My father and I had our doubts when we set off on the 10-hour-plus drive to Cooperstown, N.Y. Several times in the car, we wondered if the National Baseball Hall Of Fame would be worth the trek. Cooperstown is an arduous drive because of the mileage factor. Fortunately, our misgivings were unnecessary.
Venturing to Cooperstown is the ultimate father-son trip. I have been on several baseball trips with my father, traversing the continental United States and beyond to set foot in different baseball cathedrals. We like to take what I call “trifecta” trips: hitting Detroit, Toronto, and Cleveland in one swoop, or D.C., Baltimore, and Pittsburgh. They are trips that I will cherish forever.
However, I cannot think of anything more special than venturing to the Hall of Fame and spending time reliving the history of America’s pastime with someone you have shared so much with. There is something special and indescribable about walking around and experiencing the annals of baseball lore, whether it’s viewing the history of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance (an old saying for a double play), or the progression of Latino ballplayers in baseball, or just discovering something new about a sport you thought you knew so well.
The first floor contains the famous plaque gallery with the enshrined Hall of Famers, along with an art gallery. There was also a small exhibit on 2012 inductees Ron Santo and Barry Larkin, the latter of whom I grew up idolizing. My father grew up a Chicago Cubs fan and Ron Santo was one of his favorite players. And we weren’t alone, one of many father-son pairs scanning the plaque gallery to find our favorite boyhood players and swap our favorite stories.
At the end of the plaque gallery, there are stairs leading up to the library and the enshrined media wing for journalists and broadcasters. As a current journalism student, I was intrigued in the stories of people like Hal McCoy, Grantland Rice, and Wendell Smith, who have left an indelible mark on the game and helped shape baseball into what it is today. Viewing Marty Brennaman’s plaque was a thrill. I grew up listening to Reds games on the radio. As cliché as it sounds, Marty is like a member of our family in the summer.
The second floor of the museum is filled with memorabilia and artifacts about the history of America’s pastime. There is a brief movie in the theater, designed like old Comiskey Park in Chicago, which provides a nice intro for the museum experience. The exhibits starts from the beginning of baseball with Abner Doubleday, who invented the game in 1839, up until present day. As a Cincinnati kid, I personally gravitated toward the information about the Reds. I had no idea that after the 1870 season, the team dissolved and became the Boston Red Stockings. The museum then gradually transitions to more modern information about the St. Louis Cardinals Gashouse Gang in 1934 and Babe Ruth, as well as a present-day exhibit that relives the San Francisco Giants 2012 World Series run.
While visiting, there was a new exhibit called Diamond Mines devoted to the influence of scouting in baseball. It featured various scouts who signed the likes of superstars Carlos Delgado and Alex Rodriguez. There were also old scouting reports on players, which were at times comical if a scout was dead wrong about a certain player.
I also enjoyed the bevy of information about the history of ballparks past and present. Having visited 17 Major League Ballparks, this exhibit jogged my memory of various trips I have taken with my father. The floor contains great history of former ballparks, such as Shibe Park in Philadelphia, Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, and Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. They also have a nice history blurb on Crosley Field, which for the newer generation of Reds fans is essentially and unfortunately lost history. Several notable moments that have shaped baseball happened there, including the implementation of night baseball games and hosting the first official save in Major League Baseball.
It is hard to process the magnitude of information that is located in Cooperstown. We spent more than an entire day at the museum and could have spent additional time, completely validating our decision to make the trek to New York. It was not only one more baseball-related item to cross off my bucket list, but also a venue that highlighted the sport from a different perspective. Baseball will always be sewn into the fabric of America. It’s now stitched a bit tighter for me.