Last weekend I journeyed to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY to see the induction ceremony for three first ballot players including my favorite player as a kid, Frank "Big Hurt" Thomas. Though Cooperstown is convenient to nothing – the trip involved phrases like "only 80 minutes from Binghamton" – this really is a baseball fan's version of the Hajj. Cooperstown is a surprisingly tiny town, though, and when jammed with 50,000+ visitors it can be quite chaotic. So the practical part of my brain recommends visiting sometime other than induction weekend if you dislike huge crowds.

The best part of the museum is listening to random strangers sharing their memories with anyone in earshot, since I think that is one of the primary reasons that people develop an attachment to the sport: "I was at that game with my dad in '72" or "My mom listened to Jack Buck on KMOX every game for thirty years" or "Our first date was at a Braves game and Eddie Mathews hit a home run in the 10th inning" or even more general comments like (actual quote) "Man, Willie McCovey hit the ball like it owed him money." You would not be too far off base (SWIDT?) to conclude that the experience isn't entirely about baseball for most of the visitors. Ask an American male to talk about his father and there's a good chance that stories about going to ballgames will be involved.

The worst part of the visit had nothing to do with the museum, but to our new obsession as a society with taking pictures of absolutely everything without pausing to ask why. The main attraction at the museum is the hall of plaques for each member of the Hall, which on the Saturday of induction weekend was mobbed with 1000+ people at any given moment. And almost all of them were crowded inches away from the plaques taking pictures with smartphones. This both puzzled and irritated me, since it made actually seeing anything (You know, having the experience of actually being there as opposed to taking pictures to put on Facebook) nearly impossible. Sure, everyone wants to take some pictures on vacation. But cameraphone close-ups of the plaques? Really? Two hundred of them? I don't get that at all. There are pictures of every single one on the Hall of Fame website. Or rather than crowding around Hank Aaron's plaque, for example, and making it impossible for anyone to see it or get near it, you could google image search "Hank Aaron plaque" and find dozens of pictures, some in high resolution, that are better than the crappy picture you take with your phone. I understand why people like taking pictures of themselves in famous places, but taking pictures of inanimate objects doesn't make a lot of sense. I see this constantly now at art museums too – do you think your phone is going to take a better picture of The Death of Marat than the hundreds available in books and online? Can't we just put the goddamn phones down and enjoy the experience of being there? Of actually seeing something rather than seeing a reproduction of it?

All that said, I did take this picture featuring my left hand:


When your plaque includes phrases like "excellent bunter" and "enthusiastic baserunner" you probably don't belong in the Hall of Fame. Being like the fifth-best player on your own team doesn't help either. Another one of the Veterans Committee's greatest hits.

26 thoughts on “NPF: MEMORY LANE”

  • I can hardly complain because I obsessively take pictures of plants and landscapes wherever I travel. But yes, the quality of smartphone pictures usually sucks, so one wonders what the point of those is.

  • I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Rizzuto deserves to be in there if for nothing other than his fine work in "Paradise by the Dashboard Light."

  • Red Ruffansore says:

    "Some are in the Hall who don't deserve to be;
    others deserve inclusion but were jobbed by
    the BBWAA. Can you correct these injustices,
    Frodo?…Even the wise cannot see all ends."

    Ernie Gandalf, longtime sportswriter
    for the Climax (KS) Times-Notebook

  • c u n d gulag says:

    I'm a huge Yankees fan, and even I don't think he should have gone in as a player.

    He should have gone in as an announcer.
    He was hysterical!
    He and Bill White formed the last great American Comedy duo.

    One time, after a game the Yankees won, on his post-game show, just as Phil was about to sign off, I heard this:
    "Wait. I've just been handed a special bulletin!"

    All we hear is dead air for awhile.

    "Oh, my goodness!!
    Oh, my gosh!!!"

    Now, a long pause as Phil gathers himself up to tell us.
    What is it?
    IS WWIII STARTING?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!


    "Folks, Pope John Paul (The First – he was the only one until there was a second one), is dead.
    Yes, Pope John Paul, is dead…"

    Another long pause.

    "Why, that could put a damper even on a Yankee win!"

    I almost shit myself from laughter.

    Sure, as an announcer, he was a "homer," but he was a great and funny one!

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Besides the photo aspect, there's another reason to hate "Smart-phones."

    If you're been to a doctor's or dentist's office, you might have noticed what I've observed – that nowadays there are almost no magazines lying around for people to read while they wait to be seen. Everyone's typing and looking at their little screens.

    I don't have a fancy phone – we're poor – so now bring a book with me.

  • Loved the McCovey quote.
    Even though, in an era when it was easy to be a Philly-killer, he found it easier than most.

