What an incredible weekend it was. To begin with, any time you can visit the Big Apple with 55 of your closest friends, you are having a good day. I know a place in Little Italy that serves such good lasagna that you’d think our prayers had been answered and Chianti’s had been reopened. And they know my name! They didn’t know it at the Cheers Bar in Boston, but they know it on Mulberry Street in New York City.
Then we got to go to the Cathedral of Baseball. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Yankees are the most storied franchise in the history of sports, and their magnificent stadium reflects their legacy and their success. They have retired more numbers than Sing Sing and tributes to their legends, past and present, are everywhere.
You have to lay your head somewhere at night and we chose the Bronx Opera House — an elegant former theater where the Marx Brothers and Harry Houdini once performed. It beats camping out in Central Park.
Hall of Fame weekend. Amazing!!! Yes, I meant to use three exclamation points. It may be poor journalism, but all three are needed to get the message across.
Maddux. Class act. Glavine. Class Act. Bobby Cox. Class Act. They deserved the support the South — especially Atlanta and the state of Georgia were there to give them. Cooperstown was abuzz for two days and anyone who has ever gripped a baseball — or a bat — and dreamed, would have loved being a part of the induction weekend madness.
We saw Pete Rose, Ernie Banks, Whitey Ford, Cal Ripkin Jr., Sandy Koufax and the list goes on and on and on and on. Unbelievable. Unbelievable.
Then we dropped by the Basketball Hall of Fame for good measure — which was a huge disappointment. I saw Betty Faith Jaynes’s picture, but Ronald Bradley was not listed among high school coaches with 1,000 wins. Somebody needs to correct that. And they had a showcase of what was supposed to be the best college coaches ever — but Adolph Rupp was nowhere to be found.
We capped off the weekend on Monday night by watching the Red Sox get trounced in Fenway Park — but we watched from a private box on the right field roof. Not a bad way to cap off the trip. Plus we avoided a huge tornado-spawning thunderstorm.
Now I told you all of that to tell you this. None of the above is what made the trip so special.
What better way to experience baseball than through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy. We had one with us. His name is Cooper. He has red hair and freckles, is full of enthusiasm and loves baseball. Loves it. Cooper spends most of his waking moments getting wheeled around in a rolling chair — which doesn’t deter his good time one bit.
But his wheelchair broke on the third day of our trip and all the king’s horses and the seven Georgia Tech engineers we had in our group couldn’t put it together again.
We were headed to Cooperstown on a Sunday. Cooperstown is a village of 1,800 people. We didn’t have any notion that we would be able to find a wheelchair on a Sunday. But I said a prayer and called the local medical center. The guy who answered the phone called his supervisor, who called a buddy at home, who called another buddy at home.
The third or fourth buddy called my cellphone. He told me that he would go to his place of business — a medical supply store that is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 to 4:30, and pick up a chair, fight the traffic involved with packing 50,000 people into a 1,850-person town and bring the chair to us.
Wow!!! Yes. I meant to use three again.
We met our Good Samaritan and asked if we could pay for the rental with a credit card. Our hearts sank when he said no, because we had limited cash. They soared when he said, “You can’t pay me at all. This one is on the house.”
He wasn’t done. When I asked about arrangements for returning the chair, he told us to keep it. “He’ll need it in the next town,” was his logic. Yes, he gave us a wheelchair. A nice one.
Thank you, God, for angels among us. Can I get a witness?
And, yes — we will be going next year, but I think we’ll have to add Wrigley Field, too. We should give Chicago a chance to disprove the stereotypes, too.