Merle Freeman of Marina Del Rey, California, well remembers the time she laid eyes on Dave Parker of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
A longtime Sports Travel and Tours participant, she was in Pittsburgh on one of the many sports trips she took with her mother. They were staying in the same hotel as the baseball players, and while waiting for the elevator, Merle told her mother that the only thing that would make the wait worth her while was if Dave was standing there to greet them when the doors open.
By chance, that’s exactly what happened! Merle says she and her mother were thrilled to be able to meet Dave and shake his hand.
Merle has been traveling with the help of Sports Travel and Tours ever since the mid-1970s. Both she and her mother were huge baseball fans and Sports Travel and Tours’ baseball trips offered them a great way to bond over their common interest during the summer months.
“The trips are marvelous because they’re very well organized and they provide interesting things to do,” Merle says. “When you travel with Sports Travel and Tours, you are traveling with people who share the same interests. You can talk about baseball and about your favorite teams and players.”
Sadly, Merle’s mother died in 2007. So, recalling their trips and the many special moments they shared—such as when they went to Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore or to Fenway Park in Boston—makes Merle sentimental.
It also makes her determined to keep traveling. Merle’s last trip was in 2013, after which she was inducted into the Stadium Hall of Fame for visiting all 30 major league ballparks. She also visited the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown, New York.
It was a fabulous experience for her, she says, because the Hall of Fame that year honored older players who had been inducted but never had a formal ceremony. During World War II, there was no induction ceremony, so three men from baseball’s earliest years were formally recognized: umpire Hank O’Day, former New York Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and catcher Deacon White of the Buffalo Bisons. Thirty-two Hall of Famers, as well as their relatives and grandchildren, were there to pay tribute.
Merle says she highly recommends traveling through Sports Travel and Tours and recommends getting involved in their annual trip to Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, which will be held July 24-27 this year. Merle herself has been to the ceremony on three different occasions, once or twice being with her mother. One such trip was back in 1984, when Merle and her mother got to see the induction of close family friend and first baseman for the Minnesota Twins, Harmon Killebrew.
This year, Sports Travel and Tours is offering four different trips that will converge at Cooperstown for the induction ceremony: East Coast Classic, Induction Plus, Boston Induction Special and Boston Induction Extravaganza. Four players will be inducted this year: second baseman Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros, pitcher Randy Johnson of the Seattle Mariners, pitcher Pedro Martinez of the Boston Red Sox and pitcher John Smoltz of the Atlanta Braves.
Merle has only good things to say about her experiences with Sports Travel and Tours.
She says that meeting like-minded people is one of her favorite things about traveling with Sports Travel and Tours. There are many travelers that she repeatedly runs into during her trips. For example, she clearly remembers that during her induction to the Stadium Hall of Fame, people attended the ceremony whom she had met before, and it was fun for her to be reunited with them.
For this reason, Merle looks forward to attending future Stadium Hall of Fame induction ceremonies where she’ll be able to welcome new crops of inductees and continue to expand her community of friends through Sports Travel and Tours.