Cooperstown, New York, should be on every fan's bucket list. But if you go to this year's Hall of Fame weekend, be prepared for massive crowds when Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas -- plus managers Tony La Russa, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox -- are inducted. Lodging is always tight (and expensive) throughout the summer, so unless you were able to snag Craig Biggio's room cancellation in January, best to stay outside the town and drive in for the ceremonies, then come back to tour the museum the following Monday and Tuesday when crowds drop a bit.
Better yet, visit during another week when the crowds are more manageable and you'll have ample time to fully appreciate the area.
Cooperstown is more than the Hall of Fame. Enjoy a boat cruise or just sit on the shores of gorgeous Lake Otsego. Take in a show at the Glimmerglass Opera. View the artwork at the Fenimore Museum. Get a slice of pizza at Sal's on Main Street, or savor some fantastic beer and great food at nearby Brewery Ommegang.
Possible side trips: If you time it right in August, follow a branch of the Susquehanna River from its source at Lake Otsego to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where you can watch some games at the Little League World Series. Or if you have the time and are an Orioles fan, follow the river's other branch all the way to Havre de Grace, Maryland, birthplace of Cal Ripken Jr.
If plaques on a wall don't cut it, try a tour of baseball greats' burial sites. As Steve Rushin has written, there are few spots better to start than the Gate of Heaven and Kensico cemeteries near each other in Hawthorne and Valhalla, New York, where you can find the graves of Babe Ruth, Jacob Ruppert and Billy Martin, along with the ashes of Lou Gehrig.
OK. This is not a suggested tour of the Detroit reliever while he waits for a call in the Tigers' bullpen. Instead, it is an excuse to catch some baseball and some interesting sites, beginning in the city with (pretty much) the same name: Albuquerque, New Mexico.
"Breaking Bad" fans know this as the place where the gripping series was filmed, and Albuquerque is taking full advantage of that fame (or infamy). There are several "Breaking Bad" tours, including one in a replica of the RV used in the show. How popular was "Breaking Bad"? The day I took a tour, our RV had fans who had traveled from Australia and Britain just to see Heisenberg's home.
Not a "Breaking Bad" fan? That's all right. There's another TV connection at Isotopes Park, home of the Dodgers' AAA affiliate, the Albuquerque Isotopes. They're named after the Springfield Isotopes in "The Simpsons," but you will not find any of Homer's softball teammates there (unless Jose Canseco attempts another comeback).
New Mexico is filled with cities to tour (Santa Fe chief among them), including one with more TV links. Roswell, frequently mentioned in "The X-Files" (as well as the series "Roswell"), is the home of the Pecos League Roswell Invaders, who play at Joe Baumann Field. That diamond is named after the minor leaguer who hit 72 home runs for the Roswell Rockets in 1954.
Did Baumann benefit from the aliens who supposedly crashed there in 1947? Explore and find out. As paranormal investigator and box score aficionado Fox Mulder would tell you, the truth is out there.