Take me out to the ball game -- and other neat places

By Bill | August, 08, 2012

Saturday, July 21 -- It’s sort of hard for a Chicago Cub fan like me to get on a bus with Cardinal written on its side, but that may have been my only bout of mixed feelings on our trip to Cooperstown and other cool places July 21-25, 2012.


            Thirty-three of us in all – including travel manager Sandy Shoff and our bus driver Doug  – headed for Detroit on our first day to see the Tigers take on the visiting White Sox.


            We had some dyed-in-the-wool Sox fans on the trip – including Tony and Susan Baron of LaPorte, Art and Maxine Fredrickson of Goshen, Scott and Julie (OK, Julie not so much) Dunham of South Bend and David Tulloch of Fort Wayne. They wore their black and white garb proudly.


            So we Cub fans tried to be a little sympathetic when the Tigers took over first-place from the Sox, 7-1, in a game that lasted only 2 hours, 13 minutes. It was a great day for a ball game, regardless of the outcome.


            Art Fredrickson won the first trivia game of the trip by getting a perfect score on baseball nicknames.


            Ironically, five of our group had joined me on Edgerton’s first Baseball & Cooperstown trip three years ago. Patty McCain, Marcine Todd, Dick Latson, Lu Shepherd and Jack Walkden proved to be great traveling mates once again and didn’t even blink when I told a few of the same jokes I had on the previous trip. OK, Jack may have groaned a couple of times.



            Sunday, July 22 -- We were up early from our motel stay in Monroe, Michigan and headed out to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Elvis had not left the building and, really, it was hard for us to leave, too. What a great place to listen to the tunes of our youth and explore all the exhibits and memorabilia.


            And for lunch, we could eat on the Hall of Fame’s third-floor veranda and gaze out at the sailboats under the blue skies on Lake Erie. It seems we could come up with a song title from that setting.


            Only a few from our group got Johnny Cash’s tour bus -- just outside the Hall -- mixed up with our motor coach and I’m not telling you who those people were (some leftover flower children from the ’60s, I’m guessing).


Then we were off to Utica, New York and the historic Utica Hotel – our home for the next two nights. On the way, Scott Dunham won the second trivia contest when he bettered “Art Knows Baseball” Fredrickson in a tie-breaker question.


            We also watched the movie, “Field of Dreams,” and I swear I saw a tear run down the cheeks of some of the guys at the end of the movie. Paul Sidorowicz, Duane Kalicki and Rick Robakowski might have fit that category but I’m not saying for sure.


            We were having a good time getting to know each other and discovered that Tom and Peggy Potratz of South Bend were getting ready to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. Going to Cooperstown seemed like an appropriate trip for them to take since we found out that their honeymoon was spent at Wrigley Field.


            Our group had its share of baseball connections back home, too. Jim and Nancy Marks, now of White Pigeon, were getting constant updates about their grandson who was playing in the 13-15-year-old Little League state finals while Dennis and Elaine Gerard’s son Chad is the assistant baseball coach for Mishawaka High School after being a top-notch catcher for the Cavemen during a conference championship season.


            And Jim Marks knows his baseball – and just about every other sport. He was with the Westview Community Schools for 43 years and during his tenure, he coached 45 different teams. He also served as athletic director.


Arriving in Utica, we had dinner at Delmonico’s, as nice of an Italian Steak House as you will find anywhere. We were getting to know each other pretty well by this time. Even people traveling alone, like the lovely Dawn Engelsman of St. Joseph, Michigan, were feeling quite comfortable with our friendly group.


            Monday, July 23 -- Cooperstown awaited us and we couldn’t wait. It was the day after the late Ron Santo and Barry Larkin were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and so there still was a major buzz around town.


            We all received our tickets for entry and mine had a picture Barry Larkin on it. So Dick Latson, knowing that I was a big Cub fan, traded tickets with me since his had Ron Santo. Nice guy. No wonder Lu loves him.


            It was neat to see Santo’s brand-new plaque in the Plaque Gallery with all the other Hall of Famers. It was just too bad he wasn’t alive to see it himself.


