When I was a teenager growing up in Central New York, I lived maybe 65 miles or so from Cooperstown. We got to the Hall of Fame a couple of times when I was a kid, but I really developed my love for the town a couple of decades later as an adult.
During the years that I lived in Delaware and Pennsylvania in the 1980s, we used to travel to Cooperstown probably twice a year. Once I told my ex-wife about the story of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the possibly apocryphal story about the little kid saying, “Say it ain’t so, Joe,” she started to cry and was hooked on baseball for good, or at least the literary side and the stories about great players from the past.
I sure would have liked to have been at Cooperstown this past weekend as the Hall hosted its third annual Baseball Film Festival. I am a baseball fan first and foremost, but I’ll betcha my affection for movies isn’t far behind. The theme was a 20th anniversary salute to the classic film “Bull Durham,” and stars Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon were on hand for the festivities, along with Robert Wuhl, who played coach Larry Hockett, and writer/director Ron Shelton. That star-studded lineup was part of a panel discussion at the Hall of Fame that was moderated by NBC film critic Jeffrey Lyons, another well-known baseball fan of epic proportions. (in the photo above, courtesy of the Baseball Hall of Fame, from left to right: Wuhl, Robbins, Sarandon and Shelton.)
In the HOF’s news release on their website, they talk about an idea that Robbins came up with for a sequel, picturing his character, “Nuke” LaLoosh in 2008 signing autographs at a card show after blowing out his arm during an up-and-down year in the big leagues.
“I could see Crash (Kevin Costner) and Annie (Sarandon) finding Nuke and helping his comeback to the big leagues as a knuckleballer,” said Robbins.
Robbins also told of going through training to make the baseball segments look believable. “We all had to audition as baseball players and prove ourselves,” Robbins said. “I had played baseball growing up and played third but never pitched, but I did have a pretty good arm.”
I always tell people around these parts that a visit to Cooperstown would be a great idea even if there were no such thing as the Baseball Hall of Fame. I just can’t seem to convince these cheeseheads that Upstate New York (which to New Yorkers means anything above the City) is just as nice as Wisconsin. It’s like Wisconsin with mountains.
I used to visit Larry Fritsch, too, at those odd times when you could catch him out there working to set up his baseball card museum as he wrestled (figuratively speaking) with the good burghers of Cooperstown. And now they’ve got film festivals about baseball, too.
I rarely plug websites, but if you start our at www.baseballhalloffame.org, you can go on for a very long time.
Put me in, coach.