Thursday, August 6, 2009


The drive from the Thruway down to Cooperstown on 28 has to be one of the most beautiful drives I've ever made. And the whole winding road just drips with Americana all the way to Cooperstown's Main Street. On the way, I got a couple texts and voicemails from my sister in Louisville -- she'd used her Slugger connections to not only comp us tickets but set up a behind the scenes tour for us.

The Franchise

On the tour, we saw a number of items close up, a mix of things that had been retrieved for VIPs to see the weekend before, which was induction weekend. A Joe DiMaggio glove, a Babe Ruth jersey and bat, a Jackie Robinson jersey, a Satchel Paige hat, a Lou Gehrig hat, and more. Our hosts were as kind and gracious [and patient with our five year-old] as could be.

We were able to handle some baseball bats as long as we were wearing the white cotton gloves, so we asked for a Mike Piazza bat, my wife's favorite Met. We saw a silver plated Babe Ruth bat, presented to him as a gift. I asked about a particular knob and was told it was one of Sammy Sosa's, and they assured me it wasn't corked; they had checked! A bat had a maple leaf stamped on its handle so I asked about that, and it was one of Alfonso Soriano's [a bigass bat, too], and the stamp simply meant it was made of maple.

Then I was handed a Honus Wagner bat. Wow. It was a big, thick handled, warm brown bat from Hillerich and Bradsby, with some kind of color decal remaining on its barrel. I tried to remember some of the things I knew about Wagner: his big hands which were said to scoop up dirt and rocks along with the ball as he fielded his position at shortstop. I choked up a couple inches and could imagine how it was used to slap and slash the ball around to all fields, the handle end so thick and weighty that his big hands and wrists must have been a kind of fulcrum. I could feel how the tool would fit the swing of an old time ballplayer, how the heavy thick handle would help balance the motion of the barrel making it a natural stick to slap and spray the ball around, a marked contrast to the modern bat of say, Sosa, with its thinner handle and the whiplike all or nothing torque produced by a modern power hitter.

I didn't want to be greedy, so I didn't push for more stuff like a kid in a candy store, but later you do wish, 'oh why didn't I think of asking for so and so's bat,' or what have you. It was a little overwhelming and an enormous, undreamed-of treat. My son said his favorite part was turning one of the enormous cranks which move the bookshelves which hold every book ever written on the game. Everywhere you turned there was some fascinating bit of baseball history or lore or just plain quirkiness.

My childhood heroes, the Big Red Machine

So yeah, wow. After thanking our gracious hosts, we moved on to explore the museum and its galleries, and I have to say that the place is worth the trip even without the VIP treatment. The Hank Aaron section is great, as is the section on fans and ballparks, and the sections on the Negro Leagues and Latin America. The staff is great. My son liked the clip of Abbott and Costello, too. And there's a nice feeling as you walk around with all the other baseball fans, most folks decked out in their team's colors. I think we'll go back, and take some more time to explore some of the other attractions in the area.

Also highly recommended: a meal at the Doubleday Cafe, again on a tip from my sis. Thanks again, Sis, and many, many, many thanks to our hosts Jim and Sue. You can tell they love spreading a little baseball joy. And they know that we Met fans need all the joy we can get this year.

Jerry Koosman's jersey from '69

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