By Brien O’Donal
Of all the days this weekend in Cooperstown, today was the most important. This was the day that thousands gathered at Clark Sport Center to watch the National Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2017 receive their bronze plaques and officially be inducted. And we almost missed it. I’m glad we paid attention to the lack of people on Main Street and began heading toward the ceremony. We were lucky that we did not have any thing we really wanted to do besides the ceremony so all we were doing was meandering about town.
The morning started rather average. We woke up about 7am and prepared to once again make the drive from Albany to Cooperstown. Breakfast was good and we hit the road. I didn’t think it was a big deal to plug my phone into the USB port while I navigated. I hadn’t noticed that the voice on the app would only be heard if the radio was on the USB function. After making it though the first 20 or so miles we noticed that the route didn’t look familiar. I had been texting my wife at the time so the directions were not staring me in the face. When I looked at them I realized we had missed the turn off and were now adding an additional half hour to the trip. It sucks because the mountainous region didn’t have a road system that allowed you to cut back across to the right highway.
We made it to town and as we passed though the parking lot by the little league field, we noticed a shop we had not been to yet. It was by far my favorite. It was called Baseball Nostalgia and the owner specialized in off sets of baseball cards. He had a lot of other traditional memorabilia but finding these cards from bakeries, and K-Mart, and Toys R’ Us was amazing. I didn’t want to wait until tomorrow to get what I wanted from him. Thus, I bought several baseball card sets that are hard to find. After that, I saw no point in waiting to buy any of the other cards I had my eye on over the weekend. I am headed home with a lot more baseball cards to add to my collection and will surely get a sigh from my wife about how she thought I was done with baseball cards for a while.
We hadn’t over eaten at breakfast with the sole intent of enjoying some of the hot dogs and hamburgers that were being sold outside the shops all weekend. If you’re walking around Cooperstown and everywhere you look you see that being sold, you really feel like at some point you should try it. We did. We enjoyed our hot dog and hamburger with a laugh as we had been calling it “street meat” all weekend and thought it was funny.
By the time we got from the Hall of Fame Museum site to the other end of Main Street we noticed a distinct lack of people; and those that were remaining we all headed toward the Clark Center.
We decided we should be doing the same and made our way there. It was less than 10 minutes after we arrived that the ceremony started. I looked at my friend James and asked “I thought you said it started at 4:30.” Turns out it started around 2. We found some good spots to stand and watch the ceremony and settled in for the long afternoon. And boy was it long. Apparently, each inductee has to speak for about half an hour minimum. While it was great to hear all the stories, the sun was out and shining directly in our faces. We didn’t make it out unscathed.
Overall it was amazing though. Jeff Bagwell gave a speech that was very honest. I think I appreciated that out of a player. He spoke about his struggle to get noticed in high school, how he was a standout player in college, and how he was traded away from his favorite professional team before he had a chance to play for them. It’s the story of how he wound up playing for the Astros. But he mentioned in his speech that he was aware his numbers weren’t the best but he felt it was more important to be good a good teammate and do whatever it took to win. When you look back on his career, it’s kind of what really made him a star. He averaged about 100 runs scored a season and stole more than 200 bases. Those are stats that really show what he was able to do to help his team win besides being a power hitter. For me, that was really cool to hear him speak to.
Ivan Rodriguez gave a great speech about his background from Puerto Rico and his career that saw him play for about 5 different teams. He gave a good portion of his speech in Spanish, his native language, and the large crowd of Puerto Ricans in attendance were cheering loud and waving flags. To hear him recount what he was able to do as a catcher was amazing and I was glad to be in attendance.
Tim Raines was a great player in his time and his election this year was overdue. His long career was one of consistency and perseverance. I was excited when he was announced and listening to him talk about how he played and how he was over shadowed by some of his peers really brought out a lot of cheers from the many Expo fans.
All three of the players inducted today are deserving of the honor they received. It was one of the greatest moments in my sports life. But it was not without a bit of annoyance. All weekend I have been talking about how many Astro fans are here in Cooperstown and it was great to see so much orange and blue on the field today. I was disappointed when it wasn’t that way at the end of the day. Bagwell was the second inductee to receive his plaque and as soon as his speech was over a giant wave of Astro fans fled like it was over.
While I get it that they saw the guy they wanted; the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is something that should be respected beyond your singular player. The speeches and honors given to the three other inductees should have been given the respect they deserve for the careers that put them on that stage. I felt those fans that bailed after Bagwell spoke put a bad face on the rest of us who stayed behind to watch the whole ceremony. Shame bells for all of you who walked off that field as soon as he wrapped up.
As for us, we cooked. We suffered through the burning sun to hear every speech and cheer for every moment. When it was all said and done, we will be able to tell people we watched all 5 new members get their plaques. We then did what we have been doing all weekend, enjoying the local restaurants. We chose the Back-Alley Bar and Grill, which in case you couldn’t guess is in an alley. It is across the street from the museum just behind a shop off the main strip. Even with a limited menu we were not disappointed. The Fish and Chips and the Chicken Parmesan Sandwich were great.
Keeping with the theme of drinking every other day, and the fact that we were exhausted from baking in the sun all afternoon we returned to Albany where we are resting for our last day. We will be checking out of our crappy Radisson and heading to Cooperstown where we will be getting autographs from the 3 players in the Hall of Fame Class of 2017. I’m pretty excited about that. What I’m not excited about is our late flight home. We should get back to Houston around midnight. Good thing I am still off work Tuesday.
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