Friday, May 24, 2013

No. 377 – Presto

Performer: Rush
Songwriters: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart
Original Release: Presto
Year: 1989
Definitive Version: None

After my car broke down during my trek through New York in 1990, I was a day behind on my travels. Originally, I had intended to head north to Lake Ontario, but I didn’t have time for that. I had to head straight to Cooperstown because of my reservation at the archives.

Less then a mile down the road on U.S. 20, I came upon a large shopping center, so I really wasn’t out in the middle of nowhere as I had thought. Not leaving well enough alone, I pulled over to get a snack. The car started again, thank goodness.

I spoke about loving national parks yesterday. Well, it isn’t a national park, but U.S. 20 east of Rochester belongs on the list. In 1990, I hit the absolute peak of fall season in upstate New York, and the drive was an endless series of hills and turns past a progression of trees awash in red, orange and yellow.

It was like a reward for all the troubles—the night in my car, the two nights in a fly-by-night motel in Bloomfield. If I live to be 100, I’ll never forget it, and I suppose I’ll never undertake a more scenic drive. (By comparison, the drive along the same route in 1996 was almost all green, alas.)

It was getting dark when I finally arrived at my destination, and I was pleased by what I saw: multihued tree-lined streets, quaint old houses, little traffic or even signs of city life. Cooperstown, on first blush, was just as idyllic and frozen in time as I always hoped it would be.

My plan was to go to my hotel, check in and then go into town and get dinner. I wasn’t planning to go to the Hall of Fame that day, because I knew I’d need more time to see everything I wanted. That would be two days later due to the aforementioned reservation.

Well, plans change. I rolled down Main Street and was surprised to find that the Hall is right there on the street, as in here’s the street, the sidewalk and the front door. Every other tourist attraction I’d been to, you have a huge parking lot in front or some stately walkway or path. In Cooperstown, the Hall of Fame is just a building smack in the middle of town, like it always had been there.

I had dinner at the Tunnicliff Inn, almost right across the street. It would be my one extravagant dinner of the vacation, and it was, I guess. I wasn’t nearly the gastronaut that I’ve become, so I probably didn’t appreciate it as much as I should have, but I didn’t really have food on my mind.

No, all I could think of was THE Hall of Fame was right across the street. Any thought of delaying the inevitable quickly was obliterated. I had to go in, even if it was just for an hour, and I felt giddy as I walked through the big wooden doors.

I stuck to the first floor, which, of course, meant the actual Hall itself. I made a beeline for the Johnny Bench plaque and noted with some degree of pleasure that the alignment of plaques made it so the one to Bench’s to the right was the one for Joe Morgan. Big Red Machine together forever.

The next day, a fairly rainy day, I made my way to the archives around back from the museum. Back then, it was a separate building, cramped and open. People could go into the stacks and pull out 100-year-old guides or notebooks or whatever. That’s long since changed, because morons took advantage of that openness and stole pictures and entire files in some cases.

I mostly wanted to look around, but I had a couple of research goals. One thing I wanted to look up were box scores from my actual birth day—June 4, 1964—to see who had the best day that day. Frank Robinson hit two homers to lead my Reds to 6-3 victory, but the big game was by Sandy Koufax, who threw a no-hitter against the pre-collapse Phillies.

The other research goal was to look up the records of a former work colleague whose father played in the minor leagues. I think I found a few things, but I wasn’t sure whether it was the right person or someone else. I still took down the information of what I found and sent it along when I got home.

After my brief visit the previous night, I didn’t have to go to the Hall that day, so I spent the rest of the day wandering the streets of Cooperstown. It would be an exaggeration to say that every store in town was a baseball card or memorabilia store. Some stores, such as the Newberry’s department store, merely sold baseball cards and memorabilia in addition to other items. No kidding—every store sold some sort of baseball-related paraphernalia. When you’re in Baseball Valhalla, it’s almost required.

Finally, I took the full tour of the museum. Believe it or not, no one had to kick me out. I spent a good four or five hours looking at everything and taking a ton of pictures. Back then, a huge series of windows where the sun could shine through formed the end of the Hall room. With the sun beaming into the Hall, the place really looked like a shrine.

When I had my fill, I left heading West past James Fenimore Cooper’s Lake Glimmerglass, then south and west for a swing through Utica—the site of Good Enough to Dream. I spent the night in the area. Next stop: Toronto.

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