VISITING COOPERSTOWN, PT. 2.

We returned to the Hall, and made our way back to the second floor to continue the chronological exhibit. We moved on to 1930-1970, enjoying the exhibits, learning some things (“I did not know Jason Varitek caught FOUR no-hitters!”), laughing at some others (“I cannot believe they have the pine tar bat!”), and going “OH WOW” more than a few times:

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(That would be an “oh wow” in case you weren’t sure.)

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(Regretfully, my photo of the Seaver exhibit turned out blurry – I was checking all the photos after I took them but clearly missed this one. It is hard to photograph here, and I was trying to balance wanting to photograph with wanting to enjoy viewing and sharing the moments and talking with my companion.)

Once you’ve gone through the chronology, the next room is for current history, and it’s set up like a clubhouse, with lockers all around the periphery, one for each current team.

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Yeah, the Mets locker is a little light, but most of the memorabilia in the locker is associated with milestones, and that memorabilia (Glavine, Pedro, etc.) was featured elsewhere. The Mets just don’t have many big milestones, so there isn’t a lot of memorabilia of the type the Hall wants to get and display. There were a few things, though, that I thought were interesting:

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Just when we were thinking “Gee, the Rays locker seems kind of light,” we came around the corner and found an exhibit dedicated to the 2008 World Series. (We did not spend a lot of time there.) That was the end of the second floor. At this point, we went back around to “Diamond Dreams,” which was the exhibit about women in baseball. It was fine and enjoyable and important, and had (in my opinion) the appropriate amount of space dedicated to it. (We learned during the earlier artifact presentation that the Hall only displays 7% of the items it has at any given time. That’s a lot of hard choices to make on a regular basis.)

We took a little breather on a convenient bench, and then headed upstairs to the third floor. The first exhibit there is called “Sacred Ground”. You walk up the stairs and there’s a whole gallery of statues of famous fans waiting to greet you, including one of my favorites, Hilda Chester:

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(I love Hilda. I love all the stories about Hilda. I love that when she arrived she hung up a sign reading HILDA IS HERE and that she used to get the outfielders to run little notes to Durocher in the dugout complaining about the lineup.)

The best parts of this exhibit for us was the virtual reality screen that let you zoom around old ballparks (we did Ebbets Field and Comiskey), and the discovery that someone had actually saved something from Ebbets:

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We came out of that exhibit, turned the corner and entered the Records Room. I took one look at the walls covered with numbers and stats and said to the SO, “We have to save this for tomorrow.” It was 4:15, I was exhausted and on overload, and knew that if I tried to do this now, it would be like seeing yet another cathedral on a whirlwind trip of Europe – you’d take it in with one glance and not be able to appreciate it. Even with this account, there are still things I am remembering that we saw and talked about but I didn’t take notes on or didn’t take a picture of – and I think that’s okay. It is just – so much, no matter how seasoned you might or might not be.

We walked through the floor, just to get a feel for how much was left, and when we got to the end of the exhibit, there was a tv in a corner, with benches in front of it, and I stopped, transfixed: it was showing a film of “Who’s On First” and we stood there giggling like 8 year olds, watching it through until the end. (The store sold commemorative shirts that had WHO, WHAT or I DON’T KNOW on the back. If I had liked the design on the front I would have one in my possession right now.) The tv broadcast of a loop of baseball-related humor, and was surrounded by benches. To me this was another example of the careful thought and fan-focused attention this museum has. At this point in the building, if you’ve been through everything just on that floor, you’re going to need a little break before going on to the next thing. What could be more perfect? What baseball fan wouldn’t laugh at “Who’s On First”?

When we walked out, I noticed that all the stores had already closed up tight, so I was glad we had done our window shopping earlier in the day.

DAY TWO

The Hall is open 9-5 in the winter. We wanted to get there first thing, so we could have the place to ourselves, but we also had to compete for breakfast at our hotel with a large group of 10 year old boys. This meant that we got to the Hall around 10am. The snow was falling, there were even less cars parked on the street, and for extended periods of time today, we had many exhibits all to ourselves. I am sure Cooperstown is beautiful in the summer and the energy from a large group of baseball fans must be wonderful, but I cannot imagine ever choosing to voluntarily come during peak season and dealing with the crowds – especially since we are lucky enough to be able to drive a few hours and be here.

We returned to the third floor and the Records Room.

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The room is lined with these exhibits, which are updated weekly, and of course the data comes from the Elias Sports Bureau. (But the fact that it is updated WEEKLY was impressive to us.) There were computers in the room where you could look up any player you wanted. In the center of the room was the trophy case, with every possible example:

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But my favorite part of the room had to be the entire wall with balls from every no-hitter and perfect game after 1944. Some of the balls were annotated, some of them were autographed, and some had both, like this one:

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I was pretty impressed with that one in particular.

The next room, “Autumn Dreams,” was self explanatory. We particularly enjoyed the case of World Series rings in the middle of the room, with special emphasis on the gaudy trinket that was the Marlins World Series ring:

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And with that, we were done on the third floor. Now, it was time for the plaques, and the Hall of Fame proper, back down on the first floor.

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It was here that I was most appreciative of the quiet and the ability to contemplate quietly, to sit and sink in the atmosphere, to leisurely read and take photos as I wished, without having to share the space with anyone else. We worked our way through the plaques chronologically, starting with 1936, and then making our way along the walls, pointing things out to each other, reading lines that struck us out loud, ponder other plaques silently. Although you can buy postcards of every single plaque, I took photos anyway, just because I could.

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Jackie’s plaque had been recently extensively revised.

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A lot of people start here, because it is the first thing you see as you walk in the building, you have seen the photographs of it and it is so easily to be immediately drawn to the majesty of the room. But I am glad that we did it last, after absorbing the history in the rest of the building, which put all the plaques on the wall firmly into context.

Behind the plaques is another wing, with the exhibits for the broadcasters and journalists, a small Baseball In The Movies exhibit, and another bookstore. The research library is also back there, and although I dearly wanted a peek, it was closed on Sunday.

“Now what?” I said to my other half.
“That’s it.”
“What???”
“We’re done.”
“No, we can’t be done!”
“We can go through it again.”
“Okay, we’re done.”

It was tempting, though, it was temping and maybe we should have gone back through the second floor one more time, to see what didn’t catch our eye or that we overlooked or didn’t pay close enough attention to the first time. But at the same time, I felt like I had absorbed everything I was capable of absorbing on this first visit.

Walking out the door was the opposite of walking in. It was grey and cloudy, and there wasn’t a group of fans posing and asking us if we could take their pictures for them, it was silent and almost deserted. It felt like the small children leaving the theme park at the end of the day, tired and worn out and happily exhausted and asleep on their feet but dragging themselves out the turnstiles because they just don’t want to go. “Of course you don’t want to go,” my companion said. “It’s the Baseball Town. Why would you ever want to leave the Baseball Town?”

We’re planning our next visit for 2013, and the SO has already declared we will come up for Hall of Fame Induction Weekend when Piazza makes it in.

[be sure to take a look at the full Flickr set from the trip.]

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