Wilbon Connects Generations in Cooperstown
By Andrew Kivette
Cooperstown in the summer is a magical place. The village is jam-packed with families from all over the country. Wishing to soak up the history and see the immortals of the game, baseball fans from near and far take the pilgrimage to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
On Monday, July 15, one of the most recognizable sports media members in the country – ESPN’s Michael Wilbon – made the same trip.
Accompanied by his wife Sheryl and his son Matthew, the three joined Curator of History and Research John Odell on a tour through the Hall of Fame. “This is my first time in Cooperstown,” said Wilbon. “Which is terrible – but it is my first time, [even] having grown up with baseball my whole life.”
From the onset, the tour captured the essence of the Hall – connecting generations – with questions from Matthew, and anecdotes from his dad on baseball history and his personal experiences and knowledge of the game.
“Baseball has to be learned generationally,” Wilbon said. “People that don’t know baseball, [who] don’t appreciate [the game], it’s probably because they didn’t have someone explain it to them or walk them through it growing up. My son has that, so it’s great.”
Wilbon shared stories of growing up with baseball in Chicago. He played Little League ball in the WindyCity, and adores the Cubs to this day.
“I played in a Little League that was sponsored in part by Ernie Banks on the South Side of Chicago,” Wilbon said. “I idolize all those guys – I got to meet them all. Ron Santo, who’s recently passed away – had several discussions with Mr. Banks, Billy Williams. Ferguson Jenkins has sent me some artifacts that he had – very kind of him – my favorite pitcher. Those are my four favorite baseball players, those are the guys I grew up watching.”
Matthew is growing up with the game just as his father did – playing and watching his favorite player, Starlin Castro. “His first love is baseball. Already, he’s been to Wrigley Field, he’s been to the Cell [U.S. Cellular Field] in Chicago, he’s been to Nationals Stadium,” Wilbon said.
As a former Washington Post columnist, Wilbon was drawn in to the Museum’s tribute to the reporters and broadcasters of the game. The names Harry Caray and Jack Brickhouse caught his eye – two Chicago broadcasters, both Frick Award winners, that Wilbon had grown up listening to.
“Growing up with two teams in town, I would probably watch (on television) over 200 games a year,” Wilbon said. “I probably got to about 18 or so games I year with my dad, too.”
The next time Wilbon visits the Hall, it will hopefully be to celebrate a Cubs world championship. “They’re competitive again, they’re winning some games,” Wilbon said. “It’s coming along. We’re hopeful. That’s all we can ever be is hopeful.”
Andrew Kivette is the 2013 public relations intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development