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Memory lives on in Cooperstown
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Years ago, I had a chance to visit the baseball shrine in Cooperstown, New York.

At the time, Dan Mooney, a college friend, was working as sports reporter for the Poughkeepsie Journal. He had visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and came away overwhelmed. Dan rooted for the Atlanta Braves, crediting the 1974 season when Hank Aaron eclipsed the career home run mark.

Hammerin’ Hank finished with 755 career home runs. As we know, Barry Bonds broke that mark a few years ago, finishing with 762 round-trippers for his career (I actually had to look those numbers up).

 I’ve been a fan of baseball history long before the numbers were tainted with talks of widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs among some of its record-setting players in recent years.

For me, the days when I used to dream about seeing the birthplace of America’s pastime was still a time of innocence.

It was a magical place where Babe Ruth and his 714 career home runs were forever immortalized.

Cooperstown forever held a spotlight directed on that magical 1941 season when Ted Williams was the last player to hit over .400.

It really didn’t matter that the Splendid Splinter, who hit .406, was overshadowed by Joe DiMaggio and his 56-game hitting streak, with Joltin’ Joe winning most valuable player honors.

The numbers and players of baseball’s past were forever etched in my mind.

But the National Baseball Hall of Fame, as I discovered, was more than stats and figures rattled off by fantasy sports geek.

Rather, it was about getting perspective of the game.

Take the Willie Mays’ over-the-shoulder catch in the 1954 World Series against the Cleveland Indians.

I was simply blown away by the distance the Say Hey Kid, who was accustomed to playing a shallow center field even in the spacious Polo Grounds – once home of the New York Giants – had to cover in tracking down the 450-blast off the bat of Vic Wertz.

I used to think that Ruth may have been a bit overrated. But my opinion quickly changed after a visit to Cooperstown, where a section of the museum honors the Great Bambino.

Before he changed the way the game was played by hitting home runs at a tremendous clip during the era of the Roaring Twenties, he was a premiere pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, winning 94 games including one 20-game win season and a near no-hitter to his credit.

But I was wowed by the display of the collection of Babe Ruth bats displayed by his old New York Yankee locker.

The bats were a whopping 48 ounces with the thickness of the handles resembling oars off a fishing boat. By contrast, today’s sluggers often wield 32-ounce bats.

The game of baseball has changed and even evolved over the years. The history, however, is like no other in sports.

The other day, the sports lost two beloved figures, Mark “The Bird” Fydrych and legendary announcer Harry Kalas.

But somewhere in Cooperstown, their memory lives on.