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|| News Item: Posted 2001-12-19

A Journey To The Hall
By Jeff Carlick

(Editor's note - The following is an e-mail letter from Bay Area photographer Jeff Carlick to his old friend and Allsport photographer Otto Greule, who moved to Seattle two or so years ago. Clearly, these guys have shared a lot of laughs together and have a deep passion for baseball, cats, and, of course, beer. Please enjoy this letter recounting Carlick's recent trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame.)

Photo by
Otto Man,

Hot Tub! I kiss myself!

Well, sir, even though business has been slow (damn, how long until spring?), I've been on the run.

The long-planned trip to the Hall of Fame went really well, despite highly unforeseen circumstances.

Where to begin?

As you may remember, Don, Brad and I had planned to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame after shooting Miami at Buffalo (there was no other game anywhere west of the Mississippi). So, when Don found a round-trip ticket for $200, the trip was a no-brainer.

Then, a couple weeks before departure, Brad canceled for various reasons, the most compelling being he was flat-out sick from flying. The Air Bus crash was the straw that broke the camels back, so Brad was out like Marvin Benard being waved home by Wendell Kim. Too bad, too, because the trip would have been so much better with Brad going "WOW!" all the time.

Photo by Jeff Carlick

Photo by Jeff Carlick
So, the day after Thanksgiving ... and the day before we were scheduled to leave, my damn cat ... er, my loving feline friend Oscar (the cute gray guy) got hammered by a urinary tract blockage and I was scrambling. My regular vet was on vacation. The other local vet was swamped. The South Bay emergency clinic was closed until 6 that night. And it was 10 a.m. and my cat was in pain, scraping his peter on the carpet and plugged with piss. And pissed. Finally, I found the North Bay emergency clinic was open. Zipped up there and indeed, he was blocked. They came out with an estimate of One Freaking Thousand Dollars!!!

I've always said if either of my cats gets that kind of sick ... they walk the plank. C'mon, I can get a new cat for 35 clams. It's simple math.

Of course, I had no choice.

Did it.

Now, it got sticky as I was supposed to leave for five days ... the next day!

To the rescue came my dear friend Jack, who has a cat that I've saved at least two of his nine lives. Jack - Long Live Jack! - picked up Oscar on Sunday. The vet actually wanted Oscar picked up on Saturday because he was so unruly he nearly killed a nurse. But Jack was hosting a guest and everyone else in my life has a life, so the poor guy had to buck up and sit in jail for an extra night.

Meanwhile, Don and I departed San Jose for Chicago and through to Buffalo in a ridiculously early morning flight through the beginnings of a kick-ass storm that rocked the Bay Area. No sooner had the plane taken off, we hit turbulence that would have made Jesus convert. That damn plane rock and rolled, pitched and batted, dived as it climbed. To say the least, I was one really unhappy camper. I'm not a good flyer to begin with and haven't been flying much lately, either, so my resistance was low. And this was one bad-ass flight.

Don, two seats to my left, noticed I was green as Herman Munster and started laughing. He told me it was just air and to find my "Happy Place!" Yeah, find my freaking happy place...Right! Didn't help that the guy behind and to my right was puking his guts out into a blanket. Guess he already filled his barf bag and was on to plan B.

So this went on for an hour. The dishes in the back of the plane were rattling like there was an earthquake. When I looked forward -and we were in the back of the plane - all I saw were heads bobbing back and forth like a pinball game.

Photo by
Two hours later, we began our descent into Chicago and the pilot had asked the stewards to wrap up early because they were expecting a bumpy landing. Damn! At this point, I was thinking about booking a train from Chicago to SF. The thought of getting back on a plane to Buffalo an hour later was ... unthinkable.

Oddly enough, it wasn't as bumpy as some previous flights to Denver, but nonetheless a rocky ride and when we touched down all I wanted to do was get as far away from that blanket as possible.

Back home, Jack returned to cat duty. Long story made short, Oscar was not an easy patient. But Jack persisted and against all odds, kept both Felix and Oscar as happy and comfortable as possible until I got home.

Back to Chicago. We got on the plane and low-and-behold, a smooth flight to Buffalo. The game went well and we left a few minutes early to beat the traffic and begin our dream trip to our childhood.

