooperstown while growing up and later honeymooned there (just like my older brother Tom). In the department of "It's a Small World," Dave's brother Woody and I first knew each other in the mid-70s when we both competed in the Greater Los Angeles APBA Association. Woody is also a charter member of the Northeast League, the longest-running baseball table-game league on record. The name of his team? The Cooperstown Phillies. Dave and Woody both have bricks with dedications inscribed at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown.
Dressed in walking shorts and short-sleeve shirts, we entered the Hall of Fame, picked up our passes courtesy of Jeff Idelson, the new president, and headed upstairs to the second floor where a timeline history of baseball exhibits and rooms are filled with baseball memorabilia, as well as game-used equipment and uniforms. Hamming for the camera, I'm acting as astonished as can be when viewing the oldest-known baseball jersey (Baraboo Base Ball Club in Wisconsin, circa 1866) in existence.
Joe and I also took photos of one another standing next to some of our favorites, including Babe Ruth's Yankees locker and jersey, Lou Gehrig's locker and jersey, a Christy Mathewson jersey donated by his wife, Honus Wagner's coach's jersey and two thick-handled game-used bats, Shoeless Joe Jackson's jersey, cap, and glove, Jackie Robinson's Brooklyn Dodgers hat and jacket, Sandy Koufax's 1965 game-used home jersey, and Nolan Ryan's seven no-hitter hats (including four with the California Angels when my Dad and Joe's grandfather was Director of Public Relations and Promotions).
At Joe's request, I also took a snapshot of him standing next to the exhibit of Ted Williams and the Science of Hitting. The Splendid Splinter has been Joe's all-time favorite player since his boyhood days.
Before our first afternoon at the Hall of Fame was complete, we found ourselves in the "Records Room," which include, among other things, game-used baseballs from no-hitters (presented in chronological order). While looking for balls from Koufax's and Ryan's no-nos, we discovered the following ball and accompanying photo of the author of a no-hitter in 1977.
And to think I thought Bert Blyleven wasn't in the Hall of Fame! Shame on me.
Joe and I stayed until closing time at 5 o'clock, browsing through the gift shop as we exited the building. We proceeded directly to Doubleday Field, which is just a few short blocks from the Museum. The "birth place of baseball" is scheduled to host an exhibition game between the San Diego Padres and Chicago Cubs on June 16, 2008. Doubleday is a beautiful venue, complete with brick dugouts that are situated much closer to home plate than normal. The dimensions are on the small side (390 feet to center field) but certainly within the parameters of many old and modern-day ballparks.
At Dave's suggestion, we ate dinner at the Cooperstown Diner. Having passed on breakfast and lunch earlier in the day, I opted for the "three-inch thick burger" that Studes mentions in his article. Joe had a Denver Omelette. The food was excellent but the service was a bit slow, maybe because there were eight other people in the joint as well. Hey, it's a small town. And a great one at that.
We're heading downstairs to our Continental Breakfast and then off to the Hall of Fame for a full day where we will get a "behind-the-scenes" tour of the baseball library and spend lots of time in the gallery, scoping out where Bert's plaque will be permanently displayed within the next few years. It promises to be a great day.