Sunday, July 31, 2016

Joey's World Tour: Won't You Take Me To ... Cooperstown?

My sister, Bee, joined me as Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. entered the Hall of Fame.  (Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

Hi, everyone!  This is your fav'rit roving reporter, Joey Beartran.  And this edition of my baseball world tour took me to a place where there is no major league baseball team, but there's certainly no shortage of baseball.

With Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. being elected into the Hall of Fame this year, it seemed like a perfect time for me (a Mets fan) and my sister, Bee (a Mariners fan), to venture 200 miles northwest of Citi Field to Cooperstown.  The Hall is located on Main Street, in an area full of baseball themed stores.  And during Hall of Fame weekend, those stores hosted many former athletes, including several Mets players of days gone by.

My photographer took several photos of these former players, but he failed to inform me that two members of the 1969 World Champion Mets found it amusing that among the many websites covering Hall of Fame weekend, one of them sent a bear instead of a human.  Needless to say, they smiled a little too much for the camera.

It's almost as if Art Shamsky and Ed Kranepool had never seen a roving reporter that's also a bear.  (EL/SM)

In addition to members of the Mets' first championship squad, there were also players from their second title team, such as Mookie Wilson, Howard Johnson and Lenny Dykstra.  I heard Jesse Orosco was also signing autographs and posing for photos with fans, but I was eating a hot dog at the time and didn't want mustard to accidentally appear on the side of my mouth in the photo.  If Shamsky and Kranepool were laughing when my face was mustard-free, how would Messy Jesse have reacted at the sight of Messy Joey?

At least Mookie, Lenny and HoJo didn't make fun of me.  (EL/SM)

Soon after meeting the Mets, meeting the Mets (again), stepping right up and greeting the Mets (for a small fee), the Hall of Fame parade began.

Thousands of people lined up on Main Street to see their favorite former players go by in the back of a Ford pickup truck.  Because who doesn't want to see Tom Glavine being taken hostage hanging out in the back of a moving pickup truck?  Missing among the living Hall of Famers were three former Mets (Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Roberto Alomar), but hey, at least we got Glavine to make up for them.

No comment.  (EL/SM)

Other Hall of Famers who took part in the parade included Jim Bunning, Johnny Bench, Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Eddie Murray, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson, to name a few.  They were all smiles throughout the route.  (Even Eddie Murray!)  But of course, my photographer captured players like Mike Schmidt, George Brett and Dennis Eckersley at their surliest.  Because his sense of timing is awful.

Smile!  You're on Candid Studious Metsimus Camera!  (EL/SM)

The parade ended at the Hall of Fame building, which is the crown jewel of Cooperstown.  We entered the Hall three and a half hours before closing time.  By the time we got around to the gift shop, the employees were getting ready to kick us out.  (Not literally.  They were actually very polite.)  There was so much to see and do in the Hall, we could have easily spent more than three and a half hours there.

Exhibits included Women In Baseball, The African-American Baseball Experience and Viva Baseball (Latin-American baseball).  There were also wings devoted to baseball by the decades and baseball records, as well as a locker room featuring memorabilia from every team.  The area devoted to the 1970s was particularly interesting to me, even though that era was way before my time.  Two objects that stood out for me were the Andy Warhol painting of Tom Seaver (circa 1977 - not the happiest time to be Tom Seaver or a Mets fan) and the full costume of the San Diego Chicken, who entertained Padres fans at a time when the team wore brown and mustard colored uniforms and still didn't have a no-hitter.  (Well, at least they no longer wear those uniforms.)

The Chicken was lucky he didn't end up inside a Campbell's Soup can that was eventually painted by Warhol.  (EL/SM)

Once I left the '70s behind, I wish I hadn't.  You see, there was also a wing in the Hall of Fame devoted to the 2015 World Series, which I was not too keen on seeing.  (Yes, I took a photo there, but I'm not very happy about it.  If you absolutely must see it, just click here.  If the link doesn't take you to the photo, consider it a good thing.)

But enough about last year.  You want to see the Hall of Fame plaques, right?  Of course you do.  Well, you can always Google those.  There's an abundance of those photos on the interwebs.  At the time I went to see the plaques, the spots were still open for Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr.  But at least both players were well-represented in the gift shop.

By the time you read this, the plaques will be there.  Please buy a jersey while you wait.  (EL/SM)

Another place they were well-represented was in their special wings.  Both Piazza and Griffey had their own section in the Hall featuring memorabilia and photos taken at various points of their distinguished careers.

