Column from Paula DiPerna: Snapshot from a return to the Induction

Column from Paula DiPerna

Snapshot from a
return to the Induction

I decided to go this year — it’s been so long, and it was fun, even jaunty, to fall in with the crowd, hundreds making their way to the Induction ground — loners and families, crowds and couples. Cars with plates from all the states most likely were jammed wherever they could be fit, sun shining off their baking roofs. My road led straight to the heart of things, footsteps away.

It seemed everyone from everywhere was there on the lawn, every square of grass taken, and a sea of umbrellas, tents, and caps. I lingered for a bit with a family from the Dominican Republic — looked like three generations — there like so many to roar in David Ortiz, this year’s favorite inductee by far. I said I’d been down to the DR not too long ago, to ”Punta….” “Cana!” they filled in before I could. “We’re from Samana.” I said I loved their island, which is true, and that I’d even been to San Pedro de Macoris, birthplace of many baseball players who got to turn pro. “Fantastic,” they say.

Thinking of the DR’s gloriously transparent seas, I chatted with them about coral reef restoration and that the DR was a leader in the field — they seemed as proud of that as baseball.

Onward. Kids tossed a light baseball back and forth, careful to keep it from straying into the crowd, running bases in their heads.

A poster-sized black and white photo of Gil Hodges, another this year’s Inductee, leaned on a tree. I snapped a photo of it and a man came up behind me and asked me if I’d like to have my photo taken with Gil. I said, “No thanks, I’m a Yankee fan, but I know he was great.” The dam broke. “Me too, I’m a Yankee fan. I even named by daughter Mattingly (after a great Yankee player, I knew) but in 1956 I was walking into a game and Gil Hodges helped me push the stroller. I thought I owed him that, so I came up.”

A man in tropical shorts is wrapped in the DR flag. A little girl plays pattycake with her Mom until, precisely at 1:30, the ceremony begins and the crowd erupts.

I found myself near the set-up of the Cooperstown High School, vendor of choice, feeding long lines of fans with burgers and hot dogs in buns as efficiently as from the school kitchen. By then, I was frantic, not for water or food, but because I realized in my rush to leave home I’d forgotten a pen, that ever-present check on the task list today crowded out by my memories of me pitching a phantom baseball to a phantom player down the long hall of my family apartment in the Yankee heyday, pretending I was Don Larsen.

My Yankee leanings must have shown as a yellow-haired fellow who might have been a Mickey Mantle twin came up to sell me a Mickey Mantle baseball card, saying “Ma’am are you interested in the history of Mickey Mantle?” I quipped, “No thanks, I know it,” to which he replied, “Then have a really nice day.”

I hung out for a bit with Andrew and Max, of the High School brigades, and I promised I’d thank them in print for scoring me a ballpoint.

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