Where is cooperstown baseball ? As the hallowed home of America’s pastime, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum highlights the Cooperstown experience, as every fan’s ‘Field of Dreams.’ An independent, nonprofit educational institution, the Hall of Fame and Museum fosters a deep appreciation of baseball and its place in history through interactive exhibits and special events. Visit year-round and experience the magic of Cooperstown.
Baseball’s History is Everywhere in Cooperstown Thinking of visiting Cooperstown for a baseball-themed trip? Many Cooperstown hotels are just a short drive or mere steps away from the Hall of Fame, a must-see Cooperstown attraction – but baseball really can be found everywhere in America’s hometown. From exploring Doubleday Field, where some say baseball was invented, to visiting downtown’s quaint restaurants, get your baseball fix in Cooperstown.
What is it like to live in Cooperstown, aka: Baseball City, USA?
This weekend, the tiny, lakeside town of Cooperstown, N.Y., will see its population swell from roughly 2,000 to nearly 50,000 as great multitudes of baseball fans make their pilgrimage to the Hall of Fame. Fans will fill the nearby hotels, swarm down Main Street and crowd around the Clark Sports Center to watch David Ortiz, Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva, Minnie Miñoso, Gil Hodges, Buck O’Neil and Bud Fowler officially gain entrance into those hallowed halls.
But what is it like to actually live in Cooperstown, the tiny hamlet that becomes the center of the baseball world once a year, and is the permanent home to the greatest collection of baseball memorabilia in the universe?
“People have said it before, but it truly is baseball Mecca,” Josh Rawitch, the President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum said.
Sue MacKay, the Director of Collections for the Hall uses one word: “Magical.”
Ellen Tillapaugh, the Mayor and a fifth-generation resident, compared it to someplace else: “It has an element, shall I say, of Disney World. But we’re not. We’re the real thing.”
This may seem hyperbolic to you if you’ve never been to Cooperstown. But to those who live there or who make annual trips to visit the museum, it’s not. Take a stroll down Main Street — on your way to the Hall of Fame, of course — and it’s like you’ve been transported to a baseball-centric version of a 1950s town center. You’ll pass baseball store after baseball store, each with its own specialties — from Baseballism’s focus on modern T-shirt designs, to Mickey’s Place and its endless variety of New Era caps, to multiple baseball card stores and even the Cooperstown Distillery which serves up whiskey from (what else?) baseball-shaped bottles. Even Willis Monie Books, which does not specifically cater to the sports-obsessed crowd, has an entire wall filled to bursting with baseball books.
“This is just like the Norman Rockwell village — and it is that with baseball,” said Kim Johannesen, a third-generation resident and owner of F.R. Woods. Woods holds a special place in town lore: Not only was it opened by Johannesen’s grandmother, but it was the first baseball-specific store when it originally opened in the 1960s.
Even in Cooperstown, where all the businesses and their overstuffed shelves would seem to overlap, there’s a kind of mutual respect.
“I think we kind of try to have our own thing. I don’t carry New Era anymore, because Mickey is the big New Era [dealer] and we’re friends. I don’t do baseball cards, so I’m not in competition with the card stores. I don’t sell baseball bats — we have the two bat stores which are in town. My thing is trying to have some merchandise for all the teams, even though there’s 30 and I really wish there was 20,” Johannesen said with a laugh.
It’s a baseball town, for sure, but it’s a very specific kind of baseball town that you just won’t see if you head to Boston for a Red Sox game or Queens to catch the Mets.
“Clearly baseball is kind of the backbone and the heartbeat of this community,” Jon Shestakofsky, Vice President of Communications and Education for the Hall, said. “I think anyone who’s here understands the power of the game in a different way than maybe the casual fan. They understand that baseball has this power to bring people together, that baseball can really bring this little village together, where, regardless of which team you’re rooting or where you personally come from, or your interest level in the game.”
THE MILLS COMMISSION
The Mills Commission was appointed in 1905 to determine the origin of the game of baseball. The committee’s formation was urged by Albert G. Spalding, one of the game’s pioneers, following an article by Henry Chadwick, a famous early baseball writer, who contended that the sport evolved from the English game of rounders.
The commission comprised seven prominent men. They were Col. A. G. Mills of New York, who played baseball before and during the Civil War and was the third president of the National League (1882-1884); Hon. Morgan G. Bulkeley, former Governor and then U.S. Senator from Connecticut, who served as the National League’s ﬁrst president in 1876; Hon. Arthur P. German, U.S. Senator from Maryland, a former player and ex-president of the National Baseball Club of Washington, D.C.; Nicholas E. Young of Washington, D.C. (and a native of Amsterdam, N.Y.), a longtime player who was the ﬁrst secretary and later fourth president of the National League (1884-1902); Alfred J. Reach of Philadelphia and George Wright of Boston, both well-known businessmen and two of the most famous players of their day; and the president of the Amateur Athletic Union, James E. Sullivan of New York.
During its three-year study, the committee was deluged with communications on the subject. The testimony of Abner Graves, a mining engineer from Denver, Colo., in support of Abner Doubleday ﬁgured prominently in the committee’s inquiry.
Both Graves and Doubleday had attended school together in Cooperstown. Doubleday later was appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1842. Subsequently, he served in the Mexican and Civil wars. As a captain, he ﬁred the ﬁrst gun for the Union at Fort Sumter, S.C.
In his letters to Spalding, Graves claimed to have been present when Doubleday made changes to the then popular game of “Town Ball,” which involved 20 to 50 boys out in a ﬁeld attempting to catch a ball hit by a “tosser” using a four-inch ﬂat bat. According to Graves, Doubleday used a stick to mark out a diamond-shaped ﬁeld in the dirt; and his other reﬁnements ostensibly included limiting the number of players, adding bases (hence the name, “baseball”) and the concept of a pitcher and catcher.
The committee’s ﬁnal report on Dec. 30, 1907, stated in part that “the ﬁrst scheme for playing baseball, according to the best evidence obtainable to date, was devised by Abner Doubleday at Cooperstown, N.Y., in 1839.”
The discovery of an old baseball in a dust-covered attic trunk 27 years later supported the committee’s ﬁndings. In a farmhouse in Fly Creek, N.Y., a crossroads village about three miles from Cooperstown, were found the belongings of the aforementioned Graves and among his possessions was a baseball—undersized, misshapen and obviously homemade. The cover had been torn open, revealing stuffing of cloth instead of the wool and cotton yam which comprise the interior of the modem baseball; but it had a stitched cover. It soon became known as the “Doubleday baseball.”
Soon after its discovery, the baseball was purchased for $5 by Stephen C. Clark, a Cooperstown resident and philanthropist who had amassed considerable wealth through his association with the Singer Sewing Machine Company. Clark conceived the idea of displaying the baseball, along with other baseball objects, in a room in the Village Club, which now houses the Cooperstown village ofﬁces.
The small one-room exhibition attracted tremendous public interest, and with the assistance of Alexander Cleland, who had been associated with Clark in other endeavors, support was sought for the establishment of a National Baseball Museum. Ford Frick, then president of the National League, was especially enthusiastic. He obtained the backing of Kenesaw Mountain Landis, baseball’s ﬁrst commissioner, and William Harridge, president of the American League. Contributions and priceless baseball memorabilia soon poured in from all parts of the country as the word spread.
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