A Baseball Road Trip

Thirty Major League Baseball Stadiums. Sixty Stadium Dogs. One Season.


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Touch ’em All Chapter 3 Opening Day excerpt

Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees in St. Petersburg, Florida  GAME 1

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“Our plan, now that we’re here in our first ballpark, is to take a walking tour of the stadium, select our first course of stadium food, then sit, and eat, and watch batting practice.  It’s what one does.  But before we get started with any of that, there is a line of people heading up some short stairs to our right, and in our excitement we join them.  It’s not that we’re mindless, exactly, but it is a line, and might therefore lead to something, like Tropicana’s Trademark Food, maybe, which would be a first rate reason for a line.  So we approach the stairs and head up, walking past the guy who now suddenly looks like a theatre usher, one who is now hooking his velvety usher rope across in front of the line of people feeding in from the side.

“I think we just broke in front of those guys,” Vicki says.

“Great,” I say.  “We’re going to get the shit kicked out of us before our first game.”

“Just be glad we’re not in Los Angeles,” she says.  “And don’t look back.”

At the top of the stairs, a friendly young lady in a blue Tropicana outfit is telling everyone gathered around her that if we put our hands down in the water and wait, they will come to us.  And that we should not try to hold on to them, and that we should at all times refrain from sudden movements.  And food packets are available, if we would like to feed them.

And just to our left, situated as it is just beyond right center, on the second level—a baseball field spilling out now below and beyond it—is the Touch Tank, the ten thousand gallon home of the Rays’ former namesakes.  We join the others in our group—they limit the numbers, hence the usher, and his usher’s rope—and are then reaching over the side and into the cool water and touching the cownose rays as they swim by.  And swim by they will, once they realize you haven’t laid out the five dollars for a package of Ray Food.  They’re smaller than devil rays, fit better in a 10,000 gallon above ground swimming pool, and are soft, and feel like rubber, and on the baseball field below us the New York Yankees are taking batting practice, and we look at each other, our hands still in cool ray water, while we wait for the next one to come by.”

 

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Touch ’em All Chapter 2 The Schedule excerpt

Touch ‘em All Chapter 2 The Schedule excerpt:

“You should know, up front, and would have figured it out on your own soon enough, that we are not intending to do this in thirty days, as is the fashion, and I’m right away feeling a need to apologize for this.  There are those who have done that, and doing it that way does seem to draw a lot of attention to the whole thing, which I get, and the adventurer in me—and he is in there—perks up at the idea, feels challenged by it even.  But afterwards the perking subsides, and later goes away entirely and neither of us has any real interest in going about it that way.  Things would be missed.  Mountains and corn fields and entire innings, maybe.”

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“So with a somewhat fuzzy Miami to Boston looping route in mind, I sit down late one night to look at a possible schedule.  Glossing over a few details for the moment, we are to route ourselves from the newest ballpark to the oldest, and will span one hundred years of baseball theaters in doing it.  And will end in Boston on the 4th of July.  The poetry of all this is stunning, and Vicki loves the schedule, because she loves the Red Sox, who spring train near her home town.”02 Chapter 2 The Schedule Photo baseball-stadiums-map


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Touch ’em All Chapter One: Our Game excerpt

Chapter One: Our Game excerpt

 

“And because I was ten years old, I was on a baseball team.  I was on this team in my home town of Orange, which is also in Texas though just barely, waiting as it is on the next named storm to send it sliding off the banks of the Sabine into Louisiana.  Which had not yet happened in 1965, which meant I was on a team, where someone had the idea to take a large white van full of Cubs, with several large parents along to see to it we didn’t hurl one another out any of the white van’s windows, across one hundred miles of southeast Texas rice fields and refineries to Houston, to see a Major League baseball game in this very new baseball stadium of a place they had decided to name the Astrodome and which was bright and shiny silver and sparkled brilliantly in the sun, and we shouted when we first saw it, and cool air rushed at you from its darkened interior, where an impossibly large and impossibly indoor baseball field waited, and our little kid hearts beat fast that day.  We were kids.  We didn’t know any better.”01 Chapter One Photo Astrodome adome-620x399


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Opening Day -Touch ’em All: A Baseball Journey

 

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Cover Photo: Lewis Hines 1909  Cover Design: Vicki Snyder Clark 2016

 It’s spring and the wait is finally over!  Touch ‘Em All: A Baseball Journey, based upon the epic road trip described in the 2013 entries of this blog, has been released as a Kindle Edition eBook. And you can buy a copy of your very own by following the link below.

