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What I did on my Summer Vacation. Chapter one: Cooperstown

October 3, 2012

It was a very busy summer here in Hellion land.  Between a wide variety of summer camp related activities for the kids and an epic family vacation to South Dakota, the season seemed to speed by recklessly unaware of our desire to make it last.  It was a good summer nonetheless, highlighted by two  great vacations. Today we’ll talk about the first, my trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame, my first trip without the kids in 5 years.

Barry Larkin, a Cincinnati native like myself, spent the entirety of his  baseball career living the dream of every red blooded Queen City boy. He was the starting shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds for 19 seasons.  Like me he grew up with the Big Red Machine, unlike me he could actually play baseball really really well.  The Machine dominated my childhood, but Barry Larkin drove the Reds teams that really taught me to love the game. He was the best player whose entire career I was able to enjoy. When he was elected to be enshrined in Cooperstown, it was perfectly natural for me to go  and cheer him on.  Luckily I had a partner in this endeavor, my frequent bar stool mate and baseball fanatic JR. As soon as the good news was announced we began hatching our evil scheme.

This was actually my second Hall of Fame induction.  In 2000 my brother Bear and I made the trip to see Tony Perez, Carlton Fisk, and the late Sparky Anderson enshrined. And the first thing to remember about any trip to Cooperstown is that it is in the middle of fucking Nowhere, New York.  Seriously, there isn’t an interstate that comes anywhere near the place.  But it is absolutely worth the trip, especially on induction weekend.  We humped our way out on Friday and camped in a lovely little upstate NY town called Verona Beach.  This made a lot of sense because just about every place anywhere near Cooperstown hotelwise was is gonna be booked solid.  The next morning we stopped at a lovely place for breakfast and arrived in town in time to tour the Museum before the induction ceremony  that afternoon.

The Hall of Fame Museum is a very fun experience, containing artifacts from the entirety of the games history, both famous and infamous. Here’s a roundup of some of my pictures from the trip.

The actual induction ceremony was a blast. Before the speeches, most of the living Hall of Fame members were introduced, which led to a spirited cheering contest between the horde of Reds fans and the massive crowd of Cubs fans, there to honor the late  Ron Santo,  as each of their favorites was announced.  However,  most thunderous applause erupted with the introduction of Willie Mays and Yogi Berra.   I’ll admit it gave me goosebumps even though I never got to see either of them play.

Ron Santo’s widow gave an inspiring speech (pdf) about her husband, one of the most beloved figures in Cubs history and a long time owner of the title of “Best player not enshrined in Cooperstown”, a distinction we will now pass to Tim Raines, who should be in there already. That is until the moralistic blowhards in the BBWAA destroy the very concept of the institution when they predictably blackball Barry Bonds .  A day that  would have been a delight if Santo had lived to see it was instead bittersweet. Thankfully Vicki Santo was able to keep help us all focus on the sweet and forget the bitter.

Between speeches we were treated to the man who does the best Haray Carey impersonation amongst the living Hall of Famers, our own Johnny Bench.

Epic.

Barry Larkin gave an incredible speech, starting out by exclaiming (pdf)

“I’m going to tell you guys something before I get started. I know you see us up here nice and polished and looking dapper, calm, cool and collected. I’m going to tell you what, this is unstinking believable. Unbelievable.”

It was.  I was only severely sunburned by the end, but it was worth it.

Afterwords we went back to the HoF to check out the actual Plaque Gallery , where baseball immortals have been remembered for almost 100 years.  It’s a really simple yet sublime display.  I’ve loved it every time.

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