#Hot Corner

Boondoggle 2012: Day 1

Sunday was actually supposed to be Day 2, and technically it was. But this year's Boondoggle really didn't feel like it began in earnest until Sunday.

What on earth is a Boondoggle? Let me explain ...

Every summer, my friends Bill, Hank, and I embark on a four- or five-day road trip, sometimes but not necessarily centered around baseball. It's always targeted for the annual SABR Convention, though.

Last year, we flew into Oakland, went to an A's game, then drove south along the coast to Long Beach, site of the convention. Along the way, we did visit, as we usually do, the graves of a few notable baseball personalities.

This year, the plan was to fly into Lincoln, Nebraska, then drive across Iowa before ultimately arriving in Minneapolis. Along the way, we figured on visiting Grover Cleveland Alexander's boyhood home and final resting place in St. Paul, Nebraska; Wahoo Sam Crawford's boyhood home in Wahoo, Nebraska; and ... well, I don't want to give away too much just yet.

Due to a canceled flight and a miscalculation or two, we wound up in Des Moines rather than Lincoln, and crossed St. Paul, Nebraska off our agenda. We did, however, add the Bob Feller Museum to our Sunday plans.

It's a modest building, in the village of Van Meter, Iowa, where Feller was born and raised. The museum essentially consists of two small rooms, with mementos and exhibits depicting Feller's life. One precious bit of memorabilia: the mitt that Bob Feller's father used when teaching Bob to pitch ...

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By almost any measure, though, the centerpiece of the collection is one of Feller's bats.

But (you're saying) Feller was a pitcher. Why would a bat rank so highly?

Because it's the bat that Babe Ruth used for support when making his last appearance at Yankee Stadium, a moment memorialized in this famous photo. Here's the bat:

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On the way out of town, we stopped at the farm where Feller grew up, and was taught baseball by his father, right next to their big red barn. Whilst having a quick game of catch, we were greeted first by a friendly Labrador named Seneca, and a few minutes later by the friendly gentleman who now owns the barn, along with the adjacent house that Feller built for his parents after he made it big. Here's the barn:

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I'm not going to tell you where the barn is. But if you find it, you'll be glad you did. Unless you don't like dogs.

Our next big stop, after crossing the Missouri River into Nebraska, was the Strategic Air & Space Museum. Impressive, but then I'm a sucker for old airplanes.

Finally, we headed to Wahoo, birthplace and boyhood home of Hall of Fame outfielder "Wahoo Sam" Crawford.

But Sam's not the only famous Son of Wahoo. Entering town, we're greeted by this sign:

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Yeah. In addition to a Baseball Hall of Famer, Wahoo boasts a hugely successful movie producer, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and a Nobel Prize winner. Wahoo also boasts Sam Crawford Field, where we'd hoped to play another round of "catch" but, alas, we were preëmpted by some real baseball players; a Junior Legion tournament was being held yesterday. We met a guy who told us an interesting fact: Sam Crawford is the all-time leader in triples (true), while Carl Crawford is No. 2 on the list! (not true)

I did snap a photo of this lovely mural, painted on the exterior walls just in the last few weeks:

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With that image in our minds, we retreated to a brew pub south of Omaha, and watched R.A. Dickey get cuffed around by the Yankees. It was an unhappy end to what was largely my perfect sort of day.

Next: Day 2! (which might not include any baseball-related activities at all, but there never seems to be any shortage of red dots on my map)

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