Visit to Hall of Fame, idyllic town a baseball must

07/25/2014 6:23 PM

11/12/2014 7:11 PM

Volumes have been written about what happens one magical baseball weekend each year in this village of 1,833, and every word has been accurate, but at the same time not nearly accurate enough.

This, not Fenway Park or Wrigley Field or Yankee Stadium, is baseball’s utopia. Whatever has happened and whatever is happening is housed here at the National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum.

The museum itself presents baseball’s history as expected, from the dawn of the game through the achievements of 2014. But what is housed inside, only a speck of all the artifacts that have been collected over the years, goes beyond expectations.

A trip through the three-floor shrine evokes memories of playing youth ball, of collecting baseball cards, of watching all the big games without knowing how big they truly were.

Dads and sons come here together. Granddads, dads, grandsons and great-grandsons come here together. Dads, moms and daughters come here together.

A group of friends wearing “Who,” “What,” and “I Don’t Know” jerseys comes here together.

Anyone who has ever cherished the game, even if it was 25 years ago or 45 years ago, should come here.

Every team is represented, so chances are fans can find some tribute to their favorite player growing up.

Even baseball’s outcasts, Pete Rose and Barry Bonds, are a part of the displays.

The most important era of the game, when integration began, is wonderfully displayed.

It’s not just about the Negro Leagues and Jackie Robinson, though he is the central figure of integration and one of the most influential figures in sport. The story of the impact of players from Latin American is also told here.

There’s a room dedicated to women’s history in the game.

There’s a locker room with displays of each team and its most current accomplishments.

Among the artifacts in the Texas Rangers’ locker is the jersey Adrian Beltre wore when he hit three homers in Game 4 of the 2011 American League Division Series, and the jersey Michael Young wore Aug. 7, 2011, while collecting his 2,000th career hit.

But nothing is a special as the Plaque Gallery of Hall of Fame inductees.

When the tour ends — there’s no time limit — people first lament what they might have missed and immediately begin to think when they can come back.

They had already gushed in real time and had their breath taken away by what they had seen.

Outside, though, is also a treat. The town is special. One baseball card dealer from Syracuse, 90 miles to the northwest, compared Cooperstown to a 19th century town.

Charming. Pleasant people. No crime. Idyllic setting in the foothills of the Adirondacks and Catskills.

A walk down Main Street, where the one stoplight in town can be found, reveals restaurants, gift shops, hotels, souvenirs stands and multiple ice cream parlors, including The Inside Scoop.

In front of many of those businesses during induction weekend are players, Hall of Famers and not Hall of Famers, sitting at a table and signing autographs for a handsome price.

Not only is it a lucrative weekend for Cooperstown, but players also leave town with full pockets.

Rose is tucked away in a card shop signing anything, and two salesmen are out front gladly plucking $60 a pop.

A sign says that Bobby Valentine will sign for $20 and pose for a photo for $10.

Seriously.

Tim McCarver walks through the crowd with his grandson. Jim Leyland and his wife eat a late lunch at an Italian restaurant.

Eric Nadel, who will be honored with the Ford C. Frick Award on Saturday for his distinguished radio work with the Rangers, exits the museum in order to do a TV segment.

But the museum is the headliner. It offers a reminder of what baseball means to so many and still has that emotional pull.

Baseball might not be cool enough to the kids these days, with no major leaguers tweeting about hanging out with Justin Beiber, but it doesn’t need it.

Baseball has this Hall of Fame, in this town, with this many people flocking here one weekend every summer, and that’s pretty cool.

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