Monday, July 23, 2012

Safe at Home

     It had been a beautiful afternoon.  The weather could not have been lovelier; the breeze was light, the grounds inviting and the crowd as gracious and polite as could be.  Little kids in royal blue number 10 jerseys played baseball with their parents on the periphery of the field while oldtimers clutched their programs and wiped a tear.  All in all, a perfectly splendid day for an induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in beautiful Cooperstown, New York.  And that's what made it all so sad.
     Maybe it was the Hall of Fame's traditional indifference towards third basemen.  Maybe it was the flexibility of the rules regarding inclusion before the Veterans Committee took over; maybe it was because his stats were incorrectly evaluated. Maybe he ticked off the reporters, maybe he called 'em as he saw 'em one time too many.  You might as well blame it on sunspots.
    Ron had been unfairly overlooked and no matter how brightly the sun shone down in Cooperstown on the 18,000 plus fans and 43 current Hall of Famers that attended, including Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal, Yogi Berra, Willie Mays, Johnny Bench, Ryne Sandburg, Bruce Sutter, Andre Dawson, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and God love him- longtime friend and teammate Ernie Banks; who was barely holding it together and struggling to find something positive to say about the HOF that day; a part of Cubbie loyalists everywhere still shook their heads in disgust and wished it could have been otherwise.

 Mrs. Hall was one of them.  Standing in the shade from a nearby bank of maples, she watched the crowds ebb and swell, waiting for the proceedings to begin.  For a while there seemed to be a large contingency of Cincinnati fans taking over, but a wave of blue appeared as the fans stood for the national anthem, and its overwhelming allegiance was immediately clear. (The Reds' Barry Larkin was also being inducted at that time; in a move exemplifying the Santos family's graciousness, Vicki began her speech with congratulations to Mr. Larkin first.)

Earlier that day, Mrs. Hall had raced over to the HOF just in time to catch Andre Dawson signing copies of his memoirs, "If You Love This Game".  The streets were just filling up with fans, and the hawkers for the ex-players and managers signing autographs (for a small fortune) along the strip were out in full force and good lungs.  As far as Mrs. H. could see, the only thing missing to make the fun complete was a chuck wagon selling Vienna Beef Hot Dogs alongside a pile of heartstoppingly greasy fries.
Everything appeared to go off without a hitch. Afterwards, the crowds dispelled as leisurely and congenially as they had emerged.  The ribbons came down, the press reported and moved on, the historians and record keepers marked their books and records and the family watched as they hung his plaque in that golden hallway with all the others.  It was all so perfect.

It's just a crying shame Ron wasn't there to see it happen.

Tell your friends!