A visit with history
By Jeff Idelson
The job requirements that come with being president of the Hall of Fame are diverse, but one of the great elements is staying in touch with our Hall of Fame members.
We have 65 living legends, many of whom I see several times annually. It’s important for the Hall of Fame that I maintain and grow these relationships, as they are the lifeblood of the Hall of Fame. These are the men who bestow the virtues of Cooperstown upon fans across the country.
Just before Thanksgiving, I made a trip west to see Tom Seaver, Willie McCovey and Bobby Doerr. I met McCovey at his home south of San Francisco in the Peninsula area, and then had dinner with Willie and his friend of 50 years, Rocky Dudem, near Willie Mac’s home. We talked about the state of the Giants, what’s new in Cooperstown and how much Willie missed attending Hall of Fame Weekend this year.
A few days later I ventured north to Napa Valley to visit with Tom and Nancy Seaver. Tom’s added a new chapter to his life as a wine maker. GTS Vineyards bottles Cabernet and is terrific. For Tom, he approaches his new career as he did his playing career. “It’s all about the journey,” No. 41 said to me as he greeted me in blue jeans and a work shirt with a pair of pruning shears in his back pocket. As we walked the vineyard, it became obvious that creating the product was as – if not more – important than distributing the wine.
A quick flight to Portland, Ore., the following morning, followed by a two-hour drive south on I-5 to Junction City, brought me to the home of Bobby Doerr. Getting to Bobby’s house reminded me of driving in central New York. “Take the 5 south, take a right at a stop sign, go over a bridge for 5 miles, and a left will get you to my house,” said Doerr prior to my visit.
A man of great character, the 91-year old Doerr — the Hall of Fame’s oldest living player — greeted me with a big smile. As we sat in the living room of his modest ranch-style home amidst 150 acres of virgin farm land, Doerr reveled how he and his father-in-law had built the home he shared with his late wife Monica two years after he retired in 1951. He proudly showed me a recent picture he found, one of Bobby in his Little League uniform, with his dad and brother.
After lunch in an area restaurant that used to be a bank, I dropped Bobby home and headed north to Portland.
Seeing our Hall of Famers in the natural surroundings reminded me that these men are just like any of us. They care about their community, are proud and have a great zest for life outside of baseball — as they did when playing.
Jeff Idelson is president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.