Saturday, November 8, 2008

Some Make it, Some Don't

Almost every sport has a hall of fame. We go through a lengthy round of offerings each year for candidates to receive those coveted spots in their related sport. Since my bride was born and raised in Cooperstown, New York, we have a special attraction to the ritual there. On this August occasion, the tiny town is turned on its ear. The traffic is unbearable but it doesn’t dampen the excitement of either the locals or the visitors. Related baseball merchandise is featured in every store window and anecdotal conversation is readily available since every resident becomes a baseball expert at that hallowed time.

Thousands jam the single “main drag” and the local ball park hosts a ceremonial game which generally features a couple of major league teams. The cries of the officials calling balls and strikes and the roar of the crowd for a well hit ball fill the air. It’s old time America all over again. That morning, on the steps of the Baseball Hall of Fame on Main Street, the choice of inductees is announced and players generally too old to beat out a bunt single gratefully react to being recognized for their heroics of an earlier day. It’s easy to find. From the flag pole in the intersection of Main and Pioneer Streets go past Augur’s Bookstore (it belonged to Jan’s dad for decades) about a block.

Over beer and hot dogs, the die hard fans criticize the committee for failing to recognize their personal favorite as this year’s nominee. Others maintain that a player named today couldn’t have made it in the past without his lively bat and steroids. The script is pretty much the same from year to year as it has since in inception in 1936.

I’m not certain that Cooperstown represents the “granddaddy of them all” but I am sure it’s close. Given the place in the hearts of Americans for our national pastime, this hall of fame has a special place. As a result we now have over 270 halls of fame in eleven countries. They celebrate every sport from archery to wrestling and odd lots of nearly every category of human and animal endeavor. Victor J. Danlov published a book, “Hall of Fame, Museums” to help you locate them all. If your interest is in bowling, Barbie dolls, or burlesque, he has you covered—or uncovered. There is even a guy in Dallas, “Cockroach Dundee,” who maintains a Cockroach Hall of Fame for that irritating species. He claims to be the third biggest attraction in the D/FW area.

The prompting for this post was supplied by a recent article with the exciting news of the latest nominee for placement in the Toy Hall of Fame in Syracuse, NY—not surprisingly, close to Cooperstown. This venerable institution has decided to honor, in addition to Mr. Potato Head, the bicycle, crayolas and the cardboard box; the stick! The stick, a childhood companion to which each of us may relate. Whether a piece of scrap wood or cut from a willow branch, it inspired us to assign endless imagined identities; spear, ski pole, rifle, baton, lever, sword, or even possibly the basic material for a bow. As children, we found them available in abundance and ever ready to test our imagination. Do kids today still play with sticks? With the inventiveness of the child’s mind, I’ll bet they do.

On my next trip to New York, I think I’ll drop by and see if any other stalwarts from my childhood have shown up to be so honored. Surely they must have a worn out tire, a piece of frayed rope, or the ever venerable fall favorite; a pile of leaves. If the gray beards at this institution can meet in solemn assembly and recognize the value of this enduring child’s toy I must applaud their efforts. Oh for the joys of childhood and the sheer pleasure of a stick.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

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