The Road to Cooperstown
For Tom Stanton, the trip took nearly three decades.
The dream first grabbed hold of him in 1972, in the era of Vietnam and Watergate and Johnny Bench and the Oakland A's. An 11-year-old Michigan boy who lived for the game, Stanton became fascinated by the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the sport's spiritual home, the place to which great players aspire. He plotted ways to convince his father to take him to the famous village along Lake Otsego.
But his plans for that season never materialized. They disappeared in the turmoil caused by his mother's life-threatening illness and his brother's anti-war activities. Through the summers that followed, the dream lingered. Twenty-nine years later, after the release of his critically acclaimed book The Final Season, Stanton was asked to speak at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. He accepted and invited along the two men who had introduced him to the sport, his elderly father and his older brother. Finally, they embarked on their long-delayed adventure.
Much has changed since 1972: Five presidents have come and gone; the Soviet empire has disintegrated; most of Ruth's, Cobb's, and Gehrig's records have been toppled; Hank Aaron has gray hair, Johnny Bench is bald, and the designated hitter is no longer an experiment; and the boys of that year are now fathers themselves.
En route to Cooperstown, Tom Stanton recognizes more personal changes as he drives. His brother beside him is a radical no more, having undergone a political and religious transformation that sometimes strains their relationship. And, more strikingly, their father is in his eighties, watching the miles roll by from the spot they once occupied – the back seat. Thus begins a journey that will change all of them.
The Road to Cooperstown is a true story populated with colorful characters: a philanthropic family that launched the museum and uses its wealth to, among other things, ensure that McDonald's stays out of the turn-of-the-century downtown; the devoted fan who wrote a book to get his hero into the Hall of Fame; the Guyana native who grew up without baseball but comes to the induction ceremony every year because he loves America; the librarian on a mission to preserve his great-grandfather's memory; the baseball legends who appear suddenly along Main Street; and the dying man who fulfills one of his last wishes on a warm day in spring.
The Road to Cooperstown is a magical tale of fathers, brothers, and baseball heroes certain to resonate with sports fans everywhere, particularly the nearly 400,000 people who travel to the town each year and the millions more who dream of doing so.
Writes Stanton, "With each season that distances us from our childhood, with each year that claims more of our fathers and mothers, with every vintage ballpark that must give way to a shiny new palace that our grandfathers didn't visit, the Hall of Fame takes on deeper significance. People certainly come to celebrate the sport but more than that they come to celebrate family and friends. They come to touch memories that few other places can evoke."