Touch ‘Em All is the story (mostly accurate) of our epic baseball road trip encompassing 30 stadiums, 60 hotdogs and 80 days. Take the trip across America (and a tiny bit of Canada) with us and share the adventure. Oh, what a grand adventure it was!

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Photo: Don Fields

We suffered no rainouts or other misfortunes, but the real miracle is that we are on speaking terms today (it was a long trip and a little car).

Thus, I have commandeered email, social media and author blogs, as the Don is practically oblivious to social media and will do nothing to tout the tale that some of us have been eagerly awaiting, and any baseball fan will enjoy (pass the word, folks).

So, buy the book, read the book and follow along for photos and other interesting bits that will enhance your touching ’em all experience.

May your own team have a wonderful 2016 season,

Vicki, Navigator & Traveling Companion Extraordinaire

(Go Rays!)

Touch ’em All: A Baseball Journey, Kindle Edition 2016

 Author Central – Amazon – Don Fields

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Contact us:  Touch ‘em All – Don Fields:  fieldsdonaldk@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Final Stories, Road Trip Stats, and a Conclusion or Two

“All baseball fans can be divided into two groups: those who come to batting practice, and the others.  Only those in the first category have much chance of amounting to anything.”  ~ Thomas Boswell

While still in New York City, the first time, we were exploring Time Square one night, a little after midnight.  The City was not sleeping.  There were people everywhere.  Sidewalks were crowded with them, as they gaped up at the constantly changing lights and high-definition screens hung from the sides of so many buildings, and they lined up at the food carts, and they took photographs of themselves, and of all things New York.

As Vicki and I are doing our own gaping, Batman walks up to us.

“You folks are safe tonight.  Gotham City’s crime fighter is here, for you.”

“Glad to hear that.”

“How about a picture with Gotham City’s crime fighter?”

“Guess not.”

“I’m thinking your lady there might like a picture of you and the Caped Crusader.  Or maybe she’d like one herself?  My cape looks good, they tell me.  Ladies like Batman’s cape.”  And he twirls it a little.

He looks at Vicki, but she continues to walk, a little faster.

“Next time,” I tell him.  “We’ll do it next time.”  And I try to catch up.  She’s really fast.

“It’s like your pins, brother,” he calls out.

“Yeah?”  I’m walking backwards now, looking back at Batman.  “How’s that?”

“It’s your Public I.D..  It’s all about your Public I.D..”

I laugh.  “I don’t EVEN know what that means.”

Batman stops, and looks at me.

“Let me walk with you a bit,” he says finally.  And he runs to catch up.

“People WANT to be seen with a superhero,” Batman tells me.  Batman is tall.  “They want that picture.  They need it.  And I give it to them.  I let them have that picture.  That moment.  And while we’re together, I’m on a platform.  The people put me there.  I am Batman.  And the people want to hear what Batman has to say.  They want to know what Batman is thinking.  What I’m thinking.”

We’re walking together now, Batman and I.  Vicki is up ahead, looking over her shoulder.

“So what sorts of things does Batman talk about, when he’s on his platform?”

Batman shrugs.  “It changes.  Whatever’s on my mind.  Or maybe it’s whatever’s on their mind.  I can do that, too.  And they listen.  They always listen.”

“And you like that.”

“I love that, brother.  And I bet you do, too.  When people ask you about those pins.  It’s your Public I.D..

I try not to, but I grin a little.

“Yeah.  Yeah.”  And he points at me.  “You know.  You know.  You know what ol’ Batman is talking about.  I knew you did.”

