Hall of Fame Memories

I just got back from Cooperstown.  I still can’t believe that it took me 41
years to get to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame…but I’m glad I finally
had a chance to go.  The best part of the
event for me was on Saturday night, the red-carpet event where most of the Hall
of Famers that go to induction weekend are brought in with their families for a
desert reception in the main corridor of the museum.  It was incredible watching these guys just
interact with one another as if they were 19 years old in their first season of
Rookie ball. 

That night, I actually had a chance to walk the museum as
well.  Incredible!  I asked a couple of folks (Bob Costas and one
of our directors, Mark Deaver) how long it actually takes to go through the
museum.  They both said about two days…if
you take your time to read things and soak it all in.  I, of course, had about two hours to do that…and
did.  It’s all there: baseball in movies
section, check; Classic artwork depicting our great game, check; artifacts from
some of our greatest players of all-time, big check.  It was just amazing getting a chance to
peruse through some of the things that had pulled at my heart strings my entire
life.

Not to be outdone, we had the ceremony on Sunday.  I had no idea what to expect since my only
glimpses of the actual induction ceremony were from what I saw on television or
stadium big screens.  I was awed by the
fact fans arrive days earlier to stake out a place on the lawn.  Yep, folks come down to the Clark Sports
Center and place their lawn chairs down, mark their spot and then leave…and on Sunday,
their chairs are still there.  Call me a simplest,
but I thought that was extremely cool.

Even before the ceremony began, I couldn’t wait until it was
Rickey’s (Henderson) turn.  I suggested
his speech could run from 5 minutes to 30. 
But I had found out the night before that his speech, timed out, was
along the lines of 4 minutes…so I set myself up for disappointment.  With that said, Rickey did not disappoint.  Neither did the beast that is Jim Rice nor
the wordsmiths in Tony Kubek or Nick Peters (Frick and Spink award winners
respectively).  But the one speech that
got to me was given by Judy Gordon.

Judy is the daughter of the late Joe Gordon, who was also
inducted on Sunday.  Joe was voted in by
the Veteran’s Committee for his play on the field as well as that of
manager.  But it was with the grace and
eloquence in which she spoke about her dad, ‘the dad’, is what struck a chord
for me.

My dad was just that…my dad. 
I had no real knowledge of him as a player until the 5th
grade.  I was in school and my teacher
Mrs. Sheets began reading a book.  The
title of this book was Unsung Heroes and it was a baseball book.  In it, there was a chapter about Cookie Rojas
(I believe Joe Rudi was in there as well). 
It was at that instance I realized what being famous meant.

See, of all the years I had spent tagging along with my old
man to the yard, I never realized that the people “walking” with him to his car
after the game were autograph seekers.  I
just thought I had a really cool dad.  He
would take his time and make sure he signed everyone’s autograph and smile for
pictures and all the while I’m just wondering where we were going to grab a
late night bite in Kansas City…was it going to be Paul Schaal’s Pizza Place or
a Winstead’s burger with a shake?  A mind
of a 5th grader, what did I know?

My dad retired that year…1977.  As he tells it, he could’ve continued on
playing had he not turned down a trade to the Seattle Mariners.  Not because he disliked Seattle, but because
he didn’t want to have to start all over again.

I never fully appreciated what my dad accomplished in the
Major Leagues until later in life.  Just
like anyone, I had my own issues to deal with and never really gave it much
thought.  And once I began having kids of
my own, did I begin to reflect on the kind of man/father my dad really
was.   There aren’t enough words to begin
to describe how much I appreciate everything he’s done for us.  But I can definitely say that he was an
unbelievable father…and still is.  His
stern exterior gives way when you talk about his kids or grandkids.  His sense of humor is dry but when he gets it
going, it’s infectious.  And lastly, his
love for baseball has been infused into all of us.

I sit here today writing this entry because of him.  Had he not constantly pushed me to just pick
up the phone and see if ‘you can get in on the ground floor’, I’d probably
still be working in a front office somewhere. 
I inherited his stubbornness, his persistence, his drive and his
personality.  You need to be that type of
man to be 5 foot nothing, leave your friends and family in Cuba to pursue your
love of baseball and be able to scratch out 16 years in the Major Leagues while
participating in 5 All-Star Games.   It is
that determination and mindset that I’ve gotten to understand over the last 10
years or so.  And my bottom line in all
of it is that I’ve slowly come to the realization that I’m becoming my dad.  In my eyes, that’s the biggest compliment anyone
could ever pay me.

So, Judy Gordon to you I say thank you.  You made my first trip to Cooperstown a
memorable one.  As you spoke, I
envisioned myself as a little boy looking up to his hero much as you did
growing up.  Any chance that I get to
submerse myself in the memories I have about running around the field or the
father/son games or watching my dad play baseball, I take it…and I did on Sunday
as you spoke.  Your speech inspired this
little blog entry and for that I’m extremely grateful.

Just livin’ the dream…

VR

1 Comment

Victor, this is a wonderful post. I’m glad you finally got to Cooperstown. I was fortunate to go to college near there. My first trip I was young but it was very influential in my love for the game. And to hear you talking about your father was heartwarming. I remember him on the field as a child. This piece really put a smile on my face. I was lucky in a sense to have a similar day today. One that made you think, remember, respect and absorb.
Megan http://yankeemeg.mlblogs.com

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