My Pilgrimage to Baseball Mecca

I'd plan to write today's post on another topic, but with Jon Miller (the broadcasting voice of the Giants) being elected to the Hall of Fame, I found myself reflecting on my trip to Cooperstown, 6 1/2 years ago, back in August 2003. If blogs had been popular back then, I would have a detailed recap of the trip, but since it wasn't, I'll try to recap it now. I am a huge fan of baseball. I own those heavy books that detail the history of the game. I listened to my friend's gramp's stories on how he grew up in Kentucky playing baseball with Pee Wee Reese. I listened to my Dad's stories on how the MLB All-Stars used to travel through Hawai'i on the way to Japan, which is how he became a fan of Mickey Mantle and Stan Musial. I just love everything about baseball. So when my cousins and I booked a New York-Cooperstown-Boston trip, it was supposed to be our pilgrimage to mecca.

New York It was also my first trip to New York. We traveled separately and I took a red-eye, arriving in the wee hours of the morning. I took a cab to the hotel, at that time, The Stanhope, on the Upper East Side. We spent that first day taking in the sights and sounds of the City. The MTV Music Awards were scheduled for the next evening (the year that Madonna and Britney kissed) so Midtown was abuzz with excitement.

Gwen
Gwen
Ozzy
Ozzy

My first impression of New York completely lived up to my expectations and then some. The "then-some" being the sweltering heat! If you know me, you know that I despise humidity so it was a huge nuisance for me. I would only travel by cab because being in the subway made me feel like I was a rat in the sewer.

The next evening was our first trip to Yankee Stadium. To get there, we had to take the subway. At that time, J-Lo was big so in all of our excitement, we failed to look at the subway map and just hopped "On the 6" to the Bronx. Half-way there we realized that we were on the wrong train and had to hop off for a transfer.

As we made our way to the park, there were street vendors selling bottled water. We laughed at them and thought, "we'll just buy water in the park." We got there early hoping to take a tour of Monument Park. Unfortunately, there was a long line for it. As we stood patiently waiting in the sweltering heat, we tried to buy water only to find out THERE WASN'T ANY! They only had soda. Who doesn't sell bottled water in a ball park?! Did we wishe we bought water from those street vendors now!

MonumentPark
MonumentPark

As we walked through Monument Park, we looked the monuments dedicated to the Yankee greats. While it was cool, I didn't feel the "mystique." And I really wanted to! I tried to imagine all those World Series in the 90s that took place at that park. I even stood in the right field area and looked up to the upper deck and imagined being Roger Maris and having a fan throw a folding chair at me (referencing the movie 61*). Nope, didn't feel the mystique. All I felt was sweltering heat.

I can't remember how, but we had managed to get seats right behind home plate, with special passes to the executive lounge. The tickets said that the lounge had a dress code so we had to dress somewhat nicer than we would normally do for a ballgame. When we got to our seats I realized how small the seats were. And how big the guys sitting next to me were. With the sweltering heat, I couldn't stand for even one ounce of their skin to touch mine. Trying to feel as comfortable as humanly possible, I assessed the hoopla going on around the home plate area - Anderson Cooper was there, players chatting with people in the stands. It would have all been very exciting if it wasn't for the sweltering heat.

HurtvsBoomer
HurtvsBoomer

The Yankees were playing the White Sox that night - David Wells vs Bartolo Colon. Anna Kournikova threw out the first pitch. I tried really hard to get excited about being there. I really did. But by the 3rd or 4th inning, I had taken all I could take and my cousin Shari and I headed to the executive lounge in search of AC. The "executive lounge" (and I use that term loosely) turned out to be the in-stadium Elks Club straight from the 70s. For this I couldn't wear shorts and a tank top?! But it had AC so we didn't care and watched the rest of the game from there.

That, my friends, was my Yankee Stadium experience. While I didn't particularly love it, I am glad that I made the trip (if anything to tell my Dad, a long-time Yankee fan about it). We spent another day in New York and then rented a car to drive up to Cooperstown.

Cooperstown We picked up a car rental and headed upstate to this town where baseball was (allegedly) born. As soon as we left the City, we realized that the rest of New York is completely rural. We're talking farm country. With our Mapquest directions (and you all know how reliable those are), we headed out on our journey. It was a lot farther than we anticipated. I mean A LOT farther. It felt like it took forever to get there. The whole time, all I could think about was, "how do those old Hall of Famers make the journey here every summer?" There is no way those guys would endure a road trip from Manhattan. Do they fly into Albany? I mean, this town is seriously in the middle of nowhere!

Road
Road

We weren't even sure we were driving the right way. And for the most part, we didn't have any cell phone service either (remember, this was 2003 - a lifetime ago in cellular years).

The first thing we saw when we drove into town was the Museum of Petrified Rocks. Umm, yeah.

Cooperstown
Cooperstown
HOF
HOF

So we get to the Hall of Fame, excitement building to finally be there...only to find that half of it was closed for renovation. Yup - traveled all the way from the Bay Area and half of the museum is closed. The parts that we did see were enjoyable, I guess. It was cool to see uniforms from the All-American Women's Professional Baseball League (A League of Their Own). They did have a nice exhibit dedicated to the rivalry of the Giants vs Dodgers. They have this display of pitchers who threw no-hitters. We saw that famous Honus Wagner baseball card.

HonusWagner
HonusWagner

All very cool stuff until...we see a damn Rally Monkey. I kid you not, I wanted to break that glass and throw out that thing out the window. Somehow the prestige of the HOF seemed to take a step backwards for me after seeing that.