Batman and I bro-hug, and he spins around and runs back to a crowd of people behind us.  His cape does look good when he spins like that.  And in just a moment, the Dark Knight is posing, and holding court.

And I think I understand.  We’ve seen them all now, all the ballparks.  And our Baseball Road Trip has reached its natural conclusion.  And with that, I’ve lost my right, it seems, to hold court, and expect you to follow along.  I could tell you about Acadia National Park, in Maine, and how many times we ate lobster there, and about Mark Twain’s home in Hartford, Connecticut, and Thoreau’s Walden Pond near Concord, which is now nothing but a public swimming hole, though the Thoreau statue is neat, and about Brody, the likable cook and owner of Brody’s Diner in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, who told us he keeps that autographed photograph of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, posed together, high up on the wall there, so it won’t walk out the door.  But all that, and our accidentally coming across Franki Valli performing at the site of the Woodstock festival (which, by the way, was moved to a farm 67 miles from Woodstock before the festival–but it was too late to change all the promotional stuff), has nothing to do with baseball road trips.  And so I have to stop.

But I think I will mention to you that we drove around a full hour, the day we left New York City the first time, trying to find a parking place, just long enough to take our Rawlings gloves and our Official Little League Ball, and play catch, for just five minutes, in Central Park.  And that we were never able to.

“Let’s just double park.”

“Other people do.”

“So let’s just put on the flashers, run across the street, and make two throws.”

“We have to.”

“Let’s do it.”

But we didn’t do it.  It was just talk.  The city was just too big that day.

And did I tell you that Chris, the Mets fan who, sadly for us, we didn’t see again after the rain delay that night, had earlier told me that the location of the baseball diamond in his old Shea Stadium, was commemorated out in the Citi Field parking lot, just across from the Tom Seaver Gate?  We went there of course, after the game.

There are several guys walking up to the commemorative bases, and pitcher’s mound, as we arrive.

“This is so cool!” one of them says.  He crouches behind the plate, as his buddy jogs out to the mound.

“Wow,” his buddy calls out.  “This is a long way.”

“I know, right?” his friend hollers back.

I tell them about our visit to the Cincinnati Reds’ Hall of Fame and Museum, and about the pitching cage, and the radar gun.  And about the electronic umpire who wasn’t giving me any corner calls.

“So how fast?  What’d you have?”

“I’m not telling you.”

He laughs.  “Was it 55?”

“Damn.”

Looking at Brody’s Ruth and Gehrig’s photo, and the one he has of Ted Williams, in his military uniform, lighting a cigar for a grinning Babe Ruth, has reminded me of the black and white photograph we saw on the wall of the Dennys in Fort Bragg, California, that night many, many late nights ago, of the Fort Bragg Loggers, and how happy we were that we were able to find that same photograph on the internet.  And that all seems so long ago now, I’m thinking, that it must have been on a different baseball road trip.

But it’s just been the one trip.  And since it has been a baseball trip, we kept track of stuff, our Baseball Road Trip Statistics:

—-Days, and nights, on the Road–80

—-Miles Driven–17, 136

—-Gallons of Gas–745

—-Souvenir T-shirts acquired–28

—-Team hats given to us–8

—-Promotional Bobbleheads given to us–8

—-Tote bags–1 (Mother’s Day, Arizona)

—-Nights that Price-Line put us in Extended Stay Motels–22

—-Number of times we heard a lazy fly ball called a ‘can of corn’–6

—-Souvenir cups–30

—-Souvenir hat pins–62

—-Number of times we crossed the Mississippi River–6

—-Hot dogs consumed, including those calling themselves breakfast–49   (Someone stopped eating her share.  I’m not naming names.)

—-Number of times the home team won–17 out of 30

—-Number of fans who watched 30 baseball games with us–951,876

We’ve learned things on this trip.  And feel the need to share.  So, for anyone out there who would like to take on their own baseball road trip, here are my two pieces of advice.  I recommend leaving some off days scattered around.  Otherwise, the dirty laundry starts to stack up.  And do not attempt this alone.  One needs a steadfast partner for this trip–one who will walk the concourses with you, and eat fruit pies and hot dogs for breakfast.  Choose wisely.  This is important.