Bee and I enjoyed this section very much, although I was disappointed that Piazza's area had too much focus on the other teams he played for compared to Griffey.  Griffey was a member of the Cincinnati Reds longer than Piazza was a Met, but Mariners fans like Bee will be happy to know that his wing almost exclusively features him as a Seattle Mariner.   With Piazza, it was as if the Mets were just a stop on his baseball journey.  Take a look at the photos to see what I mean.

At least Bee got what our petty cash tin paid for in the Griffey wing.  (EL/SM)

Finally, on Sunday we attended the Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Clark Sports Center, which is about a one mile trudge from the Hall of Fame building.  We had left our blankets and lawn chairs there overnight just to reserve a spot.  By the time we got there Sunday morning, there were nearly 50,000 other people who had claimed spots around us.  That's more people than the capacity at Citi Field, even when they're selling standing room only tickets!

We were sitting too far away for my photographer to get any clear shots of the dozens of Hall of Famers sitting on the stage and the two new ones standing at the podium, but all you need to know about the ceremony can be summed up in this one photo taken off the big screen after both Piazza and Griffey had given their spectacular tear-filled speeches.

During the ceremony, Mets fans gave Piazza lots of TLC, while Griffey wore his hat 2 da back.  (EL/SM)

So that's all for this special edition of Joey's World Tour.  The next installment will come sooner than you expect, as we are planning on following the Mets to Detroit's Comerica Park next weekend.  I wonder what food options they have there...

Oh, before I forget, I have one more anecdote to share with you.  You see, a week after Mike Piazza entered the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the Mets had a special ceremony of their own at Citi Field to retire Piazza's No. 31.  And about that plaque I mentioned before that wasn't at Cooperstown when I was there - well, it made the trip to Citi Field, and I was fortunate enough to get a photo with it before it made its return trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.  (You don't have to Google it like I said before.  I'll be kind enough to share it with you here.)  My photographer also took lovely photos (for a change) of Piazza's former Mets teammates - Cliff Floyd, Edgardo Alfonzo and Al Leiter - who attended the Citi Field ceremony, as well as the new retired No. 31 that now sits atop the ballpark.

The Piazza celebration is complete now that the No. 31 has been retired at Citi Field.  (EL/SM)

Mike Piazza was very special to me.  You see, on the day I was "born" at Shea Stadium in 2004, Piazza was being celebrated in an on-field celebration (which seems to be a common theme in this blog post).  A dozen years ago, the Mets were celebrating the fact that he had just become the game's top home run hitting catcher.  They invited Carlton Fisk and Johnny Bench to attend the ceremony, and Ivan Rodriguez was also there in uniform as a member of the Detroit Tigers, the Mets' opponent that day.  That was my first baseball experience - seeing a celebration of Mike Piazza.  So it's fitting that I got to see him receive the ultimate honors of being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and having his number retired by the Mets.

So on that note, now that I'm done with Cooperstown and the two-weekend celebration of Mike Piazza, I think I'm going to rest up to make sure I'm fully awake for next weekend's getaway to Michigan to see the Mets play the Tigers, which is a rematch of that first Mets game I saw in person back in 2004.  Got any suggestions where I can hibernate for the week?  Maybe a large place where a bear can feel like home?

This place on the way back from Cooperstown seems like a good place for a bear to crash.  (EL/SM)

Take care, Mets fans.  I hope to talk to you again once I've completed the next leg of my baseball world tour!

For previous installments of Joey's World Tour, please click on the links below, where you will be entertained by Joey's wit, photos and love of ballpark cuisine:

World Tour Stop #1: Baltimore
World Tour Stop #2: Washington, DC
World Tour Stop #3: Pittsburgh
World Tour Stop #4: Texas
World Tour Stop #5: Los Angeles
World Tour Stop #6: San Diego
World Tour Stop #7: Toronto
World Tour Stop #8: Chicago (NL)
World Tour Stop #9: Milwaukee
World Tour Stop #10: Seattle
World Tour Stop #11: Cleveland
World Tour Stop #12: Brooklyn (Ebbets Field site) and Manhattan (Polo Grounds site)
World Tour Stop #13: Baltimore (again) and Pittsburgh (part deux)
World Tour Stop #14: Cincinnati
World Tour Stop #15: Colorado


No comments: