We visited daughter Stephanie in Massachussetts but could only line up a couple of five night stays in a nearby campground. (Given the temperatures and seemingly inevitable fires out west, this makes perfect sense.) She had purchased airline tickets and had Airbnb rented to visit her brother George Bret in Texas not long after our first five nights. So we set out for Niagara Falls and Cooperstown, saving the second five with Steph for three weeks later. Niagara will be the next post, so now I will return to The Hall.
Cooperstown is a pleasant little city whose main industry is The Hall. It has several good eateries, and our burgers were fine at Mel’s 32. Otherwise all we did was The Hall, and this time it did not disappoint. 25 years ago I was almost angry that they had lots of bats, gloves, shoes and still photos, but zero documentary films with sound. It now offers interviews with players living and others recently passed. Their love of the game really shines through. Dennis Eckersley, who excelled as a starting pitcher later was better as a closer, talked about Kirk Gibson’s lone at bat in the 1988 Series. Gibson dragged himself off the bench to pinch-hit with one on and two out in the bottom of the 9th in Game 1 between Eck’s Oakland A’s and the LA Dodgers. “The guy could barely walk. I’m thinking, yeah, he’s their best hitter but with a bad hamstring on one leg and a swollen knee on the other, he can’t hit me’! The count gets to 3-2, and there’s no way I’m gonna walk him; I’m striking him out. I threw my pitch, but he hit it square. He had no leg drive, just did it with wrists and arms. I just couldn’t believe it.”
Carlton Fisk of the Red Sox told his home run story about the game winner in Game 6 of the ’75 Series. He’s told it so many times he has found an explanation for how that ball stayed fair “force field waves overcame the wind!” Here’s a short YouTube of it … wait all 34 seconds to see him create that force field.
There is great stuff on the Negro Leagues, such as the legend of Cool Papa Bell who was so fast he could get in bed before the light went out, and tales of the Greatest Baseball Player Ever, Josh Gibson. Plus the ballad of Satchel Paige and ‘Buck’ O’Neil which goes like this. “While playing with Satchel Paige on the KC Monarchs, O’Neil earned a second nickname that only Paige addressed him by: Nancy. According to O’Neil, the Monarchs were staying at a hotel when Satchel snuck out of the room he was sharing with his wife in order to meet up with a girlfriend named Nancy. Paige was whispering for Nancy outside her room when both Paige’s wife and Buck came out of their rooms and saw Paige. Without missing a beat, the fast-thinking Paige turned to Buck and said, ‘There you are, Nancy! I was looking for you!’ Until Paige died, Buck was always ‘Nancy’.”
The bronze plaques are nice and it was great to see Atlanta Braves greats John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, Chipper Jones, and Bobby Cox on those walls. I saw Gibson’s homer at home in Shreveport, and Fisk’s when we lived in New Orleans. Bret and I watched those Braves and hundreds of others in so many games televised on TBS as he grew up, always announced by Skip Caray. Harry Caray, Skip’s dad is there in the section called Scribes and Mic Men, along with Damon Runyon, Vin Scully, Red Smith and at least 50 others. Skip is not. Sometimes there is no justice, although a Justice did star for those Braves. He’s not in the Hall either.
Skip is gone now. He’s in my Baseball Hall of Fame.