On our way back from our side trip to Maine, after Cooperstown, we stop for one last train trip into The City, as it is referred to by upstate New Yorkers.  We have some unfinished business.  So we spend the night in Fishkill, NY (named after the Dutch word for stream, not the toxic waste event), take the morning train from Beacon to Grand Central Station, then, after walking the fifteen blocks to the August Wilson Theater for tickets to tonight’s performance of Jersey Boys, walk another eight blocks to Central Park.  New York City is under a heat advisory, and we are feeling every bit of it.  We stop at Central Park South for a couple of food cart dogs and some Gatorade, then head into the Park, find a grassy spot in the shade, and eat lunch.  There is a couple across from us, sunbathing.  A man to our right is practicing acrobatics.  A young girl watches him, then does cartwheels, looking to him for his approval.  Which he gives her.  After we cool off awhile, I open up our day pack, dig past the change of clothes for the play later, and pull out our Rawlings gloves and our Official Little League ball, and we walk out into the sun.  And as we launch the ball toward each other, in Central Park, in New York City, and wait for it to return to us, as it always does, so we get to feel and hear the ball thwack in our glove, we remember the rest areas, and the grassy spaces at motels, and the back yard in Orange, where we’ve been warming up for this.

So why did we go?  I’m still not sure I know the answer to that.  The bacon-wrapped hot dogs, maybe.  The new parks that look like old parks, and the old parks that still look like black and white baseball might be played there, snow globe baseball.  Where we can imagine that the players just walked into the stadium from a vacant lot across the street.  And that they would play for free, and will never leave us for another team.

And so now the Baseball Road Trip that we thought would never end, somehow has.

Thanks for coming with us.  And to the ‘what now’ question we’ve heard several times recently, I do have an answer.  There are, by my rough count, 240 minor league baseball teams.  Batters won’t pose at home plate down there and admire their work, when they go yard, and the traffic shouldn’t be as bad.

My son Joshua, who has been my enthusiastic companion on our many trips to Houston’s Astrodome, and later, Minute Maid Park, told me something awhile back about baseball games that took me awhile to grasp.  Maybe it took me until now.  I was asking him why he didn’t bother to learn why a team might sacrifice bunt in the 8th inning of a tie game, or why a runner getting to third with one out was so much better than his getting there with two outs.  That’s not why he goes, he told me.  He likes going to the games, he said, not so much so he can watch and understand lead-off doubles and late inning sacrifice bunts, but so he can cheer with and high five and have conversations with total strangers, while we all watch those things together.  He has 20,000 friends, he told me, on the days he and I go to a ball game.  So maybe it’s that.


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The Blog That Ate the Baseball Road Trip. Nearly.

“The designated hitter rule is like letting someone else take Wilt Chamberlain’s free throws.”  ~Rick Wise, MLB starting pitcher

Somewhere very early on this journey, my nephew Travis suggested that I blog about our baseball road trip.  Though I knew nothing about blogging, it seemed like a simple enough task.  The story would tell itself.  How long could it take, anyway.

I’ve learned a lot in three months.

–The number of books I finished reading during our 12 weeks on the road—None.

–The number of the fourteen movies we brought with us, and hauled into motel rooms almost every night, that we actually watched—None.

–The number of times I wandered outside the motel room, in search of a coke machine, at an hour when no one else other than my swing shift working friends back home were wandering anywhere, then watched through the curtain as the sky grew light outside while I was still re-arranging words, downloading pictures, and discovering new and wonderful baseball quotes—Sixteen.

–The number of times we turned on the motel room television—Two.

–The number of times my steadfast road trip partner tried to stay up and keep me company—All of them.

–The number of bags of chips I ate, while rearranging words, and watching the sky grow light outside—That’s not important.

–The number of times I wanted to call my nephew, when I was sure he’d be asleep, and let him know how the blog was going—Thirty-seven.


