A Hall of Fame Weekend

About three weeks ago my dad and brothers and I made a trip to Cooperstown, New York, to see Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken, Jr. inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Okay, so I should have written about this before, but hey–vacation is a busy time!  There’s so much to tell about that amazing weekend, I’d have to write a book to share it all.  So I’m going to share our adventure with you through pictures.  For those of you subscribing by email, I apologize–I know this will make a huge file.  But here it goes:

We set out on Friday morning, July 27th.  It should have been a six- to seven-hour drive, but it stretched out to about 11 or 12.  That was mostly due to abominable traffic for much of the ride.  But, of course, we did stop for lunch–and to play baseball for an hour or so at an American Legion field somewhere in Pennsylvania.  It was dark when we arrived at our motel a few miles outside of Cooperstown, so it wasn’t until we emerged from the room the following morning that we discovered this amazing view:

We headed into Cooperstown on Saturday morning and set up our chairs at the site of the following day’s induction ceremony.  A friend of my dad’s had cued us in on the fact that the place was already filling up with chairs and blankets as people marked out their turf!  From there we went to the Hall of Fame Museum and bought admission tickets.  Before heading to breakfast, we took a few minutes to admire a new display of Ripken memorabilia.

After enjoying a decent breakfast that took a loooong time because the restaurant’s capacity was beyond maxed out, we headed back to the museum.  It was then we realized we’d made a mistake in not going before breakfast.  The place was packed wall to wall on every floor.  We could barely even move, and it took about a minute to go forward one step.  Every floor was like that!  The next day we learned that we were in the middle of the largest crowd the museum has ever had on a single day.  Nearly 15,000 people went through its stiles that day!

Since it was so crowded, we decided to leave which we eventually succeeded in doing.  We headed over to the Hall of Fame game, an annual contest between two minor league teams at Doubleday Field near the Hall of Fame.  One of the teams was the Aberdeen Ironbirds, owned by Ripken.  It was a great surprise when Ripken made an appearance before the game.  It was his first public outing in Cooperstown that weekend.  At one point the crowd started yelling, “Thank you Cal!  Thank you Cal!”  He turned around and waved, signed a few autographs (for the players!) and left.

The game was hot and sunny, then it rained for about 45 minutes, then it was hot and sunny again.  It was a very good game, lots of action, several homers.  Former Orioles Brady Anderson and B.J. Surhoff made appearances on the sidelines during the game.  The only sour note came when the Ironbirds pitcher took a line drive right in the last place a guy wants to take a line drive.  He actually made the play at first before collapsing.  It took the paramedics about half an hour to get him off the field.  They brought out a tarp, covered him, and did their initial examination right there on the field!  That is one sight you couldn’t pay me to see.  I don’t know yet how the guy turned out, but I’ve prayed harder for him than for anyone else I don’t know personally!

We went back to the museum, where it was much less crowded.  As you might expect, we saw some absolutely amazing stuff.  I haven’t yet uploaded pictures from inside the museum, but when I do, I’ll post some pics like the first baseball used in a professional game (from the 1800s), Babe Ruth’s locker, Ty Cobb’s jersey, and stuff like that.

I don’t remember where we ate dinner that first night, but we probably just bought hot dogs or hamburgers from someone grilling on the street.  Seems that’s how we ate most of the weekend.  The town really capitalizes on Hall of Fame weekend!  Everyone is out there selling something on the sidewalk.

We went back at evening to check on the site we’d staked out for our seats at the induction ceremony.  While we were there, we climbed up on the stage where the ceremony was to be held the following day.  We figured we needed to break in the podium for Cal (and for Tony Gwynn, the San Diego Padres great who was also inducted), so we posed for pictures and made induction speeches there at the podium on the platform.  Ripken and Gwynn made history the following day by drawing the largest crowd–75,000 strong–ever to attend a Hall of Fame induction ceremony.  But little did they know that the previous night, my dad and brothers and I, escaping the scrutiny of the media, made history by drawing the smallest crowd ever as we inducted ourselves with our own little ceremony.  I think we had about eight in attendance.

As you can see, Cal tried to look like me in his induction speech the following day.  His speech was pretty good, but mine was better.  Probably because I stole it from Lou Gehrig, complete with echo effect.

You’ll see Cal surrounded by some of the greatest players ever to play the game.  That’s pretty cool and all, but I was surrounded by some of the greatest fans ever to love the game.

Here’s the Hyde guys at the induction ceremony:

From left to right that’s my younger brother, Dylan, my dad, me, and my older brother, Jason.  Notice all the Orioles gear.  Of the 75,000 people in attendance, I’d guess 65,000 or maybe even 70,000 of them were Orioles fans–and dressed accordingly.  It was like a private affair for Orioles fans!  All 53 of the Hall of Famers who were present were introduced.  Each one who was an Oriole got a long standing ovation.  And during the national anthem, the “O!” toward the end was the loudest I’ve ever heard, even louder than a riled up Memorial Stadium crowd.  One of the speakers in the ceremony even said something about how Baltimore must be empty that day, because all the people there had gone to New York!  Even one of the local Cooperstown dogs was a big O’s fan.

Here’s a shot of Ripken and Gwynn with their brand new Hall of Fame plaques, immediately following the ceremony:

After the ceremony we enjoyed a nice dinner at a real restaurant, then went to see Cal’s plaque newly installed in the Hall of Fame.  As you can see from the picture below, we got quite fried during the ceremony.

Cal’s plaque is the one on the bottom (Gwynn’s is on top).  Here’s a closeup:

Cooperstown is a beautiful place and we had an amazing weekend.  In the picture below, the sun has gone down and a  Cooperstown moon rises to bring an end to one of the most special and enjoyable days of my life.

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Published in: on August 20, 2007 at 7:28 am  Leave a Comment  

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