The enjoyment of baseball is passed along from generation to generation. Unlike the other major sports, it has been around the longest and witnessed by many people, both young and old. Fans come from all walks of life: teachers, doctors and politicians such as President George W. Bush. What makes the game so special is not just what happens on the field, but also what happens off the field. Despite all the negative publicity about the game in the media: steroids, money between teams/players and player attitudes, baseball offers many memories to cherish, which make it special.
One of my favorite memories was a visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. I went in 2000 after my high school graduation. Everyone should go there at least once. The stores deal mostly with baseball products. For example: many of them sell signed balls, bats, jerseys and cards. Even the restaurants have baseball names such as the Shortstop and the Doubleday CafÃ?Â©. Cooperstown contains many old brick buildings that make the town attractive. In early August, the leaves were slowly changing colors and made the scenery breathtaking. The town is very small, pertaining mainly for tourists. The main attraction in town is the Hall itself. There the visitor will find many memorabilia going back to the 1800s. Everything about the game can be viewed: old gloves, uniforms, bats, caps, base paths, cards, umpiring equipment, etc. What was interesting about the Hall is many of the rooms are dimmed to protect many of the artifacts and to preserve them for future visitors. When walking around the hall, you get the sense that you are in special place with the baseball greats such as Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. If you are lucky enough, you might see a Hall of Famer strolling around in person.
In 2001, a principal that my dad worked with in Hart, MI showed him a signed baseball of the entire Cincinnati Reds team from 1957. Frank Robinson was one of the names on the ball. Today, Robinson manages the Washington Nationals and was of the best players in baseball. He is in the Hall of Fame. The principal’s late father was a doctor for the team during the 1950s. The principal retrieved the ball from her desk drawer where she had kept it all those years and gave it to my dad. She wanted me to look at it and see if I recognized anyone on it. Looking at the ball, I was shocked at the great condition and I knew one of the player’s signatures, which was Robinson. I told my dad to tell the principle thanks for letting me see the ball. A few days later, my dad brought the ball home and told me that the principal had talked to her family the previous night and asked if it was all right if she gave the ball to someone who really enjoyed baseball and would take good care of it. The family said yes, and I received the ball. I have it safely in a bank vault and am not going to sell it on eBay.
I met Ernie Harwell, the former long time broadcaster of the Detroit Tigers, in May of 2004. He was in Ludington, MI at Waterfront Park, commemorating a statue of an unknown local Ludington Mariner ball player. After the statue was revealed, Harwell went up to the podium and spoke. He told the audience about his days with the Tigers and baseball in general, throwing in several little known facts. His voice sounded just like it did on radio and TV: clear and concise. Harwell was dressed in a suit and tie, wearing his black-framed glasses and his traditional hat. Even in his eighties, Harwell was fantastic. After the presentation, Harwell did a book signing of his then new book, Life After Baseball. I bought my book from home about Harwell’s life for him to sign. When it was my turn, I went up to Harwell and asked if he would sign my book, which he did. I also wanted a picture with him and he was delighted. As Harwell and I were getting ready, he put his arm around my shoulder and said: “Hang in there.” What a great piece of advice, but hearing it from Harwell himself was special. After the picture, I shook his hand and thanked him. I am glad to have shaken hands with Ernie Harwell.
I went on a tour of Fenway Park home of the Boston Red Sox in July 2004. The tour was open to the public and admission was $10 per person. The tour took people around the park and showed sections of the park you normally wouldn’t see. For example, visitors were shown where the media (ESPN, Fox, etc) eat their dinners before game time. The tourists also sat in the press box seats. While sitting here, viewers could see the field just like the media. As the tour continued, people proceed through the park and around to the Green Monster (the 40 foot wall in left-field.) Everyone wants tickets to sit on the Green Monster because of the thrill of viewing a game from a high angle along with the fresh air. In order to sit there, fans must win a drawing. The Red Sox have the most expensive tickets in all of baseball since the park is smaller than any other. To get really good seats (not always the front row!), visitors have to be prepared to pay the following (as of 2004): two full seasons of home games for 4 people, near the dining room, for $108,000. The day I was on the tour, the group was lucky to have a great tour guide who obviously knew his stuff. As we proceeded through the park, the guide discussed interesting facts about the park, team and players all from memory. As a side note, I happened to sit in the smallest seat in all of baseball created in early 1900s. The whole tour lasted about an hour and was very educational. I recommend the next time you are in Boston to take a tour of Fenway Park.
Great baseball memories are not just limited to going to games, meeting the people or obtaining collectibles. Memories can be created everyday with very little time invested. You can create lifelong memories simply by watching the game on TV or listening to the radio with someone you care about. If you are alone, perhaps you may see or hear about a particular play that you will remember forever. The play doesn’t have to be spectacular: it can simply be routine throw to first, a catch in the outfield, the catcher throwing the ball back to the catcher, or the batter adjusting his stance in the box. Remember, the memory doesn’t have to be anything secular; it just needs to be meaningful to you.