Monday, August 02, 2010

Notes from My 23rd Pilgrimage

References to Cooperstown as the spiritual home of baseball are a bit overdone, but if any visit has the right to be considered the equivalent of a trip to Mecca, it's a Hall of Fame Weekend trek to the mythical birthplace of our national pastime.

Since I came away from this Hall of Fame Weekend with so much that I wanted to write about here, I decided to break it into two separate posts. So, if you're interested in what I have to say about the induction ceremony, be sure to read my prior post, Hawk, The White Rat & God. This entry will focus on the remainder of the weekend.

KJ and I had planned to spend three nights at a campground about five miles from the center of town, but Friday was a rough day. So, when we had a tough time getting out of Boston before 5pm, and fairly heavy rains added another factor we didn't feel like dealing with, we opted to spend a relaxing evening at home and get an early start on Saturday morning.

That turned out to be a good idea, except for the fact it cut into our time spent with the friends who started this Cooperstown tradition with me during a drunken weekend in Albany the summer between our sophomore and junior years in college.

We passed on checking out the Saturday afternoon New York-Penn League game at Doubleday Field, but our Hall of Fame Weekend experience began with what hopefully is a new tradition: a parade of Hall of Famers down Main Street. Despite the fact that they were a moving target, and there was only a brief window for photos, I got enough decent close-up shots that I'll be doing a separate post of just those pictures.

Like I said previously, I wore my St. Louis Browns hat for the entire weekend, and I received a couple of positive comments. Most notably, a trio of Cardinals fans at our campground pointed out that they were impressed. We stopped at their site and talked to them Sunday night.

One of them showed us a photo of the 1888 Browns he had bought in the Hall of Fame gift shop that afternoon. Those Browns, of course, are not the same franchise that is the predecessor of today's Orioles. In fact, they became the Perfectos and then the Cardinals. Our new friend told us the story of how the current name came to be.

The franchise was called the Brown Stockings and Browns from the year of its founding in 1882 until 1899. For that season, the name was changed to the Perfectos and their uniform colors were changed to red. When a sportswriter overheard a lady fan remark, "What a lovely shade of cardinal," the nickname stuck, and the next year Cardinals became official.

This was the first induction weekend for these Illinois residents, so I asked if they planned to make the trip for the next Cardinal to be honored. Of course, this led to the question of who that would be, with Tony LaRussa being the consensus, although we did briefly discuss the overlooked Ted Simmons.

Boston Braves hat
In keeping with the spirit of confusing people, I bought a Boston Braves cap at one of the many souvenir shops on Cooperstown's Main Street. It only slightly resembles a less common version of a Red Sox hat—blue cap and red bill, but with a completely different looking letter B and an image of a Native American with headdress on the side—so it will probably blend in around Boston, but also get a few double-takes. Despite the reputation of Red Sox fans as being highly knowledgeable, I doubt it will be the conversation piece that the Browns hat has been.

While I'm at it, I do have one observation about the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony that I left out of my prior post. Bud Selig has always received a sour reception in Cooperstown, but this year was worse due to Expos fans taking out their frustrations. Unfortunately, it was probably all one hundred or so of their die-hard fans who showed up in Cooperstown. That lack of support is the reason the team lost their franchise, and no one can blame Selig for that, but these fans who drove 300 miles to honor the second player to go into the Hall of Fame as an Expo certainly aren't the reason either.

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