Cooperstown, NY – Saturday and Sunday, August 3 and 4, 2013
This time, all three of us (Luca, Davida, and Das) got on the road early Saturday morning, and after a leisurely drive that included especially scenic stretches through western Massachussetts and central New York, arrived at our hotel around 3 PM. All the hotels in Cooperstown were sold out so we ended up staying at the tiny village of Richmondville that is about 30 miles outside. After checking in, we drove into town and by the time we got to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, it was around 4 PM.
Cooperstown, the place where Baseball was supposedly invented in 1839 by resident U.S. Army Gen. Abner Doubleday, is a MAGICAL place! It is an incredibly cute and picturesque village, with beautiful homes and a hopping downtown that sits right by Otsego Lake. If you are a baseball junkie, there is no place quite like this. Just about everything here is connected to baseball. Although the HOF/Museum is surely the centerpiece, many of the stores and restaurants in town thrive on the baseball theme.
We spent a solid five hours at the museum, until it closed at 9 PM. We started on the second level foyer in the “Cooperstown Room” where there were exhibits on the history of the HOF/Museum and the events that lead to its creation and subsequent renovations. We then watched a 13-minute video called “The Baseball Experience” in an interestingly designed “Grandstand Theater” that made us feel like we were sitting inside a ballpark. The director, Peter E. Raymond, has posted the video online that you can see at. At the end of the show, pictures of the games most celebrated immortals (such as Babe Ruth, Ty “The Georgia Peach” Cobb, Jackie Robinson and others) popped up above us on the ceiling! Really cool!
We then strolled around the huge second level that marked the timeline of baseball from the early nineteenth century to the present day. There was also an interactive stall where you had to guess what happened on a given play based on the video shown. This stall highlighted how the rules of baseball had changed over time. For example, did you know that back in the day, the hitter could set his own strike zone (up or down)? Or that a foul ball was not considered a strike at all? Or that a fielder could catch a ball on one bounce and the batter would be out? Or that the catcher would stand way back because he had no protective gear? Or that they had five balls and four strikes system? In addition, the second level featured the history of how the teams evolved, the Japanese baseball connection, the integration of African-American players, the emergence of Latino players, women in baseball, and baseball scouts. There was also an entire section devoted to Babe Ruth. Then we moved on to the third level that featured exhibits from many ballparks both old and new, an entire segment on Hammerin’ Hank Aaron called “Chasing the Dream,” a huge section of various baseball records, a large segment on postseason baseball, and another section on the famous Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First” comedy skit. There was a gallery of portraits and baseball cards as well. Afterward, we went back down to the first floor where we saw John Fogerty’s handwritten lyrics to the song “Centerfield” and a room that featured “Art in Baseball.” We then walked over to the other side and entered the Hall. This was an unusual year in which no living person was inducted. The three posthumous inductees were Deacon White, a tremendously successful hitter and catcher who played in the late 1800’s; congressman and brewer Jacob “Jake” Ruppert who owned the Yankees in the early 1900’s and laid the foundation for it to become the most storied franchise in baseball; and highly regarded umpire and former pitcher Hank “Reverend” O’Day who called balls and strikes in the first World Series in 1903. We then toured the “Hallowed Halls” and viewed the plaques of the inductees who were honored over the years.
Toward the end of our visit, we stopped by the HOF library and the section on baseball writers and game callers. There was also an area set aside for “Baseball in the Movies”. Finally, we stopped by the bookstore and the museum store to purchase souvenirs before heading out. After having dinner at a nice Italian restaurant, we drove back to the hotel and turned in for the night. We were exhausted!
The next day, we checked out of the hotel and went back to Cooperstown. This time, we visited the Heroes of Baseball Wax Museum, which included a really funny video showing “Baseball Bloopers.” We stopped for brunch at the tiny but famous Cooperstown Diner and walked over to the Doubleday Field where a game was going on. We then walked around town for a little while, bought a few more souvenirs, and got back on the road again to our next destination.
Cooperstown was better than advertised. It was definitely worth the trip.
We’ll see you from our next stop. Bye now!