Archive for the ‘Cooperstown’ Category

Some Thoughts on The New Astros HOF

February 1, 2019

Pecan Park Eagles
Colored our skies
We never played a game there,
We didn’t idolize.

 

What’s Important to Remember during this Astros HOF Start Year 2019?

This is a time of opportunity ~ a time to start pulling together the hodge-podge ways people have been honored by the club in the past, as is the way these things normally go everywhere, and to replace or clarify them relative to a new and more dynamic system that fairly outlines ~ in a firm but growing way ~ how people shall be honored in this Hall of Fame that portrays the accomplishment of individuals who have contributed to the greatness of the Houston Astros over the years ~ hopefully, from the beginning through today.

Without the goal of building this picture of what the club wants the HOF to be, selecting inductees will only be easy in the early years. Once the easy picks of popular, accomplished Astros players is exhausted, and if there is no growing system in place, the selection committee will devolve into a political process that may be guided more by the agility, knowledge, and power of the members supporting each candidate. And that’s why, at least, the concept of a system for searching the width and depth of people in the data base is needed as the framework dancing in everyone’s heads as early as possible.

This year’s class as an example: The 2019 inductees are as follows: Bob Aspromonte, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Jose Cruz, Larry Dierker, Gene Elston, Milo Hamilton, Joe Morgan, Joe Niekro, Shane Reynolds, J.R. Richard, Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott, Jim Umbricht, Don Wilson and Jimmy Wynn.

What does the list communicate? Several things:

(1) 12 of the 14 inductees were very good to excellent well-known and popular Astro ballplayers;

(2) 4 of these 12 players were already members of the Cooperstown Hall, but only 2 of these were lifelong Astros;

(3) All 9 of the Astros whose numbers have been retired were inducted; and,

(4) 2 “Voice of the Astros” media announcers were also selected.

The 2019 selections impress!

The initial number inducted is high, but it almost had to be. It also may have helped the club deal with a long and thorny problem. ~ The Jim Umbricht #32 retirement. When two-Astro-season pitcher Umbricht (1962-63) died of cancer in April 1964, the young franchise and all of its fans were deeply shocked and grieved. The club administrative culture reacted by making his #32 uniform the first such number to be retired as our salute goodbye. So with it came the fact that his small performance numbers in two brief seasons had nothing to do with making him deserving of the honor as a player. He was simply a very decent and beloved young man who died way too young and his shocking early death was going to be memorialized in a way that usually goes to performance on the field.

The Umbricht #32 number retirement also underscores what happens when permanent decisions are made from an emotionally based occurrence. Three years later, in 1967, when former short-term Astro Walter Bond died of cancer as a member of the Minnesota Twins, there were a few murmurs of support in Houston for retiring his former Astros # too. ~ Cooler heads prevailed ~ and it didn’t happen, but it still shows the power of precedent when there is no system of guidance in place.

System Building Questions to Resolve: 

This may be the best time for the Astros to decide, if they haven’t already, about future player number retirements and the inscription of player names in the sidewalks of Minute Maid Park:

(1) Should the Astros stop retiring numbers? Or should they keep up the practice and allow it to be an automatic ticket into the Astros Hall of Fame?

(2) Should the Astros keep adding names to the Astros Walk of Fame on the sidewalks? If so, does that action  mean that those people are going into the Astros Hall of Fame Alley inside the ballpark too?

Start Compiling Candidate Lists:

For future consideration by the Selection Committee, start compiling lists of potential candidates by their category of performance. These may come from any source involved in the selection process ~ and they may be as open or closed as the Astros will allow them to be ~ as long as the nominating party tries to include how each new name fits into the developing set of standards that are also evolving for induction candidates.

So, what kind of people should the Selection Committee be looking for?

First, The Players:

(1) The No-Brainers: Players who made the Baseball Hall of Fame, completely or mostly, as Astros;

(2) Players who had very good careers, completely or mostly, as Astros;

(3) Players who established significant records in baseball as Astros, even for a single season;

(4) Players whose presence on the team were the sine qua non factor for the Astros in a championship season;

(5) Players whose good careers on the field were over-shadowed by their contributions to social causes enriching our quality of life in the greater Houston community. This fifth entry applies to all persons qualified as candidates for the Astros Hall of Fame.

