COOPERSTOWN, N.Y.--For a lifelong baseball fan like me, visiting this little town on the edge of Otsego Lake in upstate New York for the first time is like a political junkie's first-ever trip to Washington, D.C.
It turns out, of course, that my Road Trip 2010 project has afforded me both of those opportunities, and where my initial journey to D.C. earlier in the journey was a chance to finally see, firsthand, places like the White House and the U.S. Capitol, my first-ever passage through the doors of the Baseball Hall of Fame here meant the first time I had ever come face-to-face with the famous plaques of greats like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, and so many others.
The Hall of Fame, of course, is both a celebration of the greatest to ever play the game and of many of its most famous moments. From the spikes and shirts worn by players as they broke records--such as those sported by Hank Aaron when he broke Ruth's all-time home run record--to exhibits commemorating the achievements of Major League Baseball's Latin American players, the Hall of Fame is three floors of true riches for any fan.
Of course, the Hall also addresses baseball's scandals, and contains mementos like the baseball that San Francisco Giants great Barry Bonds hit for his 756th home run in 2007, breaking Aaron's record. Due to widespread belief that Bonds had used illegal steroids during his later years, a poll taken of millions of fans by fashion designer Mark Ecko--who bought the ball from the fan who caught it--resulted in the ball being delivered to the Hall emblazoned with a bright asterisk.
Still, fans can't help but walk through the Hall of Fame in a daze as they pass artifact after artifact from the game's storied past. And then there's the plaques. One of the more political choices a player will ever have to make--at least a Hall of Fame-caliber player who wore the uniform of more than one team in his career--is which team's hat his likeness will wear on his plaque. The results of those political decisions are permanent, and for everyone to see.
Cooperstown is not easy to get to, and that's probably why I'd never been there before. Having now visited, my claim to being a true baseball fan has something more solid to back it, especially as I've gone to less and less games over the years. Whether I'll make it back here is an unknown. But having visited, and seen the great Ted Williams' breakdown on the science of hitting, or Yankee superstar Lou Gehrig's locker, or some of Jackie Robinson's gear, I can now say I've been to Cooperstown. And that is something I'll have with me the rest of my life.
For the next week, Geek Gestalt will be on Road Trip 2010. After driving more than 18,000 miles in the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest, and the Southeast over the last four years, I'll be looking for the best in technology, science, military, nature, aviation, and more throughout the American northeast. If you have a suggestion for someplace to visit, drop me a line. In the meantime, you can follow my progress on Twitter @GreeterDan and @RoadTrip and find the project on Facebook. And you can also test your knowledge of the U.S. and try to win a prize in the Road Trip Picture of the Day challenge.