Only one minor detail. We took a little shortcut back to our car, only it wasn't so short. Instead, we were faced with a seven-foot embankment, which was mostly mud. We could have either walked about 500 yards around, or climb the wall of death. Don climbed as I watched.

Now Don has a case from hell on a cart and about half way up, he slipped. Not much, but enough to make me think twice. After a nifty dance, Don was on top of the hill, telling me to hurry up. Now I just have the rolling strong box, but it's still 60 pounds or whatever, and my legs aren't exactly Rocky Balboa's. Still, there's no choice, so up I went. Wheezing like a two-pack-a-day Chris Covatta, I got to the top of the hill. Amazing.

In the car, I lectured Don that we're no damn spring chickens and that was probably the stupidest thing I've done since getting on a flight in the middle of a killer storm. Don laughed, his usual compassionate self, and admitted that wasn't the brightest thing to do, but what the hell. We made it, right?

On to Cooperstown.

Not so fast. It was Sunday night of Thanksgiving weekend. All we saw for three hours were red taillights. No accidents. No stupid weather. It was raining a little, but basically, I-90 was bumper to bumper with holiday traffic. Miraculously, right after Syracuse, the highway opened up and we began to zoom. Yeah! Now, if we could find a roadside diner, we'd have a nice dinner and bring it on in to Cooperstown. Another missing detail. I-90 is a state owned toll road. No roadside nothings. From Buffalo to Boston, there are only gas rest stops with fast-food restaurants. McDonald's. Ughhh. OK, I'm over it. Really. We had no choice!

At last, we reached Cooperstown about 10 p.m. ... on a Sunday night...on Thanksgiving weekend ... in stinkin' November! Think anything is going to be open???

Photo by Jeff Carlick

Photo by Jeff Carlick
Actually, yes!!! Doubleday Cafe, which would be our home for the next couple days. A wonderful spot with, as they said on their T-shirt, "micro brewed beer and a baseball problem." We were in heaven. A few beers later and a few stories from a couple of locals and we were really rolling. At midnight, we headed out into the cold snappy air of Cooperstown, back to the Cooper Inn. Down Main Street, we passed a couple baseball shops.

Feeling no pain, Don whipped out his trusty Canon G-1 and we made a video for Brad. Suffice to say, we were drunk. And hopefully, you can view the attached mpeg because words can't describe it.

Fortunately, Barney and Andy didn't come by and arrest us and we crawled back to the Cooper Inn, excited for the Hall of Fame.

Monday morning, we were up and at 'em. Ok, it was about 10 a.m., but we were up, OK? After a Cooper Inn breakfast, we ambled down Main Street and found Doubleday Field, which is the spot where Abner Doubleday supposedly organized the first modern rules baseball game. A really cool relic of a ball yard with tiny brick dugouts that you'd be hard pressed to squeeze McGwire and Canseco. The place was kinda locked, but we jumped a small fence and wandered around taking pictures. Great start.

On to the Hall of Fame where we first hooked up with Milo Stewart, Jr. a photographer for the Hall of Fame whom Don had met many springs ago in Phoenix. Milo gave as a quick tour of his studio and office and the basement where all the photos and other memorabilia are archived and stored. Very cool. Literally. About 60 degrees. All the time. He gave us a few viewing tips and we set out on our own.

We immediately went to the trading card display on the third floor where we recognized some of our cards. Don found a few of his, I saw a couple of mine and there's a bunch that had to be either yours Otto, or Brad's or Thearon's ... or someone's.

Down the hall, there was the Hall of Fame photo contest winners. Brad had one winner and two in the honorable mention section. Beautiful display.

From there, we headed back down to the beginning and started the tour. It was truly magical. And the best part is there was absolutely no-stinking-body there! Really. Don, myself and some old lady. And she was easy to bump out of the way. Don took her.

We spent a couple or three hours slowly winding through the early years of baseball. Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, the Negro Leagues, Jackie Robinson, Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio. The usual suspects. Just awesome. We broke for lunch and headed back to the Doubleday Cafe.

Then back to the Hall for another round. The evolution of the uniform. Lockers of Mickey and Joe. Hate mail to Jackie. Henry Aaron and home runs #'s 714, 715 and 755. So many bats and balls. The glove Willie Mays used to make the catch of Vic Wertz drive at the Polo Grounds. The glove used by Brooks Robinson in the '71 Series. The glove used by Yogi Berra to catch Don Larsen's perfect game. The perfect ball and Don Larsen's hat. The perfect picture of Yogi leaping into Larsen's arms.