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On the Road to Cooperstown

“Wake up the echoes at the Hall of Fame and you will find that baseball’s immortals were a rowdy and raucous group of men who would climb down off their plaques and go rampaging through Cooperstown, taking spoils….Deplore it if you will, but Grover Cleveland Alexander drunk was a better pitcher than Grover Cleveland Alexander sober.”  ~Bill Veeck

I think we knew a number of games ago that we would end up in Cooperstown.  Not the way Willie Mays ended up there, but in our own quiet, unassuming, trying to connect the dots kind of way.  We have seen a couple of smaller collections of baseball history on our road trip–the Negro Leagues’ Baseball Museum in Kansas City, the Cincinnati Reds Museum–but coming to THE Baseball Hall of Fame seems too fitting a conclusion for our homage to baseball to end any other way.  And I think we need the transition, to help bring us in from the road.

The area of the Mustang formerly known as the back seat is full of souvenir cups, new t-shirts, a few books, old and newly acquired, and other miscellaneous baseball memorabilia.  There is a laptop, a netbook, a couple of bags of books, several canvas bags of food items, a long ago forgotten ice chest, a slightly used Walmart printer, and two baseball gloves and an Official Little League baseball.

“This is bad.”

“How bad?”

“There is no more room back here,” Vicki says.  “We can do no more acquiring.”

“It can’t be that bad,” I say, without looking.

“You clearly have a lack of appreciation for the disarray.”

The final leg of the trip has been intense, with not enough days off between games, between expressways and all the bumper to bumper stuff, and toll booths, or between moments of yelling at our GPS thingies.  So we cross back into the U.S. at Buffalo, and look for the first scenic route to Cooperstown we can find.  We find Hwy 20, and head east.

Upstate New York is as attractive as Vicki promised it would be.  The road winds and dips through lush, rolling farm land, with fields of young corn crops thick enough for young, 8-10 yr old ball players to emerge from, ready to play catch.  There are old farm houses painted in historic colors, villages with old churches and high steeples, and ponds and finger lakes to drive along the banks of.

Just outside Seneca Falls, in the small town of Waterloo, NY, we pass Mac’s Drive In, an old fashioned curb service and walk up soda fountain and cafe.  After mulling for a half mile, we circle back.  We need dairy.

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We walk under the canopy, and up to the counter.  It feels like we’re still outside.  There is a sign advertising their Richardson’s Homemade Root Beer.

“Hey guys, what can I get for you?”

We order a root beer float, and a malt.

“Great.  What flavor malt?”

“What do you have?”

“We have most all of them.  Tell me what you’re wanting.”

“Mint chocolate chip.”

“We don’t have that.”

“Vanilla, then.”

“Awesome.”

We sit in the white resin chairs around one of the cafe tables under the awning.  The root beer keg sits on the end of the counter, where our fountain guy fills up Vicki’s glass.  There are signs and pictures advertising the classic car shows at Mac’s.

In just a minute, he walks out from behind the counter and brings us our drinks.

“You guys want some food with this?”

“This as food today.”

“Gotcha.”

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Our dairy needs met, we continue down 20, then along the banks of Cayuga Lake, one of a number of finger lakes in this part of New York.  There are wild lilies, the tall stemmed, orange colored seasonal flower native to this area in most yards, and along the road.  Upstate New York looks nice in the summer.

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Not too far to our north are the Adirondack Mountains.  Vicki tells me she has never been there.

“How is that possible?”

“Not sure.”

So a short time later, we turn toward the Adirondacks, driving north through Utica, and up Hwy 28.  It is cooler in the Adirondacks, but not dramatically so.  They are low, rolling, green forested mountains, with small lakes and streams appearing regularly.  There are canoes and kayaks on car roofs, and at the outfitters’ shops along the two-lane highway.  We decide it would be nice to stay the night up here tonight, at some place quaint, and head to Cooperstown in the morning.  Some place overlooking a lake, we add.

Most of the roads turning off toward the many small lakes have ‘private’ and ‘no vacancy’ signs hanging at the turnoffs. The small towns we pass through are swarming with visitors, walking up and down the streets, in and out of gift shops and galleries.  Motels have their ‘no vacancy’ signs turned on.  We turn down one side road to a lodge that looks promising, but find that you have to book by the week there.  And they have no vacancies anyway, they throw in. Unnecessarily.

We head back to the main road.  It’s getting late.  Ok, maybe a motel in the city.

We pass into and out of Old Forge, and Eagle Bay, and Inlet, with no sign of any vacancies.  Just east of Inlet, we pass by a sign for Lakeside Lodge, and a narrow dirt road heading off into the trees.  We turn around, drive back to the sign, and head into the woods on the winding, tree canopied road, coming to a clearing where there stands an old, white framed home overlooking a lake just down the hill.  We ring the bell at the back porch, near the wooden “office” sign, where we are greeted by the manager, and taken down the hill to the lake side cottage that, yes, is available tonight.  It is old, built in 1937, we are told.  There is a dock at the bottom of the hill, with Adirondack chairs, and a picnic table.  There are canoes on a rack just behind the cottage.  Inside, it looks like the fish camp of my boyhood dreams and remembrances.  Most lights operate by a pull chain, and there is a cozy, wood-sided sunroom with a window that lifts up and hooks like a screen door to the ceiling.  You can hear the lake lapping at the bank, ten feet away.

We are home, on the shores of 7th Lake, and Cooperstown would have to wait a day.

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We haul the essentials down the hill into our cottage, then sit out on the dock.   And do nothing.  For a few minutes.  The lake is long, to our left and right, and a few hundred yards across, the forested hills rising above the opposite bank.  The water is calm now, in the late afternoon.  A couple, with their two sons running ahead, comes down the hill from the main house.  Don is the grandson of the owner, we find out.  His Aunt Marcia, who checked us in, has told him we might be interested in canoeing, and he offers to help me walk the canoe down to the water.  And this is how our stay here unfolds–with a warmth and hospitality that seems to take us in as if we were long lost cousins.  First cousins.

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Lakeside Lodge is the home of Ruth Wright, who is lovingly assisted by her children and her grandchildren in its daily operations.  Don takes his sons, Drake and Duke, out canoeing along with Vicki and I, then heads back to do yard work while we paddle a little farther.  We come across a loon, who poses for us.  Back at the dock, we meet Marty, a two-week guest at Lakeside, who kayaks every morning, and recommends we hike Black Bear Mountain, there, across the lake.  They all come to learn about our baseball trip.  Don’s wife Kristen talks to Vicki about packing for a three-month road trip.  In a Mustang.  Ruth’s friend Rich talks about being a ticket seller for the Baltimore Orioles for 25 years, and tells us his son played Pony Ball with Cal Ripken.  We are advised to make the short drive back into Inlet, to the Old Barn, for dinner.  There are ball caps nailed to the ceiling at the Old Barn, and an overhead electric train that runs the length of the restaurant, and a small meadow just outside where fathers go for short walks with their children.  We read on the back of the menu that, at various times in the history of the Old Barn, there has been live music here–by Fats Domino, and Chubby Checker, and Count Basie, and The Guess Who.  And The Turtles.  Don and Kristen and the boys walk in, ask us how we’re liking dinner, and find a booth.

Later that evening, we read in small sunroom, with the window latched up so we can hear the water just outside, and decide we need to hike Black Bear Mountain.

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Next morning, we speak with Marcia about extending our stay, and about mailing off some bills.  She points to the mailbox sitting on the edge of the dock.

“He comes by around 11:30.  He’ll hit the other side of the lake first, then come up from the back side of the island there.”

The boat does come by, very near 11:30, the mailman’s large black dog’s front paws perched up on the gunnel, his tail wagging.

“Pretty hot today,” the mailman tells me, then he and his partner motor away to the next dock.

I turn to Vicki, sitting on the dock, in her Adirondack chair.

“I want to be a mailman.  Here.”

“There’s probably a line.”

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Rich tells us to wave at him from the top of Black Bear Mountain, and we promise we will.

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That night, Don and Kristen invite us to join them for smores at the fire ring near the main house.  Drake cooks a perfect marshmallow for his Dad.  I burn mine.  The fire dances and crackles while the boys laugh about everything.  They ask us about our trip, and we end up talking about Yellowstone, and snowmobiling, and seeing a wolf.

“Wow!”  Drake is excited about the wolf.  “Tell us another story.”

I tell him about the bobcat.

“Wow!”  He wants to know all about bobcats.  He asks his Dad about it.  He wants to know what kind of bomb the cat has.

“It’s a bobcat,” his Dad tells him.  “Because of his short tail.”

“Ohhhh.”

The next morning feels like the end of a family reunion.  Everyone gathers around our car as we pack.  Kristen gives us a card with their email addresses.  They wish us well on our journey to Cooperstown, and the rest of our way home.  Ruth wants a copy of the book, she tells me.

“An autographed copy,” Rich says.   “It’ll be worth a lot of money!”

I tell him I’ll bring one to him personally.

“All right,” he nods.  “I like that.”

And we drive away from the house, out the dirt road that winds through the trees, and we’re back on Hwy 28, for the two hour drive into Cooperstown.

The village of Cooperstown seems to be fully on board with the vintage baseball look.  Downtown, with the Hall of Fame as its center point, is itself historic in appearance.  Brick multi-storied store fronts butt up against one another, offering up dugout loads of baseball memorabilia, in  shops with Mickey Mantle and Shoeless Joe as part of their names.  Inside the museum, we find baseball’s Smithsonian.  One can spend an entire day, roaming through the three floors of history, record-setting equipment, and memories.

Some things we learn, and see, in the Baseball Hall of Fame:

—Cooperstown makes the confession, right away, that Abner Doubleday had nothing to do with the creation of baseball. In a 1905 attempt by Albert Goodwill Spalding (yes, that Spalding–noted pitcher in the 1870’s, and eventual baseball promoter and entrepreneur)  to prove once and for all baseball’s purely American heritage, the myth was launched, and somehow substantiated, that Civil War hero Doubleday had ‘invented’ baseball in 1839, in Cooperstown, complete with his drawings depicting diamond dimensions, and rules, and the price of a souvenir cup and footlong combo.  None of this is true, of course.  Abner Doubleday did not invent baseball, the Hall of Fame admits, “baseball invented Abner Doubleday.”

—The glove worn by Ty Cobb in the 1906 season.

—Ted Williams’ 500th home run ball, and bat.

—We learn that in the inaugural Hall of Fame class of 1936–Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner, and Walter ‘Big Train’ Johnson–it was Ty Cobb who received the most votes.

—Steve  Carlton’s 4000th strike-out ball.

—The seven ball caps worn by Nolan Ryan, when he threw each of his record seven no-hitters.

—The ball from Don Larsen’s 1956 World Series perfect game.

—And my favorite, and it surprised me, how much it meant to me to see this one—the glove used by Willie Mays to make his famous over the shoulder catch in dead center.   That catch.  The one you’ve seen replayed countless times, made on September 29, 1954, in game one of the World Series.  It’s small, it’s wrinkled, and it looks a lot like the giant one they have in the centerfield concourse in San Francisco, come to think of it.  It looks nothing like the baskets they use today.  And Willie Mays, the Willie Mays, wore it, this glove in front of me.   And for just a moment, I can feel my hand in it, and I can feel the ball settling in the pocket as I then turn and tumble to the ground throwing it back to the infield.

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We wander through the exhibits until the museum’s 9:00 closing time.  I would mention the stuff in Houston’s display, the displays they have for every team, but you might not be as excited by it as I am.  Except maybe for the jersey worn by Chris Burke when he hit the walk off home run on Oct 9th, 2005, in Houston’s decisive game 4 victory over the Atlanta Braves.  In the 18th inning.  Ten innings after Lance Berkman’s 8th inning grand slam!  It is the longest post season game in major league baseball history.  I’m getting goose bumps right now, just telling you about it.

It’s dark when we step outside, and begin walking to our car.  We still need to find a place to stay.  And we have two new t-shirts to make room for.

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