Cooperstown: Saturday

Well, if this is what grew during yesterday’s serial monsooning, it was worth it. 

A spotless day greets the gathered and there is nostalgia at every corner. Since the facility is now 70 years old, for many of us here there is a huge connection not just to baseball’s collective past, and our own histories at games or in front of televisions, but directly to our own childhoods. Countless among those to who I’ve spoken are those who say they first came here as kids. Thus are the memories and emotions not just about Babe Ruth and Jim Rice, or Satchel Paige and Rickey Henderson, but about Mom and Dad, too.
Though I was here three times before I turned fifteen years old, I haven’t been back since 1973. Our first trip was so long ago – 1966 – that I was too young to have interest in the game, let alone the place. All Cooperstown meant for me was getting to see the Cardiff Giant, the great Barnum Hoax of the 19th Century (a long wooden object, not very convincingly painted to look like a mummified human, that they fell for in droves in the 19th Century but literally could not fool a seven-year old 70 years later). By the time we came back in 1968 I was the fully-grown nerd you see today. I remember coming close to hyperventilation upon my arrival, and of my plan to recreate the Hall in my basement by utilizing the postcards they sold depicting every plaque.
The 1973 visit was most memorable because my family basically enjoyed upstate New York while leaving me to walk from our hotel to the Hall each morning after breakfast and go and ensconce myself in the Library. I had been annoyed that there was no catalogue of coaches – everybody else including the umpires had an all-time list – so I decided to make one. The librarians took me seriously, and demanded as payment a copy of my final results. A friend published it in “book” form (I always use the quotations; it might have sold 50 copies) and I believe there’s still a copy in the Library here. The simple joy of research in an endlessly fascinating field, surrounded by like-minded and patient adults, cannot be overstated.
And each day I got to walk to and from that place via these almost rural streets. It seemed to me then a fitting adult life and, as I file this – I’m about to take that walk again.



    What a great story about the library. I myself am a librarian, and it’s always gratifying to hear about libraries having a lasting, positive impact on someone’s life.

    Enjoying following you here, looking forward to seeing you again on Countdown.


    well im kind of surprised because you look like the average joe. Not really. Nice to see you without a suit


    On occasion I read this blog because I’m a Countdown viewer. It’s not an overstatement when I say I know nothing about baseball and therefore I don’t dare comment on most of your posts.

    Today I am compelled. The library story sounds to much like me. I am a genealogy geek. My 2nd & 3rd homes are the archives & libraries. One day when I get the courage I’ll write my version of Roots.

    Excellent post. Enjoy your well-deserved vacation.
    Peace & blessings, K.Longus

  4. 1948braves

    Jackie Robinson’s letter to Horace Stoneham, informing him of his decision to retire rather than accept a trade to the Giants is here; FDR’s letter explaining why in his personal opinion baseball should keep going despite the Pearl Harbor attack; the story behind “Take Me Out To The Ballgame”; all the different caps, uniforms and sweaters, some with cigarette holes and what looks to be tobacco juice stains; the tiny worn out gloves; every team World Series ring. I have only seen photos of John McGraw and Christy Mathewson in black and white so the orange color on their uniform was my biggest surprise. Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth cleats and jerseys and gloves. Letters they had written. The stunning statutes of Ted Williams and Babe Ruth. Baseball cards from the earliest days of baseball. The no hit balls. The record breaking strike out balls. The record breaking scoreless innings ball. The perfect game balls. The record breaking bats. Warren Spahn. Bob Feller. Sandy Koufax. Honus Wagner. Cy Young. Walter Johnson. Lou Gehrig. Tris Speaker. Willie Mays. Mickey Mantle.

    What an unbelievable journey I took yesterday to Cooperstown. Fans from all over the country were visiting. Most with their fathers and grandfathers. I walked out with one keepsake – a beautiful turn of the century type baseball jersey. That I will teasure forever.

    Ted Lyons, on Stan Musial:
    Musial’s batting stance looks like a small boy looking around a corner to see if the cops are coming.

    Harvey Haddix, to his catcher with Willie Mays at bat:
    Look at him. He knows he’s going to hit me, and I know he’s going to hit me, so I’m going to walk him.

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