  • I've noticed this past year at summer picnics and graduation parties, a shocking number of people are so busy taking pictures and posting them on social media that they're not actually enjoying the party. They're missing entire conversations, funny moments, etc. in their zeal to…what? Put pictures of beer on Facebook?

  • When I went to Europe about 13 years ago, most of my pictures were snapped with the following three guidelines in mind:

    (1) Is there a person that you know going to be in the picture? If not, don't take the shot. (My Dad is responsible for this one.)

    (2) Can you find a postcard picture of this that is X1000 higher quality than what you can do with your garbage disposable camera? (If so, go buy the postcard. I seriously came home after 18 months with nearly 100 postcards.)

    (3) Is this a photo of some absurd European street performer or hostel shenanigans? (Take the shot!)

  • The morons photographing famous paintings in museums: amen. I love the ones that photograph prints and… photographs, too. Likely they'll get only the flash's reflection in the glass.

    Many museums ban photography altogether. Let's have more of that, I say.

  • I think real life is becoming too scary for many people. Seeing things through a screen creates a sense of objective distance. A sense of control.

  • Rizzuto was a very good shortstop and for a few years an excellent player all around, but you know that even if you haven't read "The Politics of Glory." There are any number of worse shortstops in the Hall. But mostly I want to affirm what c u n d gulag said about Rizzuto and Bill White. My own favorite exchange was in the late 70s, when they were broadcasting a Yankees/Royals game and Phil got hopelessly confused about which White was Frank, and which was Roy, and even which was Bill. Finally Rizzuto exclaimed: "There are just too many Whites on the field." After a pause Bill said "You're exactly right, Scooter."

  • Ed, I hope you got to hit the Ommegang Brewery too.

    I must agree with you on Rizzuto, he's not HOF worthy as a player.
    I could not stand listening to his broadcasts. It was stream of consciousness idiocy. I used to get the Village Voice, and they began running columns of Scooter's "Poetry". It was basically what he said verbatim, but put in verse form. Much more hilarious than listening to the broadcast. Then they made it into a book.

    Did you see Glavin's HOF Plaque?
    As a Mets fan I can't let 2007 go, so I changed the plaque a bit.
    I will hate him forever.

  • I was recently at an aquarium and the number of people snapping shot after shot of the tanks was staggering. Who cares? The pictures will turn out to be awful and there are millions of better ones online. The worst is the people using their iPad, which gives really awful pictures.

  • Thanks for getting out to support Frank. I'll never forget being 14 and seeing the "Down on the Farm" report (complete with cheezy corn graphic) about a promising rookie who was leading his AA league in batting average, homers, & walks. Oh, and he played tight end in college for a legitimate D1 school and was 6'5" 230something.

    Yes – please — bring that man up. I never liked the Cubs much, but from that moment on I was a Sox fan.

    Fun facts on his last minor league season/first major league season
    minors: 109 games – 114 hits, 112BB, 71 RBI, .323/.487/.581 for an OPS of 1.068
    majors: 60 games – 63 hits, 44BB, 31RBI, .330/.454/.529 for an OPS of .983

    156 walks in 169 games…and he went on to lead the league in 4 of the next 5 years. At 6'5" and 230+

    Best right handed hitter since…maybe ever. Watching him hit in 1994 was better than any reality TV. It was the 4th best OPS season in the history of baseball by a player not named Ruth or Williams or on steroids.

    In 113 games: 106 runs, 101 RBIs, 141 Hits, 109 Walks.

    That may have been the best offensive season in the history of baseball given that he wasn't playing in an era where the opposition was clearly outmatched (no effense to Ruth, Williams, Hornsbey, Gehrig, or Foxx but their best years were 1932 and earlier except for Williams in 57. If you're playing in a league where you can hit more home run yourself than some teams like Ruth did it speaks to your talent, but also the lack of talent in the league)

  • c u n d gulag says:

    And don't forget, before 1947, all of the players were white – so a whole potential talent pool was forbidden from playing in the majors.
    Outside of exhibition games, up to that point, the white stars in the majors didn't have to face any black competitors.

    Cobb, Ruth, Greenberg, etc, didn't have to face Satchel Paige.
    And Walter Johnson, Dizzy Dean, Lefty Gomez, etc, never had to try to get a fastball past Josh Gibson.

    The game got infinitely better after '47.
    The National League did a majority of the integrating, while the American League lagged behind – and that's why the NL won so many All Star games in a row for a long time.

  • Rizzuto's greatest weakness was losing his peak years to World War II. Position players generally have their best years from age 26 to age 29. Rizzuto was in the military for the first three of his peak years, and he was still recovering from an illness in his first year back, at 29, so, in effect, he lost his entire peak to the war.

