My last trip to Cooperstown was twenty years ago. I took my parents here to celebrate the induction of Tom Seaver. Tom was my childhood hero who led the Miracle Mets to the World Championship in 1969. It was a pilgrimage for thousands of Mets fans from that era and a wonderful bonding experience for me with Mom and Dad. While in the library Thursday morning, I found footage of and watched Tom’s speech from that induction day. I was moved by it in ways that I was not twenty years ago. Was it because twenty years ago I was in a large crowd and several hundred feet away? Or was it connected to Seaver’s emotional tribute to his Mom. She had passed away prior to the induction. and my Mom, who was with me at the ceremony, has passed since. Perhaps it was something else that reflects how I interpret such achievements after 20 more years of life. I did have the chance to meet Tom Seaver six years ago in Cincinnati. As I get older it seems that the story of the ’69 Mets has become more special and personal to me.
Most of Friday was spent in the library research room reviewing the Sandy Koufax file. As a distant relative, I had the chance to meet Sandy a few times as child. My grandfather took me to see him by the Dodger locker room before games at Shea Stadium. Koufax was the best pitcher in baseball at the time, a Michael Jordan type of icon. I knew he failed miserably during the first half of the career but I was too young to remember. How did such a disappointing first five years turn into a Hall of Fame career so quickly? I searched the file for articles from that time-mid to late fifties. Through them I learned more about his early years that were totally irrelevant to me as a child. As I went through the oldest articles, actual clippings, I had a flashback of my grandfather often sharing his Sandy Koufax “file” with me. My grandfather was all about Sandy, who grew up in Brooklyn with the rest of the family. It wasn’t until after Koufax retired that I learned that I was related to him through my grandmother, not my grandfather. She never came to the games with us, not even on Ladies Day!
There are 231 men enshrined in the Hall of Fame, 65 are living. Quite an accomplishment considering 18,000 have played in at least one game in the Major Leagues. While I have seen two dozen actually play during my lifetime, Koufax and Seaver are special. I not only know their stories, but they are part of my story. And after this trip, even more so.