For thirty plus years I’ve lived in the state of New York, but never once considered visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. My reasoning was so simplistic, a child could scrawl it out in crayon cincinnati red:
Pete wasn’t there.
Like a climate change denier, I couldn’t see the change in the baseball climate, the one that said that Rose surely bet on baseball. Pete said he didn’t. That was good enough for me. I even had a t-shirt with a picture of Pete in uniform grabbing himself as players are often caught doing as they stand on first, with the words, “Bet on this, Bart.” Yeah. I was shameless in my support of Rose.
Although, truth be told, being in Pete’s corner proved to be a full-time job. I had to weather not only the admission by the man after 14 years of lying that that he did in fact bet on the game, I had to stand witness to a parade of embarrassing moments, like clowns coming out of a very small car: Pete selling himself off on TV, even as A. Bartlett Giamatti was about to sell him down the river mere hours later; Pete signing notarized copies of the documents making his ban official with the inscription “I’m sorry I bet on baseball;” then there was that noble night, the 25th anniversary of the Big Knock, when he decided he couldn’t be around for the entire celebration orchestrated by the Reds at GABP because he had a prior commitment at a local casino.
It’s the show that never ends. It sometimes felt as if it should come with circus clown music. It takes its toll on a fan.
So, when Google Maps informed me that, after visiting my son on Saturday at his summer camp in upstate Pennsylvania hard by the New York border, I would be only 99 miles from Cooperstown and the next day’s induction ceremony of the great Larkin—I had a change of heart. As an internet friend of mine said the other day, “Rose got exactly what he deserved… he did it the old fashioned way. He earned it.” It was time to let go of my foolish ways. Barry Larkin was surely worthy of that.
Where Pete was greatness and guilt, Barry was greatness and grace. He loved wearing Cincinnati Red. He once was shocked to have a Dodger jersey with “LARKIN” on the back delivered to him by a clubhouse boy when it appeared a deal was about to be done with L.A. to trade Barry to the Lasordas, and they wanted to be ready for the press conference.
Thankfully, we never had to witness that.
It was early when I exited I-88 for the 17 mile scenic drive north up Route 28 to Cooperstown. I passed Goodyear Lake and quaint little motels flush with automobiles. For much of the way I fought through the morning fog, thick with anticipation. As I approached town, the veil lifted and wouldn’t you know it?—corn fields appeared on either side of the highway. At any moment, I half expected James Earl Jones to step out onto the roadway.
I parked directly across from a beautiful canary yellow Victorian house with a wooden sign over the front porch announcing, “Baseball Bed & Breakfast: Vacancy.” Two men in Larkin jerseys strolled past my car as I got out. “Great day to be a Reds fan, isn’t it,” I said. “Indeed it is,” came the reply.
Continue reading Chasing Barry