A friend of mine gave me some sound advice. He said, “Don’t ever go to the Baseball Hall of Fame with anyone who doesn’t want to go." I understand that now. I’ve mentioned going to Cooperstown, N.Y. to my wife and boys for a few years now. Their interest ranged from slight to none. So, I decided to just go by myself. I’d not done it before now because I thought it was kind of selfish to spend the vacation time and money on a trip that only I wanted to go on. I’m over that now.
Turning 60 this year helped a lot. When you’re in your 30s or 40s you sort of feel like you can put some things off, like colonoscopies and retirement planning. You can put off fulfilling a dream of visiting the sacred ground of Cooperstown, too. It dawned on me this summer that you can only put some things off for so long. I just didn’t want to end up rocking on the front porch of some retirement community, wishing I’d done some of the things I’ve always wanted to do.
Cooperstown isn’t on the way to anywhere. You have to want to go there -- and I did. October seemed like a perfect time to visit central New York, and it was. The autumn leaves were at their peak, the weather was a little chilly and Cooperstown was quiet and not crowded. In the summer months you have to park on the edge of the village and take shuttle busses to the Hall of Fame. In mid-October you can, if you’re lucky, park right in front of the Hall of Fame.
I spent six and a half hours in the Hall of Fame. I took my time, took a break for lunch and hardly talked to anyone. There were a lot of guys like me there, guys who looked like washed up pitchers and catchers and second basemen like me. It was sort of what I expected, but better. I saw the catcher’s mitt that Yogi Berra used when he caught Don Larsen’s perfect game in the World Series. I saw the bat Babe Ruth used when he supposedly called his home run in the World Series with the Cubs at Wrigley Field. I saw Hank Aaron's most famous home run balls including No. 714 that tied Ruth. I saw the shoes that Ricky Henderson wore when he set the all-time stolen base record.
It’s just stuff, but its important stuff to a kid raised in the 60s who believed baseball stars were heroes. We didn’t know or care about what they did off the field then. We cared that they played the game better than anyone else. We cared that they played for our favorite team which meant they were the good guys. They gave us some of the best boyhood memories a boy could ever have. I can’t meet Mantle or Ruth or Banks or Williams or Musial, but I can visit the place that honors them and the game and still feel, in some odd way, a part of it. They might not have really been the good old days but they were good and we were young and innocent and impressionable and I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. I don’t know if young boys need or want heroes as much as we did. When you don’t have much, having heroes is important.
It’s time to head home and a big jet is carrying me there as I write this at 36,000 feet. It’s a good tired I feel tonight. It was a great couple of days and it’s good to know that I marked a dream off my list. I won’t get to all of them, but I got to this one and I’m glad I did.
My favorite player Derek Jeter is an automatic inductee after his career. Wouldn’t it be cool to go back for that? I just might do that.
See you at 5, 6 and 10 p.m.