It was mid-afternoon on a Saturday, and there was no line. The Hall was quiet, more like a church than a museum. My instinct once inside was to run around and see everything right away, then double back and take the slow tour. I was a kid in a candy store. I had to see the bloody sock. I had to see the pine tar bat. I had to see all of the plaques in the Great Hall. I had to see everything right now.
Fortunately, my son is the patient one, and his world is governed by rules and protocol. The sign said “Start Here”, and no amount of pressure from his impatient father would get him to stray from that recommended course. Besides, if it was written on the sign, it was no longer recommended – it was commanded. We were going to see everything, and we were going to see it in the order that the National Baseball Museum told us we were going to see it. He was going to tour this museum in a leisurely, methodical fashion. First stop, the Birth of the Game, and we were going to read about each artifact.
I should have been happy and proud of my son for this approach, and I was. He was the ideal kid to take to a museum. Other kids in the museum were clearly overwhelmed by the lack of televisions and video games to entertain them. Not Thomas. He was reading the information about the game, asking questions, telling me to slow down. One of the charms of baseball is that there is no clock. This afternoon, I needed to settle down and embrace the “No Clock” mentality like Thomas did. The museum closed at 9 PM, and it was only 2:30 PM. We had nowhere else to be. We had time.
I cannot and will not recount every exhibit we saw. You’re welcome. Google “Exhibits Baseball Hall of Fame” and see them all yourself. I will share some general commentary, however:
· The Hank Aaron exhibit could have been renamed the “Barry Bonds? Never Heard of Him” exhibit. While I remember the monumental achievement of Aaron hitting home run #715, eclipsing the greatest number in sports (714), last time I looked, he had the second most home runs in the history of the game. It seemed like the Hall wanted to rub Aaron in Barry Bond’s face, and celebrate Aaron as the one who holds the record for the most clean home runs in history.
· Thomas had never heard of Stan Musial, and that is a shame. Stan the Man could be the greatest, most overlooked player in baseball history.
· The Washington Nationals team locker, with historical memorabilia stacked inside, included the dirty jersey of Alfonso Soriano, the jersey he was wearing when he became the 4th member of the 40-40 Club (40 homers, 40 steals, single season) in history. Thomas and I had gone to dozens of games, particularly the team’s first 4 years back in DC (3 at RFK and 1 at Nats Park), and we cheered Soriano when he was our only star. Thomas had trouble remembering Soriano as a National. That bummed me out.
· I know Pete Rose isn’t in the Hall officially, but except for the lack of a plaque in the Great Hall, you’d never know it. He is mentioned and pictured frequently, and Rose memorabilia was everywhere.
· Seeing Gary Carter’s plaque in the Hall made me sad. Get well soon, Gary.
· There was a whole room devoted to the game of cricket. Really? Can’t they get their own museum? A miniature display case in a corner would have been sufficient.
· The displays and statistics were surprisingly up to date. There was even a nice display about the near perfect game last season that was lost because of a disputed call at first base. That kind of stuff kept the museum relevant to newer and younger fans.
There was one item that made me laugh out loud. As sports fans are aware, the past 20 years in baseball have been dubbed the “Steroids Era” in baseball, filled with giant personalities with equally giant muscles and accomplishments – Sosa, McGuire, Bonds, Canseco, Clemens. The debate rages on sports talk radio as to what should be done about recognizing this era and either celebrating or ignoring its’ records and stars. This sign at the end of the tour is all that the Hall of Fame has come up with so far:
It was embarrassing that I had to explain to Thomas why I thought this sign funny. Twenty years of records and accomplishments all wrapped up neatly in one 2’ by 2’ sign.
Our tickets to the Hall were good all day, so after 3 hours of baseball history, we headed out to check in at our campsite for the night. We could come back later if we wanted. We had decided to have the complete man-cation experience and camp the last night in Cooperstown at a little site 5 minutes from downtown. It was also the cheap thing to do.
The campground offered much more than two low-maintenance, weary travelers required. There was a pool that we would never use, a pony ride that we would never take, a game room that we would never enjoy, and a baseball field that we would not play on. It did have a nice site at the edge of the woods near the pond for us to pitch the tent, and we did – in the only rain storm since the Mets game Thursday. It rained from the minute we began to unroll the tent until we drove the final stake into the ground. Then the rain stopped. We hoped that this was not a sign that our luck had run out.
We drove back to town for dinner and shopping. It was the last night of freedom for the baseball warriors, and Daddy needed some souvenirs.