Fantasy Land in NY

Cooperstown, NY—Just finished another delightful Hall of Fame weekend in this quaint, up-state New York village. If you are a baseball fan and haven’t been to the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, add it to your bucket list. Pronto.

Forty Hall of Famers returned for the annual summer festivities. Three 2013 inductees are deceased as is the Ford C. Frick Award winner for broadcasting excellence, Tom Cheek. Paul Hagen, long-time baseball writer with the Philadelphia Daily News and now with MLB.com, was honored with the J. G. Taylor Spink Award presented annually to a writer for excellence and dedication to his craft. Paul was the lone live recipient.

During World War II, induction ceremonies weren’t held. The Hall of Fame took the opportunity to have current members read the plaques of 12 who never experienced the honor, a classy tribute. Billy Williams read the plaque of Phillies great Ed Delahanty. Ironically, Williams had 1,475 career RBI; Delahanty, 1,466.

Friday night while visiting with some baseball writers, including Hagen, in the hotel bar, Johnny Bench spotted me, “Larry, what are you doing here?” Explained I was there to celebrate Hagen’s award presentation. Bench went over to Paul and congratulated him, “One piece of advice, keep a diary. It’ll help you appreciate it more.”

Pretty classy of Bench, who looked in terrific shape. “You look like you could still play,” I remarked. He laughed, “No, I pulled a muscle last week vacuuming.”

The Otesaga Hotel was the headquarters for the Hall of Famers as usual. Credentials are needed to access the hotel. All hotel guests must wear the credentials. Fortunate to be housed there again. Best breakfast in the universe and the atmosphere is breath taking. Ralph Kiner is at the next table, Brooks Robinson, Hank Aaron, Bob Gibson, Gaylord Perry, Ozzie Smith….some of the best players of all time, all munching on omelets or small, round waffles.

A large veranda, complete with two long rows of white rocking chairs, faces Lake Otsego. There isn’t a more peaceful location.

Whitey Ford and I had something in common. We both dozed off Saturday afternoon while rocking. No, I didn’t say we were off our rockers.

Jim Bunning and Pat Gillick were there. Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton chose to pass.
Tommy Lasorda is a yearly fixture and willing to hold court with anyone. Joe Morgan was gimping around on a sore right knee. “Need it replaced but not in the summer,” he explained. How’s Bill Giles doing?, he inquired.

Village residents take the opportunity to profit from the annual summer weekend. Some folks rent their houses to Hall of Famers in need of housing for their families and friends. Parking is at a premium. Some residents sell parking spaces on their lawns.

Saw a hand-made sign on Pioneer Street: “$30 parking. All day. Free to come and go as you please.” The property? A funeral home. Guess there are no funerals on Hall of Fame weekend.

Former players sign autographs for a price. Some sit at a table on the sidewalk, others sign behind closed doors. Word was that Pete Rose was in one of the businesses selling his autograph.

With three deceased inductees, the village wasn’t as crowded as usual. Main Street was still filled with fans of all ages, most wearing merchandise of their favorite team or player. Stores of baseball memorabilia line the street. Bats, balls, jerseys, caps, photographs, trinkets, Christmas ornaments, you name it.

Beautiful large hanging plants (bright red vine geraniums) are spaced on either side of Main Street. They are watered and trimmed daily.

The entire experience reminds me of Disney World. Instead of Mickey Mouse’s large ears, there’s Rollie Fingers famous handlebar moustache. The atmosphere is one of happiness. Streets are clean; people are friendly and courteous. You feel good walking around. You smile and acknowledge others who share your baseball passion. The outside world is….well, out there somewhere.

As I left the village on Sunday night, reality set in. The Phillies have just finished a 1-8 road trip.

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