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.