When your life revolves around the academic calendar, as mine nearly always has, August feels like a long psychological Sunday. You still technically have the time off but there's a little voice nagging at you, reminding you that you have to go back to work soon. I tend to get restless. Ours has been a quiet summer, by design - only modest travels due to our child's work schedule. As such, I felt the need for a quick personal adventure on my own terms. I'd never been to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Museum before. It's a 4.5-hour drive from our house, a little far for a day trip but manageable. The rest of my family barely cares about baseball at all so it was the perfect choice for getting out on my own.
The drive to Cooperstown is beautiful, to be sure, and the town itself quite charming. Parking, however, is a nightmare - the Hall was built in an era when most were expected to visit via train so no on-site lot. Fortunately, I left myself plenty of time for lunch before my 12:30 timed entrance. Neither food nor drink is allowed in the museum itself so fueling up beforehand was essential. Sal's, across the street, suited my purposes just fine. New York-style pizza with Boston Red Sox decor. Given my hunger, I could forgive them for the latter. My slice of ham/pineapple and bottled water were rather extortionately priced at $9 but then again, it was cheaper than my Scottish Bistro dinner on the drive home. Service was friendly and I didn't have to wait long.
The Hall itself was... fine. It's smaller than I was expecting. Going in, I was particularly keen to see the exhibits about the Negro Leagues and women in baseball. There's one about Latin American players, too, that I didn't know about ahead of time. All were... fine, yet inadequate. At this point, I'm fairly well-read on the subject of baseball so I can't say I learned much I didn't already know. I'm glad to have gone but don't know if I'd ever bother again.
It's possible I just wanted a more contemplative atmosphere than was possible the day I visited. We went to the Rock and Roll Hall in Cleveland a few years back and that was a lot more satisfying. I may simply have a more emotional attachment to music than I do to sports. Furthermore, most of the other patrons in Cooperstown were middle school-aged boys in town for a tournament. So, it felt a little like work - not what I needed. If I do ever go again, maybe it would be better to go outside of high season.
There was one plaque I particularly wanted to see. After hunting down all of the enshrined Orioles (there are six), I found Buck O'Neil. O'Neil, who passed away in 2006, was finally inducted this year. He spent his entire playing career in the Negro Leagues but made it to The Show as the first Black coach in the Major Leagues. Perhaps more important to his long-term legacy, he was an eloquent ambassador for the sport, using his master storytelling skills to share the history of the Negro Leagues with future generations. Anyone who has watched Ken Burns's Baseball documentary series would recognize his warm, rich, baritone delivery. If you want to know more about my affection for this elegant gentleman, please read this post.