I arrived in Cooperstown about 4 p.m., understanding from all their publicity that the Hall of Fame closed at 5 p.m. I anticipated a quick hour-long tour on my first afternoon, then going back the next day for as long as I desired. But it was early June, and the Hall of Fame had just begun their summer hours and were open until 9 p.m. Since I am a dues-paying member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame, I got in free, and began my visit.
First stop was the Hall of Fame itself, the sanctuary where the plaques honoring those who are elected are displayed. One misunderstanding that was settled for me on my first trip to Cooperstown revolved around this question: “How do they keep from mentioning noteworthy players who have not been enshrined in the Hall?” Pete Rose, for example, has more hits than anyone else in the history of baseball. How do they ignore someone like that? The answer is that Pete Rose’s name and achievements are throughout the museum section of the Hall of Fame building. He simply does not have a plaque or a place of honor in the primary Gallery or Shrine. Same with South Carolina’s Shoeless Joe Jackson: No plaque on the wall.
On my two trips to Cooperstown, I enjoyed looking for the plaques of my favorite players when I was a kid: Harmon Killebrew, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson, and others from that era. I collected their baseball cards in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, great days in America’s national pastime, and in my young innocent life.
The museum’s displays change with some frequency, so there is always something new to see, including, this year, exhibitions about Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson and even Shoeless Joe Jackson.
Being a serious fan of Greg Maddux, I was happy to see how often his name and his artifacts had already found their way into the museum’s displays. I expect him to be elected and enshrined into the Hall of Fame this year, but he is already in the museum in a variety of places.
You can spend a lot of money in the Hall of Fame’s store, and even more money up and down the streets of Cooperstown where purveyors of baseball memorabilia are glad to sell you mint condition baseball cards of Mickey Mantle or real bats used in real Major League games by real Major League players.
Spending lots of money on memorabilia is not my thing, but memorable experiences are, and I had an idea. Having decided not to stay at the Otesaga Resort did not prevent me from enjoying their amenities. Years ago, I learned that you can eat a meal at a World Class Hotel for a fraction of the cost of a room, so I pulled into the parking lot of the Otesaga as if I were Yogi Berra or Greg Maddux and found my way to the Hawkeye Bar and Grill. Hawkeye is the main character in The Deerslayer and The Last of the Mohicans. Reservations were required but I was early enough to be seated on the terrace overlooking The Glimmerglass. I asked the waitress what looked good in the kitchen. As a result, I ordered French Onion Soup and fried Calamari, two appetizers. Enjoyed the ambiance for an hour for about $20 plus tip.
I loved my time in Cooperstown, but I missed my wife, and I had been gone for two weeks, and I was still 14-15 hours from home. So, I hit the road. Stayed at a random motel somewhere in Pennsylvania and drove down the Shenandoah Valley to arrive home the next evening.