Second, The Owners: These people are the ones whose very different blends of leadership, energy and passion for the game move so fast on necessary actions that they rarely, if ever, stop to hear the question, “What have you done for us lately?” ~ Does the name Judge Roy Hofheinz ~ and bringing MLB to Houston ~ and building the first indoor AC-cooled baseball stadium ~ and naming it The Astrodome ~ and then proclaiming it “The Eighth Wonder of the World” ring any Quasimodos? These people are the masters of logistics as a tool of purpose ~ and not the other way around. ~ And how is it that a huge success in the field of logistics, Jim Crane, moves into MLB ownership with the Astros and moves right away into a straight short term bulls eye shot as the club captures the 2017 World Series after decades of trial and disappointment?

Third, The Presidents: These folks are called upon to pull an entire organization into winged flight to victory, even when the forces in flight sometimes have differing views on which parts of the sky are theirs. ~ The name Tal Smith jumps immediately to mind. ~ Tal was the legacy gift of former MLB executive Gabe Paul, who came to Houston in 1960 as the first Houston General Manager. Paul left Houston only months later, but young Tal Smith remained here for 35 of his 54 career years in baseball, eventually serving the Astros as both their GM and President ~ in a three shift of time involvement that led to Houston’s first successful run at winning baseball in the late 1970s and early 1980s ~ and the club’s first NL pennant and World Series appearance in 2005.

Fourth, The General Managers: All these great ones have to do is identify, sign, nurture and plug in home grown talent over time ~ or else ~ save the money and throw it in with a few prospects to acquire some already dividend-paying star for immediate use. When it works, the GM looks like a magician with a rabbit that he pulls from his hat. ~ Jeff Luhnow was that man in 2017, when the Astros won their first AL pennant, and then took the World Series from the LA Dodgers in seven games.  his hat. ~ Jeff Luhnow pulled out that 2017 rabbit, but it didn’t fool Sports Illustrated. They saw it coming in 2014.

Fifth, The Field Managers:  Think of former Astro managers like Bill Virdon (1975-82), Larry Dierker (1997-01), Phil Garner (2004-2007), and A.J. Hinch (2014-present). ~ All Virdon did was introduce winning baseball to Houston ~ the kind that almost got the Astros to the World Series in 1980. ~ All Dierker did was lead the Astros to the playoffs in four of his five managerial years. ~ All Garner did was actually get the Astros to their first World Series in 2005.

Sixth, Media: Gene Elston and Milo Hamilton, both Ford Frick Award winners at Cooperstown, were no brainers this time, but their inductions should not be perceived as an automatic media inductee every year. Inducting a media person every year is a disservice to the goal of basically honoring the players and reducing an annual media induction to being something that becomes more of a resume aspiration than a reward for exceptional Astro service on a level equivalent to the work of players ~ which they were not. The only one out there in my book that now that strongly qualifies as a media candidate is retired 30-year TV play-by-play guy, Bill Brown, and he was one of the best ever. Brown’s just a matter of time. ~ How much time? ~ You guys and the Astros have to decide.

That’s it. ~ Coaches, Scouts, Other Administrators, and Support Personnel need to be honored in some appropriate other way. As I see it, the Astros Hall of Fame primarily should aim at honoring the players and the key people who serve as the driving force of ownership, top level administration and management of the product on the field from the franchise’s inception (two years prior to its first season of play) to the present time: (1960-2019).

Doing this kind of job intelligently and passionately is a longtime time love of mine. So, please feel free to contact me if I’ve said anything of interest that needs clarification. I will be happy to respond as best I am able ~ without any need for credit or further invitation for inclusion in the official selection committee business. I’m just an elder Houston fan who would like to see the job done right.

And look! ~ I don’t even own an axe grinder. ~ You guys don’t need me to build this Hall right. I just didn’t think it would hurt you to hear from me. Fact is ~ you don’t even need to read or remember a single word I’ve expressed here today. I just needed to write them. And this being my home turf at The Pecan Park Eagle, well, … you know how that goes. ~ I bought into “why not say them here.”

The Bottom Line:

The Houston Astros deserve a Hall of Fame that rises ~ and remains over time ~ above the pale of petty personal politics. Set it up to succeed as a “see to shining see” walk for fans at Minute Maid Park of all the key players and other people over time who’ve really and truly made the entire history of the Houston Astros a local fan’s joy to behold and embrace!

1. Who Dat

That’s me, Bill McCurdy, on the right, with the late Cardinal and last Houston Buffs owner, Marty Marion, in 2003 at a meeting in St. Louis of the St. Louis Browns Fan Club. I was a Browns fan as a kid in Houston. Marion also was the last manager of the Browns in 1953.

Regards,

Dr. Bill McCurdy

Former Board Chair/Executive Director

Texas Baseball Hall of Fame

2004-2008

houston.buff37@gmail.com

713.823.4864

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

 

 

Take Me Out To The Drug Store

January 26, 2019

Take Me Out To The Drug Store

(A poem for reading only; the words do

not match the baseball anthem melody.)

By Bill McCurdy

 

He drank so much – he could not walk

His “W”s all were waddles.

He had to guess on each new pitch

What’s real and what’s from bottles.

 

And every time he hit the field

To give his skills full route

He always grabbed a hand of pops

From the bowl where the team ran out.

 

He’s got to stay awake, you see

To give the club his best

And that’s a little hard to do

Wobbling up from a Quaalude rest.

 

And then there’s all the other junk

That helps him hit it harder.

The stuff that stiffs his bat and self

Is smuggled ‘cross the border.

 

One fine fall day he’ll hang ‘em up

And let his stats speak strong.

He gave the game his very best.

Did he do something wrong?

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Frame that question from the poem: On career, if the subject of this poem had a .300 or above batting average and 500 or more home runs, is there any reason why he should not be inducted into the Hall of Fame?

As you consider your answer, try to keep in mind (1) whose already there in the HOF and what they may have used; (2) the variable and differential effects that alcohol, depressants, stimulants, and human growth hormones have upon the mind and body; and (3) that HGH are the only group that measurably increase a human’s ability to hit or throw a baseball harder, but that doesn’t mean that they increase one’s skills to throw straight or make better bat contact with a baseball under normal game conditions. i.e., HGH does not provide the basic skills one needs to play the game at the MLB level. HGH simply helps the player heal faster, plus throw and hit the ball harder and further. The basic ability to throw and hit the ball at all still must come from the player himself.

Specifically, if the HOF is now open to candidates who were not great, but today considered “good enough” for membership, how long are we going to turn our backs on great players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Alex Rodriquez from their own accomplishment-deserved inductions.

Let’s also keep in mind that the Hall of Fame never has been tethered to a choir boy cloak of moral uprightness. It’s always been referenced to an amorphous, but never formally codified set of achievement guidelines that easily blur into making it easy over time to induct “very good” players in the name of “greatness”. Also, longevity and like-ability have been getting a few people inducted into the HOF too from at least as far back as Rabbit Maranville.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

 

 

 

Ode to a One-Man HOF Induction Year

January 24, 2019

Typical Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Day Crowd
A Cooperstown, NY Summer Time Annual Event

 

Ode to a One-Man HOF Induction Year

By Bill McCurdy

 

He made it to the Hall of Fame

By being very good.

He wasn’t full blown greatness

But he did the best he could.

 

While some greats put in twenty years,

He played a cool fifteen

Of hurly burly baseball time

That wrapped up lean and clean.

 

He didn’t reach three thousand hits,

Nor B.A. a three hundred dime,

But he swung at few bad pitches

And his patience was sublime

 

Add he was good ~ so very good

And all who knew his smile

Could feel the warmth of caring

That exuded from his style.

 

So why don’t we induct him now,

Looking forward to this summer,

‘Cause missing out ~ for everyone

Would truly be a bummer.

 

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a tether column link to “The Hall of Very Good” ~ Bryan T. Smith

https://bill37mccurdy.com/2019/01/23/the-hall-of-very-good-bryan-t-smith/

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

“The Hall of Very Good” ~ Bryan T. Smith

January 23, 2019

 

hof 4 2019

NEWBIES FROM NOON: Edgar Martinez @12 Roy Halladay @3 Mario Rivera @6 Mike Mussina @9

Writer Bryan T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle put it very well, even if droves of others find themselves sitting in the same puddle of newly reenforced imagery this morning of what the Hall of Fame has been becoming and unabashedly now reached. ~ The Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is now almost full bore into the practice of inducting famous players who once were “very good, but not great” ballplayers during their careers.

I would have to agree. Of the four men inducted by the BBWAA yesterday, only save king reliever Mariano Rivera was “great”. ~ Pitchers Roy Halladay and Mike Mussina ~ and designated hitter Edgar Martinez were only “very good”, but all were were very famous and also good enough to draw visitor crowds and a large TV audience to Cooperstown, New York for the annual induction celebration on the culturally pastoral lawns of upstate New York.

In earlier times, when there were no inductions due to the absence of any great player candidates, the kind of high dollar event that now stages itself each year would have been impossible. Now, however, inductees are necessary to draw attention and financial aid to the induction event. It is the event that is important now. The importance of the specific players being honored? ~ Not so much.

It’s not just a baseball thing.

This is the era of event importance over what is actually happening. One doesn’t have to be qualified to hold public office today at any level to find themselves elected by the voters to service. They just have to be able to make the voters think that their elections are going to make a difference either way, left or right.

Look at today’s movies, if you can sit through the special effects noise of a battle between two “who cares who wins” foes. Movies no longer have to be great or deep in storyline to win Academy Awards; movies based on video games have a chance to win awards today that once were reserved for great story and acting. Now it seems that they just have to succeed in luring the younger crowds and and all their dollars to the theaters ~ and the Academy Awards night simply becomes the event which celebrates their fame and not their greatness.

Please check out Smith’s column for a much more detailed and interesting look at how this is working in the way very good players now are finding their ways wide open through what we might call the “event window” and into the Hall of Fame.

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/sports/columnists/smith/article/There-s-no-correlation-between-Hall-of-Fame-13553618.php

As for these four 2019 BBWAA-inducted players, Mariano Rivera is the only “no-brainer” great one. The rest are obviously very good and only arguably “great” in the eyes of some ~ but enough to get well past the 75% vote total each needed from some of the voters who supported them ~ not because they were great ~ but because they were “good enough” to go in. That’s my read, anyway.

Rivera, in fact, was no surprise, even if his 100% first ever complete voter support was a little shocking in light of the fact that even Ruth never did that well. On the other hand, who could have honestly not voted for the greatest closer of all time ~ especially in light of the “good enough” names he shared space with on this ballot.

“And I say to myself ~ what a wonderful world!” ~ Louis Armstrong.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

 

 

 

 

Deadball Era Baseball Game Footage (1900-1920)

July 26, 2018

Detroit @ Pittsburgh
During the 1909 World Series
~ Check out the shape of the infield grass.

Thank you, Bill Hickman, for drawing our awareness to this fine silent film collection of baseball cation from the Deadball Era. We miss the sensory completeness that sound and the smells of hot dogs, beer, cigar smoke, less hygenic circumstances of rest rooms from those times, to say nothing of rotten food disposals and the industrial age smoke that filled all breathable air could have added to our sense of presence in what was going on, but we shall happily settle for what we got.

Groundskeeping was poor back in the day. As the featured still shot here shows of the Pittsburgh infield during the Pirates’ tangle with the Detroit Tigers that fall, groundskeeping was not a major priority back in the day. The Pittsburgh infield is half eaten or worn away – and badly harmed also by the automobiles that chugged their ways across the diamond during the pre-game activity. And that’s clodhopper dirt out there – not the carefully groomed and even soil that’s imported for use on the intentional-dirt parts of the infield and base lines.

Other Notices: All the players uniformly knew how to wear their uniforms correctly, with the socks showing from the knee down. ~ Photos. Photographers crowded home plate during crucial at bats. The lenses of that age could not handle the distance and produce photo clarity.

No World Series in 1904. The 1904 New York Giants celebrated themselves at home as “world champions” after refusing to play the AL Champion Boston Red Sox in what should have been the second World Series. The Red Sox had won the first World Series over Pittsburgh in 1903, but the Giants apparently were afraid to play them in 1904. The refusal forced baseball to declare that playing the World Series would not be furthermore left to individuals clubs. Winners of the NL and AL would play each other for the right to make “world champion” claims. And that’s the way it stood until the 1994 management-labor meltdown that cancelled only the second World Series in history.

Black Sox Footage of Joe Jackson and his White Sox Company from the 1919 World Series is very good. 3rd Sacker Buck Weaver has to be the ugliest snaggle-toothed innocent-looking guy that’s ever been banned from the game of baseball. – What a tragedy that whole murky-business in Chicago in 1919 was – and still is. Little Dickie Kerr also shows up. – He’s the little pitcher who came out of the Black Sox mess as the young “good guy” who played it straight and won games for the team that had eight men kicked out for life as a result of the gambling bribes they allegedly took to make sure the White Sox lost the World Series.

Baseball practices included much more pre-game defensive practice, including fungo-struck fly balls to the outfielders. They also seemed to like lining up the bats in a long row before their team dugouts.

Dead Ball Era Athleticism, based upon what these films provide, may lead some of us to wonder how many of these guys could compete against any 21st century MLB club. Several of the pitchers display funky wind ups that wouldn’t carry them too far in today’s game either. – See what you think when you watch the film on this very resourceful link:

Hope you enjoy this excellent opportunity for exploration of the so-called Deadball Era.

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A Back To The Future Addendum

Congratulations to Tom Hunter
Denver Resident but Staunch Astros Fan

Great friend and Pecan Park Eagle supporter Tom Hunter got to Coors Field on Tuesday night, 7/24/18, just in time to proclaim his own presence as he also brought his Houston Astros a bucket of extra inning good luck! ~ Where were you Wednesday night, Tom?

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Curt Walker: A Timeline into Father’s Day

June 17, 2018

Happy Father’s Day 2018, Everyone!

16.5 years after the fact, Rob Zimmerman (R) receives the induction plaque awarded to his great-grandfather, Curt Walker, by the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in December 2001.
**********
Photo by Bob Dorrill

If they asked me, I could write a book. But they didn’t ask. So, we will settle for a small column on the rich subject of Curt Walker as a timeline into the even taller topic of how culturally bound up the game of baseball was to so many of us when it came down to having a good father figure available when it came down to having a working father figure present in our lives — in some form, or forms — during our critical early time as innocent, but loving-needful boys and girls.

I had to look no further than my own father and his childhood experience to see the waves of paternal need placed into motion in my dad’s life by the loss of his own father early in life. In May 1913, at the age of 2 1/2, and as the 3rd oldest of four children born to William and Elizabeth McCurdy of Beeville, Texas — and only boy — my grandfather William McCurdy died of TB, leaving his family in the hands of my very strong grandmother, but without his presence as a model paternal presence. Grandad was the founder. publisher, editor, and principal writer of The Beeville Bee, the town’s first newspaper.

As a result, Dad got shipped off to boarding school almost as soon as his school age days began. It was there that he discovered his skill and affinity for baseball, a game he also played on the sandlots of Beeville every summer that he was home. It was an interest among the boys of Beeville that found strong reenforcement in the fact that three other slightly older town boys had played their ways to the big leagues by 1925.

Melvin Bert Gallia (YOB: 1891; MLB: 1912-1920), Curt Walker (YOB: 1896; MLB: 1919-1930), and Lefty Lloyd Brown (YOB: 1904; MLB: 1925, 1928-1937, 1940) were the native Beeville trailblazers to big league ball. Because of his own enjoyment of hitting, and also influenced by the fact that he shared the same BL/TR outfield post, easily converted Dad into becoming a big fan of Curt Walker, a condition which apparently worked fine for Walker, who became something of a 14 years older big brother figure to Dad as the two men’s friendship grew over time.

The presence of baseball gave Curt Walker and my dad the basis for a relationship that would last a lifetime. From the late 1920s summer times of Dad and his buddies going down to the Western Union or the Beeville Bee-Picayune offices to get the late afternoon scores for the Cincinnati Reds because that was Curt Walker’s team — to all the cups of coffee they shared later as grown men regular customers of the American Cafe — baseball was healing cultural water that brought new strength to areas of life that could hurt so bad.

Rob and Stacy Zimmerman of Charleston, SC included Houston on their family roots tour of South Texas to participate in the induction materials luncheon ceremony at the Jax Bar and Grill on Shepherd, held as part of our June SABR meeting.
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Photo by The Pecan Park Eagle

We owe a debt of gratitude this Father’s Day to Rob and Stacy Zimmerman of Charleston, South Carolina. Had Rob’s pursuit of information, lost and found, about Curt Walker, the man who turned out to be his great-grandfather, we may have lost the opportunity forever to have been reminded of why baseball is so important to the strength and structure of American culture. Had Stacy not been the patient life partner to Rob that she very obviously is, he might have been inclined to have abandoned the pursuit after we almost got together for a transfer of these awards to him years ago.

