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July 27, 2013

Fans flock to Cooperstown to meet baseball legends

COOPERSTOWN — Baseball fans flocked to Main Street in Cooperstown on Friday in hopes of meeting baseball legends and getting autographs. For others, it is the excitement of being in Cooperstown with so many fellow baseball fans that brings them back every year.

Andrew Gonska Jr., of Massachusetts, said he no longer comes to induction weekend for autographs.

“In the beginning we came to Cooperstown for autographs,” Gonska Jr. said. “Now we come here for everything Cooperstown has to offer, the restaurants, museums and the brewery.”

“We’re coming to see the changes in Cooperstown,” added his father, Andrew Gonska Sr.

The Gonskas said they started coming together in 1996, but the elder Gonska recalled the first time he ever came to Cooperstown.

“It was in 1969, we were on our way to Woodstock,” he said. “We heard on the radio that it was really backed up so I looked at my buddy and said ‘What do you want to do?’ So we came here.”

For his son, the allure of Cooperstown was once to get autographs. The first time he came to Cooperstown he got Whitey Ford’s autograph, and he’s been building his personal collection ever since, he said.

“For a while, I was really eager to build my collection,” he said. “I like to get my autographs by actually meeting people and talking with them. That’s why I like to meet the older Hall of Famers before they pass on.”

“The older guys are really down-to-earth,” he continued. “They didn’t make crazy salaries back then.”

He added that too many people make too big a deal out of autographs, especially those who get them just to sell them.

“Mine are for my personal collection,” he said.

“I would’ve loved to get Pete Rose’s autograph, but I’m not gonna pay for it,” Karen Rist said of Garrison, N.Y.

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