A week ago Thursday, I was driving down the mountain with my father to catch a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees vs. Lehigh Valley IronPigs game at PNC Field (the former Lackawanna County Stadium, a name I will always prefer). We were nearing the end of our weeklong vacation, and I was a bit surprised when Dad asked me a question.
"Did you want to go to Cooperstown tomorrow?"
I had made an offhand comment to my mother earlier in the week that I hadn't been to the Baseball Hall of Fame since our family trip in the summer of 1995. I suppose it had come to mind because our cottage in Northeastern Pennsylvania is about two and a half hours south of Cooperstown, which is generally as close as I get to the apocryphal birthplace of baseball. I wasn't exactly asking to go, but it might have been a subconscious request. So I told Dad that I'd like to go, and the next morning we set off on a thoroughly monotonous drive up I-81 to I-88, the latter of which we stayed on for 60 mind-numbing miles before exiting onto Route 28. The one landmark that stuck in my mind was the signboard outside of a small church near our destination: "GOD IS THE POTTER, NOT HARRY". It referenced a passage from the book of Isaiah, which I'd assume is the one about mankind being roughly akin to a lump of clay. I wonder if there are books or websites that the ministers and their staffs pull these semi-clever marquees from.
One of the major impressions that Dad and I both drew from our second visit to baseball mecca was just how little the exhibits had changed since our initial trip thirteen years ago. Sure, there was some new stuff, like an excellent art gallery that could probably be expanded, and a great statue of Buck O'Neill near the entrance. But for the most part, the three-story building on Main Street is as timeless as the National Pastime itself. I did make it a point to photograph nearly every piece of Orioles memorabilia that I came across, and as such I got a few snapshots related to the wily, mean-looking gunfighter pictured above, reliable knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm. His bronze plaque in the Hall of Fame members' gallery was a no-brainer, even though he's pictured with a New York Giants cap.
As you can see above, it makes particular mention of his no-hitter against the Mickey Mantle-led Yankees on September 20, 1958. I of course took a special joy in being reminded of one of the greatest feats in the decades of battle between my favorite team and the Evil Empire from New York. This no-hitter was referenced in a few other places, including a display of White Sox items from the mid-20th century that had a Wilhelm jersey from his Pale Hose days. There was also the brightly-colored display commemorating all complete-game no-hitters since 1936 (I assume that's because the Hall was founded that year and started collecting memorabilia) with a game ball from each separate performance. In the picture below, Hoyt is wedged between former Dodgers headhunter Sal "The Barber" Maglie and former Braves star Lew Burdette.
Surprisingly, I declined to pick up any baseball cards while I was in Cooperstown. This was mostly because it was after 4:00 when we finished sightseeing and there was homemade lasagna waiting for us at the cottage. There wasn't really much time for shopping. I did take time to gawk at all of the baseball cards displayed at the Hall, of course, especially the old tobacco cards (which includes a copy of the famous Honus Wagner, labeled as "the Holy Grail" of card collecting). Heck, I even posed for my very own Cracker Jack card! I'm off to cheer on the Birds against those Yankee invaders, and I need to get a head start if I'm going to properly welcome Mike Mussina back to Baltimore. So I'll leave you with the next hot chase card in collecting circles.