    Rizzuto was a great player during the war years. At the beginning, he was at the Norfolk Naval Base with Pee Wee Reese — and the base chose Rizzuto as the shortstop for its baseball team. He lost somewhere around 69 win shares to the war, which would push him to about 300 career win shares. That puts him at borderline HOF territory.

    What the offensive statistics don't show is how good he was in the field. James' win share method puts him as an A+ defensive shortstop, and that's without giving him any credit for his lost peak seasons. According to James' calculations, he was easily the best major-league shortstop ever at turning the double play. He was also MVP in 1950, which he at least deserved to be in contention for, as he led the majors in win shares that year.

    When I made a Keltner List for Rizzuto, he makes it into the gray area once you give him credit for the war years. The MVP award and the record for most DPs per inning at shortstop are enough to distinguish him from similar candidates at the position — the other ones never deserved an MVP or set a record — and moves him into my list of deserving Hall of Famers. I will admit that it's close.

  • If you're playing in a league where you can hit more home run yourself than some teams like Ruth did it speaks to your talent, but also the lack of talent in the league – Chicagojon

    It speaks more to the fact that position players before 1920 were specifically taught to avoid hitting for distance. The general consensus was that, while you might get a few more home runs, those fly balls would also produce many more outs, and thus your offensive prowess would decline by going for the homer.

    If a position player had a swing similar to Ruth's, the coaches would have made sure that he changed it. Ruth's swing didn't change because:

    (1) He was a pitcher, so his hitting wasn't quite as important, and
    (2) If coaches had tried to change his swing, his pitching might have suffered.

    Ruth didn't become a full-time outfielder until the middle of the 1918 season. The Red Sox had lost two outfielders before the season, and their replacements were terrible, and they had a good rotation, even without Ruth, so they decided to move him there to fix one of the team's holes. Since it was midseason, there wasn't time to fix Ruth's swing.

    Surprise! The conventional wisdom was wrong; swinging for the fences could improve a player's offensive contribution. Most active players didn't change their swing; the only pre-1920 star to become a home run hitter was Oscar Charleston, in the Negro Leagues. But there were players who came up after 1920 who, while in the amateurs or minors, did change their swings to follow Ruth's example, and they started to hit home runs.

  • As purely a people-watching exercise, I highly recommend that if you ever find yourself in the Louvre, go look at the room with the Mona Lisa in it. When I went, I wasn't that interested in seeing the painting itself ("ugh, that's what everyone else does"—I was hipster before it was cool ;) but I wasn't looking forward to catching flak from everyone back home if I didn't.

    I was well rewarded with the most bizarre display of humanity. The room was packed, PACKED, with hundreds of people that were all jockeying to get their own picture of the painting with—and this is important—nobody else in the picture. Some were trying to get just the painting itself, some wanted a member of their own group in the frame (but nobody else!). There was a lot of pushing and shoving, although not as much further away where I was standing. And as stupid as this would have been for all the reasons Ed lays out in his post above, it was even _stupider_ for at least all the following reasons:

    – If ever there were a piece of art better photographed elsewhere than the Mona Lisa, I don't know what it would be—and you are really really not going to take a better photo than _that_.

    – This was just before digital cameras were taking over everything, so a fair number of people were using those shitty, shitty one-roll disposable cameras.

    – The painting is a lot smaller than you realise if you haven't been there, AND there's a rope keeping you several feet away (the Art Institute of Chicago this is not!), AND there's glass (presumably reinforced) over the front of it set into a deep wooden frame surrounding it. So you're fighting glare _and_ shadow, and have to stay far away from a comparatively small image.

    – And a lot of them were using flash, which means that they'll get nothing at all due to the flash's reflection on the glass (but, this being largely pre-digital, they won't know that until the roll gets developed!)

    But I have to say that _watching_ all of this was totally worth the trip. The Mona Lisa itself is kind of a bust, but the Mona Lisa people-watching experience is golden.

  • Now, I use my phone camera in museums all the time, so I don't have to write down the name of an artist whose work I'm interested in. Or worse, try to memorize it, which never works. I'll try to grab a snap of the work, too, or at least the corner so I can trigger my memory weeks later.

    A photo of a plaque? I can think of exactly two worth photographing, and they're both memorials to air crash victims that are miles from pavement.

  • YES, smartphones users are annoying! One can't go to a show, concert or public event, without suffering from dozens and dozens of those little screens.

  • I recently rode Amtrak's Southwest Chief from Albuquerque to LA. In western New Mexico I was in the observation car. The incredible Southwest scenery was highlighted by a summer thunderstorm. There were lightning flashes, rain, the sun sending periodic rays through the clouds, etc. It was truly spectacular. Most of the other people in the car were too engrossed in some kind of hand held gizmo or another to notice. I found it truly sad.

  • "Can't we just put the goddamn phones down and enjoy the experience of being there?"

    What he said!

    Have fun

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