As Barry Bonds stalks Henry Aaron, as steroid suspicions hangs like a storm cloud over Major League Baseball, as talk of gambling and game-fixing create a fog through the National Basketball Association, and as Michael Vick's indictment creates outrage across the country, I look for solace. And I think I found it.
Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn are set to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY tomorrow, July 29, 2007. Ripken is most known for playing 2,632 games, while Gwynn can be seen as one of the best hitters of the modern era. Reading about these players creates a nostalgia for me, as I remember going to see Ripken play at Camden Yards when I was six or seven years old. Nostalgia grips me as I hear the tales of Gwynn's ability that my dad tells me, as he saw Gwynn play in San Diego at the beginning of his career. So hear it is, my views of both of these soon to be Hall of Famers.
In my first two parts, I talked about my admiration for imminent Hall of Famers, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn. In this final installment, I would like to talk about my Hall of Fame experience in Cooperstown.
On July 2, 2007, my father and I made the 22 mile trek from Oneonta, NY to Cooperstown, NY to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Both of us were absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to see all the stuff there was to see. I was sure it was going to be an amazing experience. I was right.
Our drive took about a half hour through the farms of rural New York until we reached the Blue Lot where we would park and take a trolley into town. After a five minute trolley ride, we stood outside of the Mecca we were about to enter. I was starting to become awestruck. I t was a very nice building. From the outside it basically looked like a very nice library. From there, we went inside, paid our $15 and explored.
First, we went into The Grandstand Theater, modeled after Comiskey Park and watched a movie about the origins of baseball and saw some very good highlights. After that, we ventured into the Cooperstown Room, which was mostly info about the beginning of the museum and what not, and some artifacts from the museum's beginnings. After lingering there for a while, we then traversed to the room about baseball in the 19th century, which was very eye opening and some of the old gear in there was amazing, such as Cy Young's jersey. Soon after that, we proceeded to "The Game: 1900-1930" and the Babe Ruth Room, both of which had amazing collections of ancient memorabilia. I enjoyed seeing Babe Ruth's bats and jerseys and all that great stuff. Also, some of my favorite memorabilia was John McGraw's old equipment, as he was not much bigger than me.
From there we moved onto sections entitled "Youth Leagues" and "The Game: 1930-1960." I thought Youth Leagues was a little boring, but once we moved on to The Game: 1930-1960, I was once again enthralled. Williams, DiMaggio, Musial, everyone that played in that era, they were all in one place.
After that was my favorite section, "The Game: 1960-2000." This was probably my favorite section. So many of the teams I had heard about in my childhood from the '60s and '70s were here. While I was admiring the '70s Pirates section, a man from Pittsburgh struck up a conversation with me about seeing Clemente's 3,000 hit and the Pirates teams from the '70s and where I was from, while a lady from Cincinnati who grew up in the '70s joined the conversation. It was such an uplifting experience to talk to these people about an era I missed but had read about a lot. Next to that display was my personal favorite: the 1980 Philadelphia Phillies. My dad has kept me entertained for hours with stories about his Phillies, and he even has a record commemorating their run to the World Series narrated by Harry Kalas.
"Today's Game" followed, which was basically just all the modern baseball records and what not. It was crawling with little kids. Oh how it was crawling. I swear, if I had to hear another, "Look, Derek Jeter!" Or "Look A-Rod!" some kids would not be remembering Cooperstown that fondly. Also around that section were balls from all the no hit games in Major League Baseball's history, excluding Mark Buerhle and Justin Verlander.
After exhausting the second floor, we went up to the third floor, which was probably my favorite floor. It started off with a section entitled "Sacred Ground" which was about stadiums. I used to want to be an architect, and I have always been infatuated by the structure of stadiums. The "Records Room" followed, a very cool room with all the statistical leaders, but there was a dark cloud over it, as Barry Bonds appeared on many of the lists, poised to take over first place. That room was probably where the kids were the worst, seeing their idols' names on the lists and freaking out.
Probably my favorite part of the whole museum was just a little TV set up that was running a continuous loop of Abbot & Costello's "Who's On First," one of the most HILARIOUS skits of all time. If you ever get a chance, look it up an read it, or look it up and watch it. You will not be disappointed.
Finally, after a few hours of wandering around, my dad and I decided to hit our last top: the Gallery. For those of you who have not been to the Hall of Fame, the gallery is like a shrine. If you can make it in at just the right time, it can be dead quiet, aside from hushed whispers. It was such a sight to see middle aged men staring in awe at their idols. There were just so many awe inspiring moment while I was in the Gallery: seeing Gehrig, Schmidt, Carlton, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, and the spaces where the plaques for Ripken and Gwynn will go.
It is my goal to get back to Cooperstown within the next year while they still have Ripken and Gwynn's exhibits up and so that I can see them in the Hall.
It was really nice to be able to write this series, so good luck Cal and Tony, wherever life leads you.