Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The trip to Cooperstown

Route 67 to the Thruway, get on at Exit 27, off at Exit 29, go through Canajoharie, head for Fort Plain.

And end up right behind the Amish guy in the horse and wagon.

"Hah!" said BiPolar/MS. "Told you.  From the moment you woke up, we said this was a bad idea.  You're in pain, your sense of direction is not what it was, what if something happens? This guy will be stupid to see.  You'll feel terrible, and be all by yourself. And now you're stuck behind an Amish guy and his horse, who is pooping right now, by the way."

The horse, not the Amish guy.  The gentleman remained at the red-light with me, and a lot of others, and we all took a very slow left, heading up to Route 80.

Marty Appel was previously the Public Relations Director for the New York Yankees.  He's just written a new history of the Yankees called Pinstripe Empire (Bloomsbury, 2012) and was making an appearance at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  Normally my wife Jackie goes with me, but she had to work, and usually passes on the authors' series, mostly going to see the ballplayers.  But I enjoy getting a chance to speak with baseball writers, and hear the stories.  So I planned to go.  And my Bipolar/MS archenemies immediately gave me a 100 reasons not to go because, well, that's their job. And I really pissed them off by going anyway.  I got on my Yankee gear (yes, this Mets and Red Sox fan has Yankee gear - I love baseball first) got in my car, and headed out.

And then right behind the Amish guy.  Great, now I'll be stuck behind this- oh, he's turning there, and he's waved or acknowledged every car or person on the street. That's nice.  And there are decent songs on the iPod.  OK, here we go, up Route 80! Woo-hoo!  (Damn, says Bipolar/MS, he's having fun.  Quick, let's make him manic.)  Route 80 is a twisty turny road that takes you from Fort Plain (home of Otis Young and Patricia Kearns Shannon) up through other very small towns and drops you into Springfield.  Through Springfield and on to Cooperstown.  It is the quintessential small town that knows its something special.  It's the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Baseball was never invented in Cooperstown by anyone, let alone a Civil War General, but sometime we need a myth (sort of like "We're working on a cure for MS or Cancer") instead of the boring longer version.  But like I said, Cooperstown is the perfect place, total Americana, a small town where a young boy can do his best and become....                                                                                                          
                                                                                        James Fenimore Cooper.  The town wasn't named for him, but for his father.  However James made his own name by being one of the first Great American Writers, most notably "The Last of Mohicans" otherwise known as that Daniel Day Lewis movie.  Cooper wrote a number of books based in early America, but I don't know if anyone reads them outside of early American Literature classes.  I haven't, but I do know that Last of the Mohicans was my Father's favorite (I never saw him read a book, so I figured it was the original movie from 1932 or 1936).  Either way, film or book, he would always yell
Chingachgook! when we'd see the old film at Fort William Henry in Lake George.  It's not a trip to Cooperstown for me unless I stop by and saw hello to the Coopers at the cemetery.

It's not a maudlin thing at all, (sorry Bipolar/MS) just respect from one writer to another.  Always has been.  I have the whole Cooper collection at home and I will read it.

Back to baseball, I made my way past the library .....

past the statues that give tributes to the Negro Leagues and the All American Girls Professional Baseball League...

I've had the honor to meet many of the Negro League players, and some of the lady ballplayers, and I highly recommend checking out both.  Email me if you'd like some recommendations on readings.

Moving into the building, I head for the admissions desk.  "Only one of you today?" the guy asks.  "Yeah, my clone had jury duty."  "What?"  "Nothing, nothing."  I get my ticket, walk into the Hall and see a lot of stairs to go up to other floors ("Try'em", says Biploar/MS, "you need the exercise.") Not today, Bunky.  I walk by the statue of my man Buck O'Neil (who belongs inside the Hall of Fame on the plaques, instead of outside, but that's what you get for annoying the white guys into remembering their foolish prejudice), through the plaque room with a tip of the cap to the new inductees Barry Larkin and Ron Santo (why do they wait so many times to induct someone right after they die, even when they knew the person was ill?), and back to the small but cozy bullpen theater.

The presentation took about an hour with Q & A, then a book signing.  Mr. Appel was genial and had plenty of stories of Yankee glory and, well, a few bumps in the road. 

Book signed (that No. 15 is not me, by the way- I wore my Mantle No. 7), and out I went and bought lunch, sitting in Cooper Park for a few minutes of quiet time.

That's the Baseball Library and the statue of James Fenimore... in the background.  Where he was seated there is where his house was, and where he wrote.  I looked there as I planned this blog.  Would James have blogged about the growth of the town and the nation in the first part of the 19th century if he had the chance?

One more stop besides the stores.  There was a ballgame scheduled at Doubleday Field, but a little too late for me.  See, I'd pushed Mr. BiPolar/MS as far as I could, but I really can't get away from the energy peaks and valleys that occur, and three o'clock is definitely valley time and the pain had kicked in.  So after a quick stop at Doubleday Field...

it was time to head home.  We'll be back, but we tend to avoid the induction ceremonies as the crowds and heat is a bit much, though if Mike Piazza makes it next year, all bets are off.  So I headed to Stagecoach Coffee (a memory not just of Cooperstown, but my time at DSS in Albany [State Street]), got a mocha and took off for home.

Wait, one more stop....

The lake, the park, the other museums...there is always something new and different to see, and just as much the sameness, like any small town.  I love this place, and even the ride home makes me think about another visit.  And for today anyway, Mr. BiPolar/MS can kiss my bat, ball, and glove.

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