Cooperstown, NY

So after a couple of great days in Beantown, Pops and I rented a nice lil' midsize for our trek to upstate New York...Cooperstown, to be exact. The drive took us downtown Boston, through Springfield, Mass. (home of the Basketball Hall of Fame), across Albany and then about one hour of back roads and tiny county routes until getting to beautiful, picturesque Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Main Street, Cooperstown. Seriously, that's it. If you look closely, you can see the lone traffic light the town has to offer!

All these years of being die-hard baseball fans and neither myself or my dad had gone to Cooperstown until then. Hell, we didn't even know why the place was called Cooperstown. (Answers: famed American author James Fenimore Cooper's father founded the town, hence Cooper's town. Fenimore's presense is still evident in the town, including the local country club, Leatherstocking Country Club. If you remember back in high school literature classes, Fenimore Cooper wrote Leatherstocking Tales, a collection of stories about the American frontier, similar to his classic The Last of the Mohicans.)

After returning home from the trip, my dad and I both mentioned how wrong each of our visions of Cooperstown were before setting foot in the town. Both of us knew it was a small town, but had no idea just how small it really was. We both also expect the town to be overrun with baseball fans for the Hall of Fame and expected the Hall itself to be some huge mecca of a building. Wrong again!

When we got to Cooperstown, we only had two hours to check out the Hall of Fame before it closed for the day. We knew we had the entire next day to see it so we just planned on a quick two-hour run-thru of the joint. Our plan was to leave the gallery -- you know, all those cool bronze plaques you think of when you hear "Hall of Fame" -- for the full day so we decided to visit the exhibits and displays, perfect for baseball historians and memorabilia junkies like us.

The historical displays were not only amazing and awe-inspiring, but really well done for all scopes of baseball fans to enjoy, from the casual visitor to baseball-starved SABR members like my dad and I.

It was cool to see displays and game-used historical memorabilia of our favorite players. I'm sure everyone who goes to the Hall gets something different out of it. For me, it was merely creating another connection or bridge from my era of baseball to those greats I idolize.

My all-time favorite athlete, Ted Williams, had an entire wall dedicated to him at the Hall. Here's the famous Science of Hitting strike-zone that caused a seven-year-old version of me to make The Splendid Splinter my favorite player.

After the Hall of Fame staff had to kick us out, we walked a few steps to the near-by Doubleday Field, an almost-Major League sized field. The exhibition "Hall of Fame Game" is played there every year (Friars v. Cubbies this year!) and it's also used for amateur and junior-level leagues.

After a long day of driving and touring, we decided to call it an early night and get ready for the full day the next morning...

Day Two of Cooperstown started off with a private tour of the Hall of Fame Library, given to just me and my dad by Tim Wiles, the Director of Research for the Library. It was very cool to be given such special treatment. We were able to be taken to the climate-controlled rooms like their massive book collection (seriously, they had THOUSANDS of books...anything and everything about baseball) and their audio/visual room (tons of film reels, VHS and DVDs of baseball footage, highlights, clips, etc.) At the end, Tim took us to the main research room were they have more books and a few dozen very large room-length filing cabinets. Within the cabinets were files of just about every person who has been associated with baseball. Tim had a very cool surprise for us...in preparing for our visit, he checked to see if there was anything on my grandfather and sure enough, he had a file...Grandpa George is in the Hall of Fame! They had the original press release from the California Angels announcing his hiring to Director of Public Relations and Promotions plus very clippings from The Sporting News mentioning him, including his obituary. It was very special to see it all and quite a treat for my dad. What a great start to a day at the Hall!

After the private tour, we decided to check out the gallery. Again, our expectations were way off...the room is big, but just different than both of us expected.

The Hall of Fame Gallery room. Behind me is "The First Class" of 1936: Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Walter Johnson.

We spent about two hours looking at each and every Hall of Famer's plaque, really taking in all the history the place exuded. Much like the exhibits from the previous day, we each got a kick checking out our favorite players and baseball dignitaries.

After visiting all the plaques, we checked out the extensive art gallery then made our way outside, where the grounds had more baseball influence.

No surprise this former catcher took a liking to the Roy Campanella statue outside.

Before we knew it, it was 5 PM and our trip to Cooperstown was over! But no time to rest...it was off to the big city to catch up on the Yankees, Mets and friends!


Conrad said...

That's awesome about your gramps. I probably would have needed a tissue.

Another note, watching the Yankee/Rays game, some guy tries to get on tv with the broadcaster wearing a shirt that says "Jesus hates the Yankees"

Joe said...

Well it's true!

I'm partial to the shirt with Damon on it and the quote "He may look like Jesus but he throws like Mary."

Richard Lederer said...

Xlnt report, Joe. Just as we lived it. Thanks for a very special trip. The fact that it was a father-son adventure made it all the more memorable.



Conrad said...

I need that shirt now! I love you Dad.

Rachel said...

A mutual friend led me to your blog. I appreciate your humor, thanks for the laughs. Wasn't Cooperstown amazing? I did a father-daughter trip in '05 and loved it.