Photo by Jeff Carlick

Photo by Jeff Carlick
Ted Williams. Satchel Paige. Stan "The Man" Musial. "Cool Papa" Bell. The "Shot Heard Round the World". Mark McGwire and his bats and balls up to but not including #71. Sammy Sosa. Ken Griffey, Jr. Cal Ripken. Sandy Koufax. Nolan Ryan. The midget Eddie whatever. Pete Rose, even though he's not inducted, there's lots of his pictures. "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. Willie Stargell.

And all the while Don was making videos. I could hear him all the time, because he had his camera set to click whenever he took a picture. Sounded more like my computer, but, of course, that's what it is. Such a wonderful toy. His video clips are sooooo cool.

We took another break and went to a soda fountain shop. Just a breather to wet our whistle and then back to the Hall. Up to the broadcasters and writers wing where there were displays showing a view from a press box and the sound of classic voices including "The Giants win the pennant, the Giants win the pennant!"

There was three typewriters, including Jimmy Cannon's. Again, just magical. There was a few old microphones, including Yankee public announcer Bob Sheppard. There was Harry Carry's coke bottle glasses.

Around the corner was Baseball at the Movies. There was a case with old jerseys; the "Bad News Bears"; the Knights from "The Natural"; "The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars"; the "League of Their Own"; Abbott and Costello, and, my favorite, Gary Cooper's uniform from "The Pride of the Yankees."

I could go on for days ... and we were there for just a little more than a day. So many highlights. Brad asked what was my favorite thing? Impossible to answer, but when pressed I settled on the display for Roberto Clemente. An amazing life-like mannequin in full uniform, standing with the bat that he belted hit #3,000, his last. And by his feet, the ball. And next to him, the chair from his locker (probably from Forbes Field), which would have been bolted down to the ground and looked way too small and uncomfortable.

Still, he must have sat in that chair resting his old and aching bones a few thousand times. Neat. Around the corner was a case for the 70's Reds. Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez and my favorite, Johnny Bench. Then there was a case for the 70's A's and Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers and Joe Rudi and Reggie Jackson. On and on...the Kansas City Royals and George Brett, the St. Louis Cardinals and Ozzie Smith flipping his somersault, the New York Mets and Gary Carter, and, lots and lots of New York Yankees and Derek Jeter.

At last, it was time to go and we strolled down Main Street, checking out all the stores that were like museums. Bobble-head dolls, old gloves and bats and hats. It was like a dream come to life. Had a hard time not whipping out my credit card and buying this old catcher's glove, the really old "popper" glove that pre-dated the hinged model. Just a mere $250. I passed, but was really tempted.

Maybe when we go back in five years. That, of course, is the year of McGwire, Ripken and Gwynn. At the Doubleday that night, we ran into a fellow that ran a B&B in town and I asked him if I could book a reservation for five years down the pike. He laughed and laughed, then looked me in the eye and said ... "NO!"

Maybe it was because I was flirting with his daughter. Maybe not.

Anyway, we went back the next day and tooled around the Hall for a couple more hours, checking out the something - something collection and a few classic paintings. There was even a Norman Rockwell sketch of the famous rainout, probably a rough draft. On to lunch at the Bistro where Milo and his father have photos hung gallery style. Great lunch and really beautiful photographs.

In two days, we saw the hell out of the Hall of Fame. All the baseballs must have lined up just right for this to have worked out like it did.

Photo by Don Smith

Photo by Don Smith
On the way home, we made it back to Buffalo in just over three hours and then went to Niagara Falls. Amazing. Damn near a million gallons of water a second go over the falls and it's all lit like a Christmas tree. A nice walk, even in the rain. Then on to the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner and the last beers on our trip.

Of course, I couldn't get away without a small reminder of my passion for flying and on our landing back to San Jose, we had one of those 500-foot drops. Ugghhhh. And Don was laughing all over again.

So check out the mpegs and let's book a trip for 2006.


P.S. Check your cat food for Ash and Manganese, two horrible ingredients. And preservatives are no good, either. Ask your vet! Could save you a grand or three.

(Jeff Carlick, an avowed baseball fan, is a freelance photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area.)

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