One Pack. No Turning Back.

Carlton Fisk signing my '86 Topps card for $69. I gave him my autograph for free.

Day 39: Cooperstown, NY to Cleveland, OH, 7.27.15


Number of miles driven today: 402

Total miles driven on road trip: 8,078

Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts? Dunkin's run continues.

Starbucks' record (# of days Starbucks was more common): 20-16-2, after starting 18-1-1

Dunkin' Donuts' record: 16-20-2

Cheapest gas I saw today: $2.49

Number of states visited overall: 23

Number of red states visited overall (as of 2012 presidential election): 10 (Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina)

Number of blue states visited overall: 13 (California, New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio)

Best tourist attraction I never knew existed: The Christmas Story House and Museum in Cleveland, based on the movie.

Weirdest highway sign: Car phones. It can wait. Text stop 5 Mi.

After several days poking around the northeast, it was time to start the move west for the home stretch of the trip. The drive to Ohio provided lots of tolls and few highlights, save for a sign for the James A. Garfield National Historic Site. (Someone remind me to plan my next book road trip around visiting the historic sites associated with mediocre 19th century presidents. Plenty to choose from.) So rather than bore you with details of the Hotel Indigo's room decor (where I stayed and caught up on some much needed sleep), I will recount another fun story from Cooperstown.

Saturday afternoon, post-Fiskapade (see Day 37) and pre-parade, a table of small, yellowed paperback books diverted my attention for a couple of hours. Out on the sidewalk I found row upon row of those old annual guides to baseball from the 1980s, complete with team outlooks and blurbs on each player. They were selling for $1 apiece. Sensing a fun tax deduction, I swooped several of the mid-'80s editions, and then realized that this was just a teaser--an entire used book store, specializing in baseball, was right in front of me.

​Walking into Willis Monie Books, my nostrils flared approvingly at the familiar scent of musty paper, bringing back memories of unwrapping the wax pack that inspired this trip. I spotted a tower full of baseball cards and an entire wall filled with media guides, books crammed with enough stats and miscellany to cross the eyes of even the nerdiest baseball fans. 

A rabbit-eared, phlegmatic man in his fifties stood behind the counter, already eyeing me and my backpack with disapproval. Bibliopoles, along with stamp collectors and art gallery attendants, are the most humorless, suspicious people on Earth. They seem borderline offended for even walking into their stores, making you temporarily forget that--oh yeah--you are the customer and they are the ones serving you. (I learned the word bibliopole, meaning rare book dealer, in seventh grade as part of Mr. Westcott's draconian etmology homework assignments and have never forgotten it.) 

I averted the gaze of the bibliopole and settled in front of the baseball section, quickly finding multiple out-of-print treasures missing from my personal collection. I also found a few books that will be helpful for my research, such as one detailing the rise and fall of Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry and an original copy of Boys of Summer, a key model for this project.

​Once I explained my own book's premise, the bibliopole softened, realizing that my backpack was simply a vessel of convenience and not one for crime. My purchases stack rose 10 books high before he mentioned that they had even more media guides from the 1970s and '80s upstairs. A negotiation with another employee ensued about whether I could browse this secret room before he finally agreed, keeping me under watchful supervision the entire time.

The storage area made the downstairs look spartan. The stacks of collapsed shipping boxes alone could provide Topps with all the cardboard they'd need for the next millennium. Box after box sat overflowing with old baseball magazines, yearbooks, and newspapers, while the media guides were neatly arranged by team and then chronologically within each team. As I found the 1986 edition for several of my players' teams, my escort reminded me to check if there was another copy left behind so he could adjust the inventory.

Seeing all of that nostalgia packed into such a small place made me feel safe and comfortable, reassured that there are other people who care as deeply about baseball's past as I do. It borders on a sickness, this compulsive collecting of expired headlines, but it makes me feel good to know that this material is here, even if un-curated.

I walked back downstairs with my loot, waited several minutes to be rung up (since they had to write out the titles of each individual book for their meticulous records), and then returned to the streets of Cooperstown with that same feeling I used to get walking out of a baseball card shop. 

The next day, while the entire town watched Pedro dance and John Smoltz warn parents about Tommy John surgery, I had the actual Hall of Fame all to myself, a gallery of sculpted faces of baseball's all-time best. 

For older blog entries, click here.