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Friday, July 29, 2005

Cooperstown: 1 is good. 2 is better?

For many years in Cooperstown, there was a Hall of Fame weekend. It featured a parade, an exhibition game between two major league clubs, a regular season game between the Oneonta minor league team and an opponent, and of course, the induction ceremony, along with plenty of opportunities for the retired players to make a some money signing autographs on pictures, baseballs, bats, caps, any semi-flat surface.

Then a few years ago, someone had this bright idea: why doesn't Cooperstown have TWO Hall of Fame weekends? One would be in late May or June, the other in the end of July or early August. The first event would feature the exhibition game. The second event would feature the minor league game. EACH event would feature a parade, and there would be TWO chances for the old-timers to make a few bucks. The merchants would be able to rake in some extra dough as well.

This year, the exhibition game was early, May 24, and one of the participants was the WORLD CHAMPION Boston Red Sox. My father-in-law, Richard, stood in line for 8 hours in February, but failed to get any tickets. So I didn't go to the game for the first time in five years. He seemed destined to miss his first game in about fifteen.

On May 24, which was his birthday, Richard and his wife Joyce went to Cooperstown anyway; it's only about 20 miles from Oneonta, where they live. He asked off-handedly whether there might be seats available, and there were! Some of the teams who had gotten an allotment of tickets had returned them. So that was a very nice birthday gift to him.

Richard has a book where he keeps a record of each game; he's a season ticket holder of the Oneonta Tigers. For a regular season game, scorekeeping is not too hard, though we saw a 7-2-5-1 pickle earlier this year. (That means the left fielder threw home to the catcher who threw to third base who threw to the pitcher covering home and got the out.) But in the exhibition game, it's almost impossible. For one thing, both teams bring up a bunch of minor league players, especially pitchers, just for the day. Also, the stars usually play only an inning or two. Also, one can leave the game, then come back in the game, which is not generally allowed in professional baseball.

This weeekend, Richard and I are going to the second 2005 Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown. Then we'll walk through town picking out the old pros. "Hey, there's Yogi." "That's Mudcat Grant." "I think that's Ferguson Jenkins." Then we'll see the Oneonta Tigers play the Tri-City Valley Cats (of Troy, NY, near Albany) in, as it's always called, "historic Doubleday Field." It's a real thrill for the young players.

There is usually a Q & A with some of the inductees and/or other Hall of Famers. But this year, that's been pushed back to Monday, featuring the new inductees, Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg.

Cooperstown is a pretty, idyllic place. But if you want to come just to to see the Baseball Hall of Fame, I MOST DEFINITELY recommend that you come some time other than the HoF weekends, some time when it isn't a madhouse.

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