COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- In advance of what has become my favorite weekend on the calendar, I drove into Cooperstown on Wednesday. This was on my own time, before I started my work for ESPN, as I wanted a chance to show my traveling companion around and see the town before the hordes arrived.
On the latter point, the notion was only partially successful because when it comes to baseball, something is always happening in Cooperstown this time of year. There were a gaggle of youth teams with their families touring the Hall and investigating the baseball-themed gift shops up and down Main Street. There were plenty of Hall of Fame visitors of a more freelance sort around as well, many of them trying to get their fix in before the crowds descended. Locals were talking of an influx of more than 100,000 for this weekend's events because of the inductions of Mike Mussina and, especially, Mariano Rivera, with Yankees fans making the easy trip up from the city.
Coming here is never exactly an accurate gauge of the sport's place in the general zeitgeist. If you landed here, on the shores of Otsego Lake, and this is all you knew of our planet, you would think that everything in this civilization revolves around attacking a little white orb with a blunt object. And those who are best at it are somehow or another elevated to a god-like mythical status. Reality and myth indeed walk side by side in Cooperstown, especially on this very special weekend in late July. (Though not as late as it used to be, as the inductions were moved up this year in hopes of separating the interests of those obsessed with the Hall and others more tuned into trade deadline activity.)
Everything that unfolds from Friday to Monday will be aimed at celebrating the careers of Rivera, Mussina, Edgar Martinez, Roy Halladay, Harold Baines and Lee Smith. Come Sunday evening, we'll officially have six new immortals commemorated in the plaque gallery of the Hall, a big class, to be sure. However, a couple of days before the festivities got going, my mind was on the Hall of Fame in general as I poked around. Here are some observations.