I can remember the weekend in July, all through childhood, when I wanted to be in Cooperstown. I was the son my father always wanted but never got – a tomboy through and through until I was suddenly a mother at the age of 23. I loved baseball as a child and loved trips to Cooperstown because of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
I was 11 when Roberto Clemente died in a plane crash taking what would now be termed humanitarian aid – I don’t remember that term from childhood – to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. I cannot remember the joy I did feel about four months later when my father told me had basically won the baseball lottery. We had tickets to the Hall of Fame game in Cooperstown in August of 1973.
You see, it use to be that the Hall of Fame game was played during Induction weekend. The 1973 game pitted the Pittsburgh Pirates – the only team Roberto Clemente played for in 15 plus years in the majors – against the Texas Rangers. It was like a dream come true – Willie Stargell, Toby Harrah. If only Clemente could have been there also.
I can remember watching Bobby Gritch when he was at minor league Rochester. It was the summer I worked in a recreation program for underprivileged kids and we were at a Syracuse Chiefs game. I knew then that he would play on the grounds of Doubleday Field some day and also stand at that podium on Induction Day.
I occasionally get that feeling now as I take the kids to see the Double-A Binghamton Mets. I knew that feeling was coming to me when I saw Jose Reyes the first time. David Wright spent little time in Binghamton but enough so I know he will stand at the podium some day. Unfortunately, these new players I am seeing in Binghamton will never play at the Hall of Fame.
Once my two oldest boys were playing baseball, I was scanning the local paper for when tickets would go on sale. I live about an hour from Cooperstown and if I could get tickets, my kids were going to get to experience the same feelings I did as a child. They were going to a Hall of Fame game. The tickets came and my ex-husband and two boys were headed to Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame game. I think it was 1994. It was a day the two of them will not forget as I haven’t forgotten my time there either.
This year was the end of this special game. Fittingly, the weather played a big role in the washout of the final Hall of Fame game. The sky mourned the loss of a game that players would rather not play but fans still line up for tickets in all kinds of upstate NY winter weather to get. While a day off would be the preference of the big leaguers, fans are missing out on a wonderful experience – seeing baseball greats of today playing where baseball was founded.