Friday, February 13, 2009
From Cooperstown to Tokyo, with a prolonged stop at 18th & Vine
If you're a baseball fan, and if you're not, why are you here, then it is time to recognize the Holy Trinity of baseball. Regardless of recent election results and any particular controversy, Hall of Fames are important. They are more than just a list on the wall of great players. They are, rightly so, named Hall of Fame's and Museums. And that is the point.
These places are the keepers of our flame. They are the recorders of the history of our game. They are the Babe's uniform, Brett's bat, Rickey's spikes, Schilling's sock. They are a blast from the past, and a reminder of what the game used to be, both good and bad, and the men (yes, men, not demigods) who played the game.
They are a memorial to the players who served their countries during times of war, the women who tried, and the people who help make the game a possibility (executives, owners, broadcasters, writers, umpires, etc). They are a reminder of the good times (Maz's homerun) and of the bad (the '94 strike).
They are a collection of the best the game has ever known:
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
A tribute to those excluded, but who still gave everything they had for the game they loved:
Negro League Baseball Museum
(technically, it's not a "Hall of Fame", but I've been there. It is)
And a reminder that the game is truly global and played at high levels in other places:
The Baseball Hall of Fame
Personally, I've only been to the Negro League Museum, and it's a great place. I never made it when Buck O'Neil was there, and that's one of the great regrets of my life. Cooperstown remains my dream. Someday I will make a pilgrimage there, and spend an entire week. I don't know that I'll ever get to Tokyo, but I know what my first stop will be.
These three places should be on any true baseball fan's list of 10 places they should visit. They are the heart and soul of the game. I defy anyone to find any other connection between Cooperstown, Kansas City, and Tokyo, outside of baseball. I'll bet it can't be done.
One thing to remember. These particular places honor the best the game has known. There has been a lot of controversy about the American Hall, and people are debating whether it is still relevant. It is. Remember, the Hall has allowed an outside organization to vote on inductees. Shun them, if necessary. But the Hall should, and does, stand above the votes of people not qualified to make those decisions.
But as I said, they're more than just a list of names on a wall.
I know there are other Hall of Fames out there, and I'm not trying to slight any of them. But to me, these are the big 3. Please don't be offended if I've left yours out.