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Saturday, September 8, 2012

COOPERSTOWN

I took a drive up to Cooperstown, NY recently. The obvious reason is to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame. It was opened in 1939 and has been a mecca for baseball fans ever since. The less obvious reason was to visit the village itself. Yes, it's funny that Coopers”town” is really a village. Before the notoriety of baseball, it was popular as a summer resort with many elegant, opulent and just plain cool Victorian homes. NOW I'm all in! I have the pictures to prove it!

The Village itself is very small, only about one and a half square miles. Literally, I walked almost the entire area in a few hours. But what a walk! Proud, ornate houses are seemingly everywhere and I tried to see them all. I couldn't even pick a favorite. The nice part is that many are converted into B&B's and continue to be lovingly cared for. It was worth the trip just for the gawking.

I wanted to get to the Baseball Hall of Fame early as it closes at five and I wasn't sure how long it would take to see everything. When I visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I remember leaving in a short time thinking “Why did we drive here???”

Anyway, this Hall was different. Maybe it's the history, maybe it's all the personalities, maybe baseball is just set up better to have a place for the immortals to rest, but it was very cool. If you are a history lover, there is plenty to see. If you like the modern version of the game, there is plenty to see and learn. I spent three hours walking around and seeing all the things I only heard about. Babe Ruth, Roberto Clemente, all the greats, live here forever.

But.... It did remind me of why I was annoyed at the process of selection.

John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil. aka “Nancy”

You say you never heard of him? If you watched the Ken Burns documentary from 1994 simply called "Baseball", Buck was the contributor who stole the show. I laughed out loud when he told the following story.

Why did Satchel Paige call you "Nancy"?

Well, he called me Nancy because of something that happened once. We were up on an Indian reservation in North Dakota and Satchel met an Indian maiden there her name was Nancy. So Satchel invited Nancy to come to Chicago to see him. He didn't know that Lahoma, who was going to be his wife, was coming to Chicago. So Nancy got there and she was up in Satchel's room, naturally. And we were down in the restaurant and here comes Lahoma up in a cab. So I go up to Satchel's room, and I say, "Lahoma's downstairs." He says, "Okay. Do something with Nancy." I was in a room right next Satchel, so I got a room right next to me for Nancy. So, after Satchel got Lahoma bedded down that night, he wanted to say something to Nancy. So he got up and was knocking on the door of Nancy's room. He was knocking and saying, "Nancy, Nancy, Nancy." Now, Lahoma woke up and came to her door. And I heard Lahoma, so I rushed out of the door and said, "Here I am, Satchel." And he said, "Oh, Nancy, there you are. I've been looking for you." So ever since then I've been Nancy.

Too funny...

He remembered his days with the Negro League and told story after story that amazed, amused, and sometimes made you embarrassed to be an American. How we could treat each other like that is beyond me. Stupid knows no bounds.

Anyway.....

Buck wasn't the greatest player ever. He wasn't the best manager ever. He IS in the Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame (yes, they have one!) and was integral in establishing a Negro Leagues Baseball Hall of Fame in his adopted hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. He received many awards AFTER he passed away (at almost 95 years young!). Why do we have to wait until someone is gone to realize how great they were?

Cooperstown finally got it and created an award that bears his name. From the Hall of fame's website:

The Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award is presented by the Hall of Fame's Board of Directors not more than once every three years to honor an individual whose extraordinary efforts enhanced baseball's positive impact on society, broadened the game's appeal, and whose character, integrity and dignity are comparable to the qualities exhibited by O'Neil. The Award, named after the late Buck O'Neil, was first given in 2008, with O'Neil being the first recipient.

"The Board of Directors of the National Baseball Hall of and Museum is thrilled to honor Buck O'Neil as the first recipient of this award, named after him," said Jane Forbes Clark, chairman of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. "Buck touched every facet of baseball, and his impact was among the greatest the game has ever known. The Board recognizes this impact Buck had on millions of people, as he used baseball to teach lessons of life, love and respect. His contributions to the game go well beyond the playing field. This award will recognize future recipients who display the spirit Buck showed every day of his life."

Is it too little too late? What did Buck say about his not being in the Hall? From the Kansas City Star 2/28/06:

"God's been good to me. They didn't think Buck was good enough to be in the Hall of Fame. That's the way they thought about it and that's the way it is, so we're going to live with that. Now, if I'm a Hall of Famer for you, that's all right with me. Just keep loving old Buck. Don't weep for Buck. No, man, be happy, be thankful".

One of the guys I wish I could have met, the kind of man that makes you proud to be a human being....

It's interesting to note the reason Cooperstown was there to begin with - Ostego Lake, a 9 mile long body of water the glaciers left behind. It is what James Fenimore Cooper, hometown boy and famous author, called Glimmerglass. The surface at times is like a mirror, and coincidentally, is the source of the river that so dominates my hometown area – the Susquehanna.

The one boat ride available was the Glimmerglass Queen. It was peaceful and relaxing watching the scenery pass by. I'm sure there was more to know but the operators weren't sharing much. Oh well, I only was there to see the lake.

From the official Cooperstown website: Today Cooperstown is a "village of museums," including the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which opened in 1939 with the induction of Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Ty Cobb, and other baseball legends. The Farmers’ Museum, one of the country’s oldest outdoor living history museums, showcases rural life in 1845 in its village of historic trade and craft shops. The Fenimore House Museum is home to one of the country’s premier folk art collections. Other cultural attractions include the Glimmerglass Opera, New York State Historical Association, National Art Association Show, Gallery 53 Multi-Arts Center, Cooperstown Brush and Palette Club, and several small art galleries.

I didn't visit the museums. I found out I'm not the “museum type”. I seem to be the “small-town type” though. I like the quaint, quiet, and laid back feeling of Cooperstown. The old houses, love of the history, and the whole atmosphere surrounding this area is infectious to me. It made me wonder why movies romanticize big cities like New York when there are treasures (and a bit different lifestyle) here in central New York state.

I'll be back.

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