Two things. First, I am having technical difficulties and I don’t know if I can get pictures up. I may get them up later, but for now this is a post with “just words”. Except for the photo above which is from someone with a better camera and a better credential than me.
Second, I’d hoped to post a bit more this weekend, but I kind of didn’t think through how busy a weekend in Cooperstown could be. To set the stage – me and my wife came here sans the 2 kids. Big thanks are going to my parents who drove up to Chicago and agreed to watch a loud, questioning 4-year old and a loud, physical 1-½ year old while my wife and I went to Manhattan, Bergen County, various breweries, a lake for kayaking, and, ultimately, Cooperstown.
We got to Cooperstown Friday evening, but this post is just about today, and just Piazza. If I have time tomorrow, I’ll post about Saturday. We stayed in a rental house 1 block from the Hall of Fame. I can’t describe how awesome the location was. The only better location would have been if they put us in a room on the 4th floor of the Hall of Fame (it’s only 3 floors).
My wife and I stayed out a bit too late last night, so we had to sleep it off. I had to pick up a few things from around town in the morning. And by the time we were both ready – it was 11:00. We went uptown – a block away – and looked for “brunch”, which turned out to be a couple of hot dogs – the quickest thing. I took the opportunity to sneak in a picture with Goose Gossage, who was doing a photo opp for a donation to the Cooperstown fire dept. You could get his auto for a price – I assume that went to him and promoters – but the photos were for a donation. I would like to say, the Goose is just an all around friendly guy. He joked with my wife – “oh, thanks for the hot dogs, I’m starving” – and was clearly happy to be there interacting with fans. My wife wanted to know why he went by “Goose”, and he said it was from his rookie year because he stuck his neck out so far. It was a really cool experience, and the fact that he was raising some money for a local group was neat. I had one not-so-good experience on Saturday – this helped to go the other way.
From there we walked the mile to Clark Sports Center, where the induction is held. I got the more expensive membership to the Hall of Fame to get guaranteed seats this year, but you still have to wait in a line. Actually, the way it works – if you don’t get “tickets”, you can just sit/stand wherever, but everyone puts their folding chairs out the night before or early that morning and calls dibs. It was nice to not have to do that, but I’d say when I go back – I’ll just figure out a way to get a folding chair there. Griffey getting inducted was special, so it was worth it this year. We could have arrived at 10AM and gotten the best of the ticketed seats – but unless you’re family, you aren’t gonna be that close anyways.
We found seats in the middle, and sat next to a father and son from Pittsburgh. The best thing about coming to an induction weekend is swapping stories. The guy’s wife had bought him tickets to this as soon as Junior got elected, and then found a room at the Best Western shortly thereafter. He went with his dad while his wife watched their 2 kids back home – similar to my own story. We had an hour to wait after we sat down, so it was cool to have a couple of people to trade stories with.
More takes on the fans – the guy in front of us had a spray bottle of water. He kept spraying everyone around to help with the 90+ heat and humidity. That was indicative of the overall festive mood. Judging by jerseys and noise, I would say it was 35-40% Mariner fans, 30-35% Mets fans, 15% Reds fans, and 5% other. The boo birds came out the 2 times MLB Network forced commercial break pauses in the ceremony – but people were mostly being tongue in cheek.
On to the speech. The Piazza speech. Piazza went first, and he knocked it out of the park. He gave a really cool nod to Griffey in that he was honored to be inducted alongside him. He sent a special shout out to Mike Schmidt (his favorite player growing up in Eastern PA) and Johnny Bench (whose catching HR he broke). He went through his career, thanking everyone from Tommy LaSorda in LA to Bruce Bochy in San Diego – but at the end he went to his family. He was choked up when he started talking about his father.
My wife and I have zero allegiance to Mike Piazza, other than he’s the other guy getting inducted on the same date as the baseball player we named our dog after. But Piazza had done such a good job to that point, he got us both to tear up in the one-hundred-and-fifty degree (at least it felt like that) heat. He said a lot of cool things about his family, but the last thing he said was “we made it dad”, and it just fit. Baseball is often a game about fathers and sons, and his speech was most powerful at the moment he talked about his dad. I don’t know how it came across on TV, but the guy was sincere and he won me over.
Tomorrow if I have time I’ll go over Griffey’s speech. It was a different set of emotions – there was almost no way I wouldn’t think it was awesome because I’m biased. But it was different and, to me at least, worth going over separately.