The rest of the HOF seemed to be everything Yankees. We ended the tour in the hall where they have the inductees plaques. I mean it was cool and all, but it just lacked something...the "mystique." I don't know what I was expecting, but it just didn't have the grandeur that you would expect the Baseball Hall of Fame to have.

We finished the whole tour in under 2 hours - way shorter than how long it took us to drive there. We walked around the rest of the town (literally one street) and looked at the shops. My cousin Shari collects Christmas ornaments on her travels and went into a gift shop where they sold ornaments for each team - except the Giants. When we asked if we could have one for the Giants, we were told, "we don't have one for them." I realize that I have a biased opinion, but remember, the Giants are the oldest franchise in baseball. They're the original New York team. And yet they had ornaments for every team but them. Seriously - what is up with this town?!

Still being in New York, the heat still sweltered and it felt like the AC wasn't strong enough anywhere and the restaurant that we ate at served warm water. By that time we were done with this place. It was all very disappointing. We got back in the car (just what we wanted, more drive time) and headed out to Boston.

Boston We drove to Boston where we planned to see the Red Sox vs the Yankees. It was Roger Clemens' alleged "last game at Fenway" before he was to retire. I won't tell you how much money we spent on those tickets, but I will tell you that I want my money back.

So, if you read the book, "One Day at Fenway", that's the weekend that we were there -- a GREAT weekend to be in Boston. I am neither a lover or hater of either the Yankees or Red Sox, but as a fan of baseball, Fenway lived up to its expectations.

It was also my first trip to Boston. After an entire day of driving, we arrived at our hotel late in the evening. The only place open for dinner (that we could walk to) was a Chinese restaurant that I swear was run by the mafia. It just had that vibe.

The next day my cousin Jeff went to Fenway on his own (the game that the book is written about) to see Pedro pitch. Shari and I took in the sights and sounds of Boston.

We took a cab to the Mayflower and the site of the Boston Tea Party. The cab driver warned us that the boat was small. When we got there, we saw that it really was. So we made him wait for us while we hopped out, took a photo and hopped back in. That was all we needed.

Mayflower
Mayflower

We had him drop us off at Faneuil Hall where we decided to walk the Freedom Trail - a walking tour of historical places in Boston.

FreedomTrail
FreedomTrail

We started the trek and saw the first couple of points on the map, but then got confused because we couldn't find the site of the Boston Massacre. We back-tracked a few times and finally asked someone for directions. The guy turned around and pointed to a manhole in the middle of the street. Incredulously we said, "that's it?!", to which he responded with, "What did you expect to see? Blood?" The Freedom Trail suddenly didn't seem very fun anymore. We hung out in that area for a bit (Faneuil Hall was also closed for renovations) then somehow ended up at Newbury Street (let's be honest, that's where we wanted to be all long anyway).

We had lunch on Newbury Street and then shopped at the trendy shops there. Apparently it was really close to Fenway because Jeff met up with us there, telling us all about what happened at the game. We continued walking and towards the end of the street, but Jeff and I needed bathroom breaks so we ducked into the Ritz Carlton while she went into Burberry. As I was in the women's restroom, I heard this pounding at the door and Jeff yelling, "The Yankees are staying here! Derek Jeter, Derek Jeter!" We raced out to the lobby to see him. There he was, at the elevators and surrounded by security. Even though I didn't get to meet him, I was so happy just to have been in the mere presence of The Captain. As we walked out hi-fiving each other, Jeff noticed Jeff Weaver, standing on the hotel steps alone, no security, no entourage and no autograph seekers. And no, I didn't ask him for an autograph or photo. I do have my standards you know.

FenwayPark
FenwayPark

The next day we all went to Fenway. While the weather was hot in Boston, it wasn't sweltering hot. More points for Fenway in my book. The vibe at Fenway is just so much fun. The place is old - and I mean really old - but not a dump.

InsideFenway
InsideFenway

They have the best street vendors that sold the funniest t-shirts.

YankeeHater
YankeeHater

Thankfully, our seats were in the shade - right by Pesky's Pole. The vendors walked through the stands selling these ice cream cones that they carried in these house-like containers. With the heat, I thought for sure it would be melted and gross, but it wasn't. It was really, really good. So good, I still remember it to this day.

Now, I know the Giants and Dodgers have a huge rivalry. But folks, it pales in comparison to the Yankee - Red Sox rivalry. As a baseball fan, it was fun! Old ladies yelling at each other. When they introduced Roger Clemens (again for his alleged "last game at Fenway"), half the place stood and clapped while the other half booed. This ultimate Red Sox fan near us stood up and yelled, "What is this? Are we cheering for the f'n Yankees now?"

RedSoxFan
RedSoxFan

The seats were small, but the fans were fun. It was just a really good experience, and a great way to end our baseball trip.

So now there's so much talk about, "Will so and so get into the HOF?" Having actually been to Cooperstown, in my opinion, its just not that big of a deal. Believe me, I get the significance and the symbolism of the Hall of Fame, but honestly, the whole experience doesn't live up to the hype. And this is coming from someone who really loves baseball. But I'm really happy for Jon Miller and for the Giants franchise. But just so you know, the HOF display for broadcasters (at least when I was there) was a photo and name plate pinned to a green partition. Doesn't live up to the prestige and hype, right? Yeah, I don't get it either.

Oh well, I leave you with these photos from this trip. All in all, was a memorable one.