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National Baseball Hall of Fame Pitches Perfect Wi-Fi Game

November 14th, 2011 · Tags:Cities · Sports · Wi-Fi

Can you point out Shoeless Joe?

Can you point out Shoeless Joe?

When I was a kid in tiny dustville, most of us small-town kids played all the major sports. But baseball was special … baseball was our very first taste of competition, with uniforms and everything.

Our dads got together and created a league of four teams from three towns. Four teams. And to do that, we suited up kids ages eight through 12, playing side by side. Four years is quite a difference in size, talent and swagger at that age. There were kids just barely weened competing with kids who were showing signs of five o’clock fuzz and a taste for chewing tobacco. For the youngest kids, going to bat against a muscled up 12-year-old was pretty intimidating. But we loved it. For us farm kids it meant coming to town for a practice and a couple of games every week during the summer. That of course meant a reprieve from tractor driving for a few hours too. We played under the lights. We had rivalries, away games and dynasties if you can imagine that. Like I said. We loved it.

But even though baseball was our first hurrah in sports, it was short-lived. Little League was the big time in our baseball careers. After that, it was pretty much football and basketball and no high school baseball program. So, as much as I loved the diamond, I lost touch with my inner infielder over the years … until I had my own children. Some 15 years after I left the pitcher’s mound, the magic of baseball was rekindled in my life through the eyes of my two sons and my daughter. We loved it. My daughter could catch and hit as good as the boys on her team. Both of my sons went on to pitch no-hitters in high school. Yes … we loved it.

The Ryan Express

The Ryan Express

But just before my kids took to the field, I had one last baseball dream come true — the opportunity to meet a legend … the good fortune to meet a Baseball Hall of Famer … the unlikely scenario to be in the right place at the right time as history was being made … and the opportunity to document it all.

I have alluded to the book on Nolan Ryan here several times … most recently to make fun of the day I cut off my long hair, years ago, before I drove to Nolan Ryan’s home in Alvin, Texas. That was right about the time Nolan (now of course the part owner of two-time American League Champion Texas Rangers) pitched his final no-hitter in Major League Baseball as a Texas Ranger … er … his seventh no hitter.

So … all this is to say, that when the Dirty Gig stationed me in Binghamton, New York and when my buddy Craig pointed out that I was only an hour and a half from Cooperstown, New York … well, I hopped in the car and headed for the National Baseball Hall of Fame … and you can bet that I intended to head straight to the Nolan Ryan artifacts. However … there were all these New York Yankee legends … and White Sox legends … and Oakland A’s with curly, waxed mustaches distracting me.

Most Collectible

Honus Wagner Most Collectible

Sultan of Swat

Sultan of Swat

If you know me, you know I don’t care for the New York Yankees … but I am savvy enough to realize and strong enough to admit their huge place in history. For decades, they were baseball! And there are plenty of reminders in the Hall … of course none bigger than The Bambino. I wish I could have just camped out near the Babe Ruth memorabilia. Ha … the favorite … a shot of Babe Ruth out on the town in his finest floor-length fur coat. (So that’s where NY Jets quarterback Joe Namath learned his moves …) And there is a treasure trove of Mickey Mantle mania … I took a shot of one team photo to capture a historical shot of a perhaps lesser-known Yankee — second baseman Bobby Brown (the father of one of my friends back in Fort Worth) … and of course the former American League Commissioner. Hey! I had to find some Texas presence in the HOF however I could.

Babe Pimp

Babe Pimp

Who could resist the section on the old White Sox and the photos of Shoeless Joe Jackson, recently canonized in the film “Field of Dreams?”

Shoeless Joe

Shoeless

Shoeless

The Hall accents the Latin flavor of modern baseball here and south of the border, with photos and uniforms from all over Mexico, The Dominican, etc. There is a nice section on the women who played the game … yes, like in the film “League of Their Own.”

And there is a lot of space given to the darker side of baseball … the shady past when baseball, like society, was segregated … the aforementioned Shoeless Joe and “The Black Sox scandal” … a time when legendary baseball players were not allowed to enter the door of the restaurant with their teammates … or more drastically, a time when African American team names had the word “Colored” before the mascot to separate them from the mainstream. And then there are the racial barrier busters represented throughout the Hall … the pioneers who rose to the top regardless of the color of their skin.  … Against all odds.

Jackie Robinson … Hank Aaron and on and on.

Young Hank

Young Hank

Jackie Robinson

Surely baseball has had its challenges … with lock outs and steroids and game fixes and betting … but it is also America at its best. There are the Lou Gehrigs … the Cal Ripkens … the Johnny Benches … The Sal Bandos and on and on … The Dodgers.  The Brooklyn Dodgers! So much to see! I even got a photo (of a photo) of one of my childhood heroes — Vida Blue, a fireballer for The Oakland A’s, who had their own little dynasty out on the West Coast for a few years in the 1970s when The Yankees weren’t dominating …

Vida

Vida

Hustle

Hustle

Lou Gehrig


There are interactive audio visual kiosks, actual turnstiles from legendary parks … tons of golden glove plaques, autographed home run balls, lockers from all the teams … and so much more.

Is there Wi-Fi, sports fans?

“Steeeeeeee-RIKE!,” as my friend’s dad used to yell when he umpired our games.

Whoa! Wait a minute. It do too. I fired off tweets and twitpics and Facebook updates perched in the actual locker of Home Run king Hank Aaron! Now that, my friend, is a Wi-Fi hotspot. Cooperstown, The Baseball H of F gets one ping for every Nolan Ryan no hitter … a perfect score of 7.

OH … I got so excited about all the baseballs, bats, masks, jerseys, tv clips and photos … I forgot to look for my book. Just as I was leaving, I inquired. Boo! The HOF library was closed on Sunday. I drove to Philadelphia from Cooperstown that afternoon … not knowing. Then a couple of days later, I received a ping … an e-mail. Yes! NOLAN RYAN: The Authorized Pictorial History is in fact in the Hall of Fame library in Cooperstown. We love it.

Know what I saying?

Homers

Homers

Ozzie

Ozzie