Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 14, 2008
BLOG: Cooperstown Travelogue

I had started writing this up when I got back from my vacation in August and got sidetracked - I'll just offer up a truncated version here.... we spent a week in Lake George and the last few days in Cooperstown making a pilgrimage to the Hall of Fame. It was the first time I'd been back since the inductions in 1982. The Hall seemed different in a number of ways, although it's always hard to tell how much of that is not being 11 years old anymore. There are a lot more Hall of Famers, now, of course - you can basically go by a set of panels that collect in one place the stars of the 70s, and by now the 80s collection is fairly well-stocked as well. When I was there in 1982, there was basically nobody there I'd seen play; now there are guys like Ripken and Boggs I remember as rookies, and even one guy (Kirby Puckett) who came to the majors, played his whole career, retired, got inducted in the Hall, and died since the last time I was there. Oddly, at random places there were a few shiny new plaques for Hall of Famers who'd been in a while - I guess guys like Ruth and Bob Feller needed their original plaques replaced at some point. (Odd promotion: they were advertising for 9/10 year olds to do a sleepover in the Hall itself, on its hard stone floors among the plaques. That seems very cool but also kinda ghoulish).

The Hall, of course, is a must-make pilgrimage for any serious baseball fan. It's still basically a museum you can cover in one day - although I got rushed through one or two sections because of the kids, we basically covered the whole place with hours to spare. (One thing that struck me in the equipment exhibits: Honus Wagner used a much thicker-handled bat than guys who played at or shortly after the same time, like Sam Crawford. Also, I hadn't known that in the 1880s they used color-coded uniforms, like today's NFL numbering schemes, to distinguish the different fielding positions). I also stopped in the day before at the library (it's only open M-F) - I'd still like to do a book someday if I get the free time, so I wanted to get a concrete sense of how research is done there and what's available. It's basically a one-room reading-room by-request operation, no public stacks at all, but nonetheless very user-friendly.

If I had one beef with the Hall, it's that the caliber of the stuff in the gift shop didn't match up to the souvenirs we got 26 years ago. Back then, we came home with, among others, a book collecting pictures of all the plaques and a punch-out book of cardboard replicas of actual old baseball cards of all the Hall of Famers. I went looking for similar things for my kids this time and came up empty, as too much of the selection was generic MLB merchandise.

We also took some time after lunch to check out a "Heroes of Baseball Wax Museum" down the street. This was a bit less of a serious fan site, but it was a fun mid-day diversion you can cover in an hour or so. The exhibits are eclectic - amidst the ballplayers there's George Costanza, a League of Their Own exhibit, Joe D and Marilyn, even George W and Rudy at Yankee Stadium after 9/11. But they also clearly made use of their unauthorized status to get a hookup with Pete Rose (they seem to have a fair bit of stuff that came from Rose himself) and an exhibit on Joe Jackson. Definitely worth seeing if you have kids.

Driving around upstate New York, you realize how many vast stretches of sparsely-populated greenery and farmland there still is in what people in the rest of the country still think of as a densely-settled urban state. After you've driven through stretches like that in New York, Pennsylvania, even Connecticut and western Massachusetts, and then compare them on the map to the size and scale of the whole rest of the U.S., you really start to appreciate how enormous this country is and how little of it looks like New York City and its immediate surroundings, where I have spent most of my life along with the Boston-Worcester area, northern New Jersey, and Washington DC.

A brief political note: we did see an Obama TV ad or two in Lake George, which struck me as odd since I couldn't see why he'd be advertising in New York (the closest neighboring state is Vermont). We saw a lot of ads for the incumbent Congresswoman, Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, who was still ripping the Iraq War but solely on grounds that it costs money that could be spent in her District.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:37 PM | Baseball 2008 • | Blog 2006-14 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)

Went to Cooperstown last year and had the same opinion of the gift shop-nothing special. Got a great book on Babe Ruth (the Year Babe Ruth 102 Home runs). People don't realize that only 3-4 percent of this country is considered developed or built up-its mostly empty-look at Adirondack State Park-no one knows that it is, I think, the largest park in the lower 48 states .

Posted by: dch at September 14, 2008 1:50 PM

The entire Cooperstown exhibit is wonderful, especially when you bring your kids for the first time. My best memories:

1. The Babe Ruth room: they were playing an infinite loop of a scratchy group of films. Yet when every kid down to 5 came into the room (chamber? shrine?) they were silent, and this Nintendo generation, complete with HD movies sat rapt at this film. They knew the room was important.

2. The lockers of Stan and Willie.

3. Well, my gift shop memory is a fine one. The son I brought got some postcards, the ones of the plaques. Like him, he picked the lefties: Sandy, the Babe, Ted. I figured worthless wastes of money, until he gave them to me, mounted on a large poster, which was my 50th birthday card. Which is now opposite my desk in my office. The most treasured gift I will probably ever have.

4. We also loved the wax museum. Do they still do Who's On First?

5. After: The Howe Caverns. Man, they are fun.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at September 14, 2008 2:21 PM

Cooperstown is the Mecca of Baseball-if you are fan you should go at least once.

Crank, is the Delgado option for 1 or 2 years-1 year is a no brainer now, in my opinion, but I wouldn't go with 2.

Jeter just tied Gehrig for most hits at Yankee Stadium with a HR off of Rays phenom Price.

Posted by: dch at September 14, 2008 2:48 PM

I was impressed by the display of Joe Morgan's glove, which was smaller than the one I was using at the same time (when I was seven).

Posted by: Jerry at September 14, 2008 3:13 PM

I went to Cooperstown in July 2008, last visiting in 1997. they definitely changed around a lot of the exhibits; it seemed like a different place. Maybe because they have so much stuff and artifacts they cannot display it all at once. The plaque room is wonderful. They made it larger after I last visited 10 years ago to make room for new inductees. I can't imagine a serious baseball fan visiting the HOF. And you can park right outside, in front.

One thing about Cooperstown - it's in the middle of nowhere. Your GPS will get confused. Also, lots of great baseball stores along Main Street selling artifacts that really belong in the HOF, in my opinion. Maybe the State of New York (which owns the HOF) can confiscate the good stuff from these stores and place them in the Hall. (Just kidding).

Posted by: steve at September 14, 2008 5:34 PM

Correction. The penultimate line in the first paragraph should read: "I can't imagine a serious baseball fan NOT visiting the HOF."

Posted by: steve at September 14, 2008 5:37 PM

The HOF is on my to-do list and I keep trying to bump it higher. If you make to KC, please check out the Negro Leagues Museum. It is not on the scale of Cooperstown, but worth the trip.

Posted by: maddirishman at September 15, 2008 5:41 AM

The HOF is on my to-do list and I keep trying to bump it higher. If you make to KC, please check out the Negro Leagues Museum. It is not on the scale of Cooperstown, but worth the trip.

Posted by: maddirishman at September 15, 2008 5:45 AM

The HOF is on my to-do list and I keep trying to bump it higher. If you make to KC, please check out the Negro Leagues Museum. It is not on the scale of Cooperstown, but worth the trip.

Posted by: maddirishman at September 15, 2008 5:46 AM

We went to the traveling exhibit in Philly this past April. They had Brooks Robinson's glove from 1970 on display.

My 9 year old's glove, I think, is bigger and better padded.

My respect for Brooks grew by leaps and bound when I saw that.

Posted by: soccer dad at September 15, 2008 9:20 AM

Haven't been back since Tom Terrific's enshrinement in 92. My father in law was a sportswriter for NY Newsday for 30 years, and introduced us to a bunch of HOFers at a picnic lunch after their annual golf game. Brooks was, by far, the nicest guy we met. Seemed genuinely friendly, warmly greeted us and said he was pleased to meet us. I have been told many times since that he is truly the nicest, most pleasant person around.

Posted by: DS at September 15, 2008 9:42 AM

On the subject of gloves, my dad gave me one that a major leaguer used when he was in the army. I won't say who, it doesn't matter. But it was the old pot holder style. I tried playing with them as a kid, and they are not really that bad. I do recall a Casey Stengel interview in the 50's, when he spoke about what he called the "new trap gloves," which are the big molded ones we are used to seeing today. They weren't as large of course, but neither were the players.

I wonder when the gloves became specialized: a large outfielders glove, more like a softball one, a middle infielder, small with square fingers.

BTW Crank, your observation of the size of the US is one that I think Europe always misunderstood. We had a friend of my son's, who is from England, stay with us. The "scale" of the US was very different to him. It's why we have so many disparate viewpoints. In Europe, those are called countries. Here, we call them states. Somehow, it works. And Irish, I really want to get to KC one of these days; too much of our baseball heritage is lost on kids because too many of our generation has no clue who Hugh Foster and Pop Lloyd were. It didn't begin with Jackie Robinson after all.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at September 15, 2008 9:45 AM

Daryl, my teenage son and I had a good time at the Negro Leagues Museum. Our main purpose for going was a discussion about pitching hosted by Joe Posnanski and featuring Fergie Jenkins and Dave Stewart. It was a great session and my son who is an aspiring pitcher seemd to get a lot out of it. If you do make the trip there is an ajoining Jazz museum that is interesting too. It covers jazz from its early roots to present day.

Posted by: maddirishman at September 15, 2008 6:52 PM
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