It’s an annual tradition for many, making the trip to upstate New York in the middle of summer to watch their heroes be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. It’s a rite of passage for those players into immortality, and for the fans, it’s a constant thrill, filled with stories that will remain with them for a lifetime.
My personal journey to Cooperstown was in 1999 to witness one of the greatest classes ever in Robin Yount (the object of my affection and 16-hour drive), George Brett, Nolan Ryan and Orlando Cepeda. I was still in college at the time, with a hand-me-down car that still had a digital thermometer that worked. So it was with tempered joy that we celebrated a temperature reading of 100 degrees while stuck in traffic around Chicago.
But this wasn’t about the journey, just the destination for me. We got there late afternoon on Friday, and I had to get a glimpse of everything before the busier weekend. I didn’t understand the scope of the situation, with Cooperstown being a small town and soon to be crammed with tens of thousands of people. So I was a little surprised having to park a distance away and get bussed in.
It soon became clear, however, as we rolled into town. I just walked around, checking out the buildings, getting a feel for everything for the next day and amused that the neighborhood around the Hall of Fame and in between the “downtown” and the grounds where the ceremony would take place got to enjoy this quaint area with so much history residing among its geographical location.
It wasn’t until that Saturday when I really fell in love with the place.
We awoke early on Saturday morning to get out to Cooperstown early, as was the instructions from those who had been there before. They were right, because the people poured in after us.
This place was nirvana for me. On every corner was memorabilia, current and former players either signing autographs or milling about in the crowd. Plus, there were a lot of Brewers fans in the mix, including another friend of mine who I just happened to run into without even knowing he would be there.
The crowd was friendly, with everyone’s eye toward the next day’s ceremony. And then I went into the Hall itself.
Man, that was awesome. It’s amazing all of the artifacts that are included in that stately building, and since I’ve been there, much more has been added, including a lot of interactive elements.
I do have to visit again, preferably not on induction weekend, just so I can really take my time with all of the exhibits and not have to squeeze around people for the duration of the visit.
The ceremony itself was pure joy. The setup is really nice, and with the big screens, you can see what’s going on while listening to the speeches. It was quite warm, and a six-hour drive to our scheduled hotel was looming after the ceremony, but it was a day I’ll never forget.
I know many SCD readers make the trek every year to Cooperstown, and I couldn’t be more jealous. It just seemed like a nice, relaxed atmosphere. I would imagine that hasn’t changed too much since my visit, but I’m sure some of you readers can set me straight if it has.
I hope you enjoy the first-hand coverage from David Moriah of this year’s induction weekend, along with Robert Grayson’s profiles of Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven.