Today has been a good day. As you know, today is the day we hit the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Although we had to clean fresh snow off of the van amid yet another snowstorm, we made our way from our lakeside lodge back to downtown Cooperstown and found a remarkable little local diner where we started our day with pancakes, eggs, and omelets. It was one of those little “hole in the wall” places that beat chain restaurants and reflects the small-town character of the Cooperstown area. I think the small-town, country aspect of this area is what stood 0ut the most. It definitely reminded us of the hundreds of midwestern and southern towns we grew up around.
At 2 minutes to opening, we pulled up to the Hall of Fame and made our way inside behind a troop of Boy Scouts and a father and his son who was wearing a Cubs hat. First off, a tip of the hat to the Hall of Fame and their support of the military. Active and retired military get in for free and non-retired veterans get in for half price. When you first walk in and are waiting to get your tickets, you are greeted by statues of Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson, and Roberto Clemente and a quote underscoring character. Based on the ticket seller’s recommendation, we started on the second floor with the team lockers, where each team has a locker of memorabilia related to the team. After perusing the lockers of our beloved Cards, Cubs and Twins, we proceeded to examine the rest of the 2nd floor, where a timeline of baseball highlighted the trio of Tinker to Evers to Chance and the Cubs’ four pennants and two World Series titles in 5 years between 1906-1910, followed by exhibits on the Cards and the gashouse gang, the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Yankees, and many of the famous players as it wound around to present day and a display of the world series rings and watches, and a video look at the 2015 series as the Hall is still in negotiations with the Cubs and the Indians for memorabilia, etc., from the 2016 series.
The third floor starts with a look at some of the famous ball parks, primarily focusing on Ebbets Field, Yankee Stadium, Shibe Park, Fenway and a few others. This then led to a Hank Aaron exhibit, and then to the records section. Finally, we made our way down to the first floor, where we saw the individual plaques and displays on the broadcasters that have made baseball America’s pasttime and an exhibit on baseball in the movies, featuring uniforms and props from A League of Their Own, Bull Durham, the Rookie, and many others. After making our way through the store we saw the snow had stopped and the day started to turn a little warmer, so we headed to a couple of stores on Main Street, were directed to an excellent little coffee shop just off the main drag, and sat down to plot out the remainder of the day.
After a quick stop by the lake and Council Rock, where native americans would meet, we drove out to Ommegang Brewery for lunch based on the Yelp reviews and descriptions of the food. There we dined on pork “wings”, fried brussel sprouts, chicken and waffles, steak and fries and a roasted beet salad. The brewery produces Belgian style beers and was architecturally designed to look similar to a traditional Belgian brewery set in a mountain-backed countryside. The location was beautiful, the food wonderful and, again, the company was great. Filled beyond our ability to comfortably move, we headed to the Holiday Inn Express for a brisk 30-minute (or so) nap, before contemplating food/entertainment for the evening.
An hour or so later, we searched Yelp for sports bars and headed out once more to find a place where we could eat if we got hungry and watch the Final Four. After an aborted attempt at a place with an amazing potato and cauliflower soup, jalapeno churros, and parmesan garlic fries, but no TV, we again turned to Yelp and found a sports bar back in downtown Cooperstown, where we played pool and watched Gonzaga narrowly defeat South Carolina, before heading back to the hotel for game 2 and bed.]
A few thoughts from today stand out. First, the Baseball Hall of Fame is definitely worth visiting, however it is much more focused on the history of the game rather than emphasizing individuals who transcended the game. For purists who appreciate the team aspect of the game, it is quite satisfying. For those of you wanting to know more about individual players (other than Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron) it leaves you wanting a little more. Second, Cooperstown and the entire south central New York area is much more like small town America than you’d think. Combine the small towns of the midwest with the mountains and lakes and it makes for a very beautiful area. Third, it doesn’t matter where you go, if you look hard enough, treat people well, and talk with people, you discover a lot of local gems you wouldn’t get from just hitting the main attractions. With this approach we discovered good food, good coffee, and good lodging. Four, bring a map, just in case. We have had areas of limited or no cell coverage, no GPS, and limited knowledge of the local area. While that can lead to adventure, sometimes you just want to figure out how to get back to town. Finally, very, very few of the experiences you put on your bucket list will be like you picture them in your imagination. The key thing is to let go of your expectations and preconcieved notions and enjoy each moment as it comes…even if it was unexpected.