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A SENSE OF MELANCHOLY
Mixed with the pleasure a baseball fan feels at seeing the mementos in the museum is a sense of melancholy. I recall visiting the ruins of Olympia, the site of the original Olympic games. The stadium was washed away in a flood centuries ago, but the cement starting line for the racers remains. Athletics was bound up with the religion of ancient Greece. In America this is not the case, although baseball is deeply integrated into our culture. It is loved. It is also big business.
And yet some of our great baseball players are thought of in somewhat the same terms as the athletes of ancient Greece. There is one story of an Olympic runner who was winning his race. Nearing the finish line, his loincloth began to fall down. He could either have paused, pulled it up and lost the race, or else let it fall off and go on to be the victor. He won the race running stark naked. Ty Cobb played ball the way that ancient Greek ran a race. To him it must have been a way of life, as it was to some others, many of whom are gone—Ruth, Gehrig, Alexander, Mathewson, Eddie Collins. You see the plaques and pictures of these baseball players of the past and they stir melancholy reflections on the biological changes and tragedy of man.
AN EARLIER AMERICA
Baseball historians have challenged the claim that Cooperstown is the real home of baseball. But even if this be granted, there is a certain appropriateness in the museum's being located here. It is an old and attractive village on the shores of Otsego Lake. Although its Main Street is like many other Main Streets, a sense of a different pioneer America pervades Cooperstown. To go there is like breathing a little of the air of an earlier America.
In the Hall of Fame room, there is on exhibit a homemade old ball with the stuffing coming out of it. It is somewhat smaller than the modern ball. It was found in an attic not far from Cooperstown and well might have been used for games of town ball, one o' cat or baseball in General Abner Doubleday's lifetime. Baseball was probably played elsewhere in the 1830s or early 1840s. But it was also played in Cooperstown.
FATHER AND SON
There is a standard joke about the father who buys an electric train for his son as a Christmas present. The toy is for the boy. But comes Christmas morning and there is the old man on the floor amidst the tracks, engine cars, signals, electric motor and other paraphernalia. It is a question as to whom the toy is for, the father or the son. The father is playing with the train set he never had as a boy. I felt somewhat like the father of this old saw when I went about the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum with my own son. For whom was the visit? My son liked it. But it appeared that I liked it even more than he.