Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Days 16-17: Cooperstown

All photos of Cooperstown and Hall of Fame available on Flickr.

With the All-Star break upon us, Peter and I suddenly found ourselves without a game to watch. We, therefore, had planned to spend a couple of days in Cooperstown at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. After taking the time to catch up on some sleep at Frank's house in Rhinebeck, we hit the road about 2:30 on Monday and arrived in Cooperstown just after 4 PM. We parked Old Yeller on Main St and spent some time checking out the souvenir shops and looking for a place to spend the night. We finally found a reasonably priced motel about a 20 minute drive north from Cooperstown and headed there to settle in. After a quick nap, we returned to Cooperstown to look at the shops some more and to get a bite to eat, some drinks, and watch the Home Run Derby. The highlight of the night was definitely when we were watching the Derby at the local pub and we almost saw a fight between an elderly local couple and a couple of up-state New Yorkers who were apparently invading their turf.

As you would expect, Cooperstown has a ton of baseball souvenir shops. Each one has shelves and shelves of autographed balls and jerseys. Everything in the entire town is baseball themed, actually - everything from the local general store to motels (a great place for me to retire in rural New York). In addition, Cooperstown is an excellent place to find retro gear. I picked up an old San Diego Padres brown and yellow batting helmet and orange Astros one, too. Cooperstown is also the home of Doubleday Field, where the Hall of Fame Game is played every year. It's a nice little park with a very small grandstand but expansive seating down the foul lines. Plus the outfield fence is just in front of people's backyards, allowing some residents of Cooperstown to take in free ball. We were fortunate enough to catch a couple innings of a Little League game there, then Peter hit the Double Day Field batting cages.

Then Tuesday came the big day - the Hall of Fame. Peter and I got there as close to opening as we could because we knew we would potentially need to spend all day there reading every plaque and absorbing 175+ years of baseball history. The museum is split up into two parts. There is the museum portion, which is three floors of exhibits, the history of the game, player artifacts, and artwork/media. The other part is of Great Hall, which houses the bronze plaques of all the Hall of Famers, with the original five of 1936 on display in the center - Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Cristy Mathewson, Honus Wagner, and Ty Cobb, who received the most votes. This year's class includes Cal Ripken Jr and Tony Gwynn, who will be inducted in a couple weeks. Over 16,000 people have donned a uniform in the Major Leagues, and we were fortunate enough to be around that elite 1% that actually made it to the Hall for a couple hours.

We then explored the museum portion of the Hall of Fame. It was not unlike any other history museum, but it obviously held special meaning to us, being huge baseball fans. We learned that this city was chosen as the site of the Hall because it was where Abner Doubleday invented the game of baseball over 200 years ago. The museum featured a chronological look at how the game has evolved all the way up to this year, and then a section dedicated to player paraphernalia that has been collected and donated throughout the history of the museum, including a special room dedicated to arguably the greatest player who ever lived, Babe Ruth. We spent a good four hours wandering through the museum in awe, and perhaps stalling a bit so we could postpone throwing down lots of money in the gift shop at the end of our journey. We refrained from our urges and concluded the tour feeling lucky once again that we got to make this a stop on our national tour. We then hit the shops on Main Street again, enjoyed some helmet sundaes, and each took some cuts in the batting cages. Curve Ball I hit very well but Fastball bats are afraid. Also, the knuckleball is incredibly difficult to hit.

The evening concluded with a classic Erik & Peter evening - buying some cheap beer at the grocery store, laying around the motel, drinking, and watching ball. The National League unfortunately lost again, but it did not deter from our experience. Tomorrow it's off to northern New Jersey to visit the Yogi Berra Museum and a local Can-Am League team, and it's finally back to civilization on Thursday; seeing a tall building will certainly be a sight for sore eyes.

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