To that, I must say this about our newly found brother and sister, with a salute to the service they have each put forth in commitment to the rest of us:

“Nothing can stop the U.S. Air Force ~ especially when its aims are supported by patience and resilience!”

A tight framed 8×10 bust of Curt Walker from this September 1919 photo of his brief stay with the Yankees at the tail end of his rookie season was also presented to the SC couple during the ceremony, along with a few other historical goodies and a round of Curt Walker stories. – Photo compliments of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library Collection, Cooperstown.

In addition to the 2001 Curt Walker Induction plaque from the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame. Rob Zimmerman accepted possession on Saturday, June 16, 2018, of an 8×10″ tightly framed facial profile of 23 year old Curt Walker dressed out as a 1919 New York Yankee. He also received a replica copy of Curt Walker’s 1926 Cincinnati Reds cap, a signed copy of Curt Walker’s Louisville Slugger bat, and a few books to read on Houston baseball history.

December 15, 2001. The Curt Walker Louisville Slugger bat was signed by Will Clark and all the other living fellow inductees from 2001, plus MLB stars likes Bobby Brown and Texas League icon Bobby Bragan. (Photo by Bob Dorrill.)

The room of our Saturday meeting overflowed with love, appreciation, and good feelings yesterday. And that’s as it should be. Today, Ron and Stacy are in Beeville, where my brother John McCurdy will show them where Curt Walker once lived – and then take them to Glenwood Cemetery to see where Curt Walker is buried.

Baseball is the great uniter of different people, even rivals, who are bound together – even in difference – to the importance of historic connectivity – and our shared commitment to the great game of baseball as the saving grace of us all.

Peace. Love. And Play Ball!

And Happy Father’s Day too!

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Cooperstown: One of Best American Small Towns

May 9, 2015
Cooperstown, New York

Cooperstown, New York

AARP (American Association of Retired People) has now picked Cooperstown, NY as No. 8 on its list of America’s Best small Towns under the 30,000 full-time population mark. In these study findings, they don’t exactly recommend any of these listed places as future home prospects for retirees, but as places that have much to offer visitors in the way of education, beauty, cultural uniqueness. great dining, and affordable fun.

As one-time, but going-back-someday visitor in Cooperstown, and as a Deep Blue Level lover of baseball and its history, I would love to live there full-time, but my dear wife doesn’t want to live anywhere it gets that cold, and stays that cold, throughout the long northeastern American winters. And, who knows? I’m a native Texan and have never even seen a snow that lasted 24 hours. – Maybe, at age 77, I might have a little trouble finding the right end of a snow shovel long enough to do us much good under blizzard conditions, anyway, but then – people don’t shovel snow during blizzards, do they?

We were there briefly with other family members in June of 1994. I recall asking one of the baseball memorabilia shopkeepers what he did during the winter? “inventory” was his one-word answer. So, maybe my little sweetheart is right this time. Maybe, I would not like the long periods of snowbound enclosure either, but I’m still not sure. – Has anyone ever been snowbound inside the National Baseball Library? – That fate sounds like a cool way to be imprisoned for a while – to me, anyway.

Short of moving there. Maybe I can just go spend the summer there sometime, even if I have to go alone. That would be the Dream Summer of my life, as I now think about things. Just taking a few slow contemplative weeks living in the heart of baseball’s Valhalla would do me just fine.

On the only previous dawn I ever spent in Cooperstown back in 1994, we were saying in a place called “The Shortstop Hotel” on Main Street, very close to the Hall of Fame. I was so excited to be there that I awoke before the sun and quietly dressed to walk around by myself without waking anyone else in the family.

When I hit the streets and started walking Main Street in the quiet darkness, among the orderly placement of those old style street lights, I could not help but be reminded of how much it made me think of Bedford Falls in that wonderful old Frank Capra movie from 1946, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. After a while of much sauntering, I was attracted to the sound of some noise down the way. Lo and behold, I stumbled upon Doubleday Field, only minutes away from dawn. A ground crew was there to do some work and get the field ready for some kind of amateur game that was on the docket for that afternoon. I asked if it would be OK to enter and just walk in and take a seat for the sunrise. Those guys had no problem with that request – and so I did just that on the home plate first base side – I found a seat in the empty stands – and I sat back in a state of gifted waiting – in full anticipation of what I was about to see as the darkness lifted. I had not counted on anything on this spiritual level in my first-and-only-time experience of Cooperstown. and here it was – unfolding for me suddenly, like Christmas in June.

