Journal Regulars columnist Jim Wharton of Sioux City takes you along on a 14-day bus trip to 10 different Major League Baseball stadiums and games this month.
June 14 Clifton Heights, N.Y.
A Sunday off-day, at least as it relates to baseball. Therefore, I’ve given Mark (my concessions consultant) the day off. Mark will be back at it full time tomorrow when we hit Boston. As a result of the notoriety he is receiving from this blog, Mark thinks he may pursue opportunities with the Food Channel.
Lots of miles today. Pittsburgh to Niagara Falls. Niagara Falls to Cooperstown. Cooperstown to Clifton Heights.
The last time I was in Niagara Falls was 1974 for my honeymoon with my spouse of 41 years. The place hasn’t changed much. Still lots of touristy kitsch that reminds you of Wisconsin Dells. But the Falls are still breathtaking seeing this spectacle for the first time. The Maid of the Mist is still taking loads of slicker-donned vacationers into the swirl of the Falls. As I remember from 1974, the Canadian side of Niagara Falls is much nicer than the American side, but we did not venture into our neighbor to the north.
We arrived in Cooperstown around 6 p.m., which gave us three hours to tour the Baseball Hall of Fame and have dinner. This was my third visit to the mecca of baseball. The last time I visited was as a guest of Kansas City Royal George Brett when he was inducted into the Hall. My first visit to the Hall was in the 1990s when I took my dad on this special trip.
Many of you know the story of my dad and his relationship with St. Louis Cardinal first baseman Jim Bottomley. Dad’s mother died when he was a baby and his father (my grandfather) was a frequent traveler as a salesman for a farm newspaper called Capper’s Weekly. Mr. and Mrs. Bottomley had no children, but they took an interest in my dad and essentially raised him. Sunny Jim went into the Hall of Fame long after his death and I was able to take Dad to Cooperstown to see his plaque before Dad passed away.
The Hall of Fame had a lot of memorabilia from Sunny Jim – artifacts that I hadn’t seen before including the bat he used to drive in 12 runs in one game ... still a record in Major League Baseball.
We also saw a photo of Dave “Beauty” Bancroft – the only Sioux Cityan in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Bancroft didn’t earn that nickname because of his incredible good looks. Legend has it that he shouted “beauty” on every good pitch to the opposition during his minor league days.
The major exhibit was dedicated to Hank Aaron. His story as a young black man from Mobile, Alabama, and the racism he endured as a professional baseball player is numbing.
The tour next heads to Boston and Red Sox Nation. The Nation is restless because the locals are having a horrible season. Prediction: Johnny Cueto will be wearing the “B” on his hat before the trading deadline.
Thanks to the growing number of readers who are checking out Extra Innings: Baseball by Bus.
Until when we hit Beantown – good night from New York.