Recently I was at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown with some friends.  We talked a lot about baseball.

There was a lot of talk about the great names of the past...Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays and others.  The Hall is where your old baseball cards came to live!  But who remembers any of the umpires?  Can you name even one?

I guess umpires, literally the judges of each game, are destined for anonymity.  But there was one that sure stuck out, and I knew his name as well as I knew the names of my favorite old Dodgers, like Gil Hodges and Don Drysdale and Roy Campanella.

His name was Emmett Ashford.

"Ash" was the first African American umpire to work any major league game.  He quickly became famous for his ebullient personality, elegant sartorial splendor and flashy style in calling plays in a game.  Older style umps resented Ashford's new dynamic style and originally shunned him.  But he rose through the ranks to become one of the most respected and popular umpires to ever work a game.

Emmett Ashford umped from 1966 to 1970.  He worked the 1967 All Star game and umped all five games of the 1970 World Series.  Sporting News once wrote of his style:  "For the first time in the history of the great All American game of baseball, fans my actually buy a ticket just to see an umpire perform."

Ashford left the game at the mandatory retirement age of 55 and died on March 1, 1980 at the age of 60.

One can only imagine that Ashford's last request as he lay dying in a hospital somewhere in Marina del Rey in California may have been to "take him back to Cooperstown."

Not surprisingly, the great Emmett Ashford's remains did come back and were spread over the hallowed grounds of Lake View Cemetery in Cooperstown where his spirit still dances, whirls and hollers "You are OUT!!" to all of his baseball buddies right around the corner in the Hall of Fame.

Did You Know This?? 13 Upstate Food Favorites You Can't Buy Outside of New York State

Upstate New York is the home to many fantastic food favorites. Mention sponge candy to somebody 100 miles outside Buffalo and you are probably going to get a blank stare. Mention a Michigan hot dog to anybody not from around Plattsburgh. Same stare. So here is a list of 13 regional food icons that you cannot buy outside of the empire State.

I will add this asterisk. You certainly can buy some of these items online, like the Saratoga Peppermint Pigs. Perhaps the Stix and Sauce item is known by another name somewhere in the country. Salt potatoes may have gravitated elsewhere but if so nobody knows where they started. And Grandma Brown's Baked Beans (God rest her soul). Well, you can buy that sweet lady's baked beans on eBay (check out that expiration date; she hasn't manufactured them since the pandemic). But for the most part you would have to walk into a store or restaurant in Upstate New York to enjoy these "regional" fan favorite foods.

Gallery Credit: Chuck D'Imperio