What an amazing place in an even more amazing setting. The HOF is by far the main attraction in the area, along with DoubleDay Field (the birthplace of baseball, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doubleday_Field), but the bucolic city had such an allure, that I found myself just wandering the main street, visiting the many shops and chatting with the locals. It had a “San Juan Bautista” feel (for you Northern Californians), complete with a corner bakery (that had yummy donuts…breakfast of champions). The Hall itself was a shrine to baseball royalty and so well presented. The dioramas and exhibits were first class, and so rich in legend and the game’s past and future. The best part was the “Wall of Fame,” with all of the inductees’ plaques along the wall…wow, if those plaques could talk, the things they would say!
Leave no less than two days to really do the area justice. One complete day for the HOF (a day and a half, if you are the sort of person who likes to read every word of every exhibit), and then another day for to take in a game at Doubleday Field, and to enjoy the city of Cooperstown, especially some fish and chips at Alex & Ika (http://www.tatintarte.com/#/alexandikarestaurant/)…you’ll be glad you did!
Here is a handful of pictures from my trip…hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed taking them (http://flic.kr/s/aHsjHjsaCk).
I recently had the pleasure of catching an episode of “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” (http://tinyurl.com/275hhzr) on HBO that really made me smile!
The quick recap: Boston teen takes a huge interest in the Nego Leagues, and begins to hunt down players of the era.
But, it’s not just in effort to collect autographs or souvenirs or for any other selfish reasons. His “research” has validated their years of play, and, for some, they are not able to collect long-lost pension checks that they never were eligible for because they weren’t able to prove their years of play.
His name is Cam Perron, and his passion is amazing. If you have a chance, read this article to fully appreciate his dedication and the time and commitment that he has brought to these players….http://tinyurl.com/lnek7ut!
Just a feel-good story…and we just don’t see enough of those as of late!
While in Memphis recently for business, I had the pleasure to stay at The Peabody Hotel (http://www.peabodymemphis.com/), which basically puts you in the heart of downtown Memphis. As I was exploring the area, I happened upon AutoZone Park, home of The Memphis Redbirds (http://www.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t235). Sadly, during my visit, the team was away, so no baseball for me. But, back in 2005, when I went searching for Graceland, I did have a chance to see a game and I really was impressed. Its was a “big league” park, in a minor league bracket.
I’ve only been to two minor league games, one in Austin, and this one in Memphis, so I didn’t have a lot to compare it to, but I loved what I saw. There was a pure love of the game that was visible in the fans and the players, all encompassed in a park that was perfectly situated in downtown. It had a welcoming vibe, as if it was saying, “Come one, come all.” It added to my love of the game, and left a very deep impression on me and my baseball memories.
Fast forward to Tokyo, December 2010. [I know what you're thinking, "What the hell does Memphis have to do with Japan?" (Trust me, you'll be surprised).]
I was days from moving back to the US. I would soon be leaving my room on the 49th Floor of The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo, and since I was a guest in residence, but no longer an employee, I was finally afforded access to the guest elevators. A perk for sure! A man entered the elevator and his ball cap caught my attention. It had a scripty “M” on it.
I stood in confusion for a minute…”Which team had an M on it?” So, I finally just asked.
He looked over and said, “It’s a minor league team you’ve probably never heard of.” I said, “Try me, I’m a big baseball fan.”
“The Memphis Redbirds,” he said!
I proceeded to spew my fondness for minor league ball, the visit I made before I left for Japan, how I enjoyed the devotion of the fans, the effort by the players who were all trying to “make it to the show,” and how I truly enjoyed Autozone Park.
Half way through my “soliloquy,” he just began to smile and nod in agreement.
“What did I say that made you smile,” I said.
“I used to own that team, and I built that park,” he said.
He introduced himself at Dean (Dean Jernigan, to be complete, http://tinyurl.com/n73e8wp), shook my hand and said, “Thank you for that.”
It was one of the best elevator conversations I have ever had, and in that instant, as I was staring at Autozone Park in late May, did I take a walk done memory lane to recall that moment.
Baseball really is the tie that binds…from the Graceland to the Land of the Rising Sun!
Given that there are only 30 baseball parks in the league, you may be wondering why I’m on #33. Here’s the scoop…in the time since I visited my first park and present day, I’ve had “do overs.”
In other words, I’ve seen the San Francisco Giants play at “The Stick,” my first park (http://tinyurl.com/codc5m7) and Pac Bell/SBC/AT&T Park (http://tinyurl.com/codc5m7), my 5th park. I have also seen the Padres play at Qualcomm Stadium (http://tinyurl.com/bqz3sav) my 4th stadium, and also at the glorious Petco Park (http://tinyurl.com/6nxktgg), my 25th park. Finally, during my first trip to New York back in 1995, I stumbled upon “old” Yankee Stadium (http://tinyurl.com/cw438pb) my 3rd park, and now – on what was Opening Day of the 2013 season – I’ve seen its current day successor…(New) Yankee Stadium, and I wasn’t disappointed.
It “only” took me 18 years (say that again…18 years) to return, and I had VERY high expectations of what this incarnation of Yankee Stadium – The House that George Built – would be!
I was warned that it wouldn’t compare to the old version – and the truth is, it didn’t? How could it? There is NO comparison…it’s apples and oranges. What made the first stadium iconic was its history, not the structure. So, when you endeavor to build a stadium to honor the legacy of the Yankees – 27-Time World Champions (say that again, 27-time World Champions!) – everything is grand, even ostentatious, and rightfully so. It is a cathedral to baseball…to this franchise, and to the game – where everything was over-the-top. But, again, it’s all relative, and I’m more than okay with that. I actually wouldn’t have expected anything less.
On that day, April Fool’s Day, the skies cleared up for at least seven innings before the rain came and the Boston Red Sox ran away with the game. Either way, it was a perfect day at the park, and some 30 ballparks later, it was the best way to kick off the season…no foolin’!
(See pictures from the visit here:http://tinyurl.com/c8uz36z), and a few of my favorite below!
Always great to open the mailbox on Thursdays to see my SI waiting for me…but especially great to see such a rising star like Bryce Harper on the cover standing in the freezing cold (as you find out in this article: http://tinyurl.com/bqhuz2j)!
There is absolutely pure joy in watching him play…but when he runs – with his chest out, and his head back – it’s a thrill!
If you haven’t yet read the article, here is a taste (http://tinyurl.com/cdeoc88), but do yourself a favor and read the whole article as it focuses on some of the key players in the league coming up on their “sophmore” year!
I found this quote some time during the summer and put it in my “blog” file and there it sat until today…not that it has any less of an impact today…in fact, today, it really speaks to me! Maybe it’s our mantra for the New Year? I know I will hope for a moment like this…and a moment soon!
“Baseball players say they don’t have to look to see if they hit a home run, they can feel it. So I wish for you a moment —a moment soon— when you really put the bat on the ball, when you really get a hold of one and drive it into the upper deck, when you feel it.”
Aaron Sorkin, Playwright, screenwriter, producer, Syracuse University, May 13