            I think we all really enjoyed our time in the Hall but the bucolic little village of Cooperstown was a neat place to see, too. A bunch of us used our trolley passes to get a feel for the hometown of renown author James Fenimore Cooper, inventor Samuel Morse and Civil War general Abner Doubleday, once considered the father of baseball. Cooperstown also has the Farmers’ Museum, the Fenimore Art Museum and about a thousand memorabilia shops.


            Although former Notre Dame baseball player Paul Sidorowicz probably led the league in souvenirs bought, Patty McCain may have found the only T-shirt with Cooperstown stenciled on it but with no mention of our national pastime. Hers had butterflies instead of baseballs. About as unique as an unassisted triple play.


 Hey, speaking of Halls of Fame. Dick Freeman from Mishawaka was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame earlier in the year. Although a top-notch player at MHS, he went in as an official – something he did for 30 years in three different sports. As a player, his biggest accomplishment may have been getting a pretty Mishawaka cheerleader named Janet to go out with him – and later marry him, too.


From Cooperstown, we traveled over to Herkimer, New York and went on a cruise on the Erie Canal. Going up and down a lock – a 30-foot change in elevation – was a first for most of us.


Tuesday, July 24 -- We said good-bye to upper New York and headed toward Pittsburgh. John and Shawn Overmyer of Rochester won trivia this time after beating Tony and Susan Baron in the tie-breaker round. The tie-breaker question: How many career home runs did Hall of Famer Willie McCovey hit? The correct answer: 521. The Overmyers’ answer: 521. Baseball brilliance, I would say.


. All of us seemed to be picking up a little bit more baseball knowledge on the trip. That included our leader Sandy who I don’t think knew the difference between a triple and a tickle when we first started out on the trip.


It was nice to see the father-son duo of Walt and Doug Ross in our group. They may be a little old to have a game of whiffleball out in the backyard but they can still enjoy a good game as spectators together.


We were suddenly in Pittsburgh with all its rolling hills and meandering rivers. Cool town. If any city needs to know how to make an economic recovery, they should look at the Steel City – although steel obviously isn’t what it used to be here.


We ate in Max’s Allegheny Tavern before going to the ball game between the host Pirates and Cubs. There was supposed to be a ghost in the tavern but our enthusiastic band of baseball fans apparently scared it away.


As we took our seats at PNC Park, I had to think that this was the prettiest new baseball stadium I’ve been in. It was nice to see Julie Dunham in a Cub shirt even though her husband Scott, an avid White Sox fan, probably wasn’t so thrilled.


A few White Sox fans were quietly rooting for the Pirates – Tony Baron said as much -- and that was OK with us Cub fans. He met his wife Susan because of baseball – actually, a baseball board game. He and his college roommate at Ball State were playing it so much that his roomie’s girl friend decided to cut into their playing time by setting Tony up with one of her friends. That was Susan. The rest is history.


The host Pirates were history, too, as the Cubs beat them, 5-1, on another beautiful night for baseball. And the White Sox fans on our trip could at least admire the majestic Pittsburgh skyline we all could view from the park.


Wednesday, July 25 -- Before we headed home, we got a little tour of Pittsburgh, concentrating on the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area. We learned all about the steel industry and even got to visit a still-standing blast furnace. David Tulloch of Fort Wayne knew almost as much as our well-versed guides since he had worked in the Gary steel mills as a young man.


Next was a catered meal at the Carnegie Library of Homestead, built in 1898 and one of the first of some 2,500 libraries funded by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. It also has a gym and a music hall, which has hosted a long list of nationally-renown  performers.


Then if was off to Indiana after a five full days of enjoying the sights and each other’s company. It was hard to say good-bye -- first to David Tulloch in Fort Wayne and then to the always smiling Bob and Sheila Grygienc in Fremont.


The only glitch on the trip home was when our driver Doug couldn’t get through the toll booth off the Indiana Toll Road at the Mishawaka entrance. So he suggested I unscrew the arm that was holding us back. I hope any pictures of that little escapade are a little fuzzy.


But I hope your snapshots – both the ones from your camera and the ones ingrained in your mind – will always be vivid for you.      




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