As the sun rose on Doubleday Field that summer pre-dawn morning, I was the only one sitting in the stands to salute its arrival. The changing of the light, as it streaked and glowed in orange color variations in the eastern sky behind the outfield walls, was simply magnificent. And the higher the sun rose in the sky, the more the rustic civil beauty of bungalows nestled among the tall evergreens there shown forth in settled glory, as light rays trickled more strongly through the parting spaces between the leaves, almost inviting me to pay attention to the towering church steeple that completed this scene, and at the same iconic field ushered into perpetual service and celebration in 1939 with the help of people like Honus Wagner, Cy Young and the one and only George Herman “Babe” Ruth.

“Where is Norman Rockwell when you really need his company?” Or so I thought.

Cooperstown, as far as small towns with much to offer, you will always be Number One with people like me. And I am only one of the millions you could not handle, should we all decide to move in with you at the same time because of what was long ago built into your already most beautiful depiction of the early American Dream by the game of baseball.

Better we all visit, one by one, and get down to Doubleday Field before the sun rises, individually or in small company, in the hope that some other kind soul will be there to help us begin our visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame with this kind of sublime half hour of sunrise meditation.

____________________

Here’s the AARP “America’s Best Small Towns” description of Cooperstown and the link to their piece on all ten towns with populations under 30,000 that they recommend:

America’s Best Small Towns: No. 8, Cooperstown, New York

“Founded in 1786, this town is filled with stately homes and civic structures — but most know it best as the location of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. But this isn’t just a destination for sports lovers: Cultural attractions include the Cooperstown Chamber Music Festival, the annual Glimmerglass Opera season and the Fenimore Art Museum. Outdoorsy types, meanwhile, can enjoy golfing at Leatherstocking Golf Course, boating on Otsego Lake and hiking in Glimmerglass State Park. Beer lovers shouldn’t pass up a chance to tour the esteemed Brewery Ommegang, which produces Belgian-style brews and hosts a Belgian food-and-drink festival on its grounds every August. For dining, highlights include the global-inspired menu at the Alex & Ika Restaurant and the waterfront views at Lake Front Restaurant and Bar.”

~ excerpt from America’s Best Small Towns by Michael Alan Connelly, Abbey Chase, Fodor’s Travel

Full Story Link:

http://travel.aarp.org/articles-tips/articles/info-07-2014/best-small-towns-america-photo.html?cmp=NLC-WBLTR-DSO-NMCTRL-050815-TS1-TRAVEL-593658&encparam=Wueocu2B5p71a0XxeCsVXV8HRwoCIA4EVR0NIn9wSQo=#slide1

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    Double Day Field     Cooperstown, New York     By Deborah Geurtze

Double Day Field
Cooperstown, New York
By Deborah Geurtze

We were out of town all day today, Saturday, May 9th, so I just came in to find this wonderful “Rockwellian” landscape of Doubleday Field by artist Deborah Geurtze, with a crucible note from baseball friend and fellow SABR member Bill Hickman. Art and narrative both are deserving as this late inclusion into the Doubleday Field-focused column. Thanks, Bill Hickman for all you do the good in the name of baseball!

“Your mentioning Norman Rockwell in your column today prompted me to send you the attached.  The artist wasn’t Rockwell, of course, but instead was Deborah Geurtze.   This print sits above my computer, along with another one of hers which shows the front entrance to Doubleday Field.  Perhaps this will give you another good memory of your day at the field with the church steeple in the background.  Deborah Geurtze was located in Cooperstown at the time I purchased her prints, although I acquired them at craft shows elsewhere.

“The photo is askew because I was trying to avoid the reflection of lights in the room off the glass covering the print.
“Much enjoyed your description of Cooperstown.  It’s a terrific place, and I’d love to return there again.  Been there twice.  I salute you for getting up and seeing the sunrise at the field.  What a terrific experience to enjoy!”
~ Bill Hickman, May 9, 2015
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