I recently read of plans for the Hopkinton Town Manager and some other officials to make a trip to Cooperstown in order to learn how to make Hopkinton a similar destination for sports minded enthusiasts. There is a plan being floated by private interests to build a Marathon Museum on newly acquired town land, which, I think I can say as a private individual, is a great idea. I do, however, have a major problem with town officials taking a boondoggle trip to Cooperstown. All the information they need is online, and hey, I'd be glad to tell them all that they'd need to know and more.
So, here, in my humble view as an officially published sports journalist, town planning enthusiast, fiscally conservative socially progressive, master degree holding, Boston Marathon fan, and Boston Red Sox diehard is A MUNICIPAL OVERVIEW OF THE VILLAGE OF COOPERSTOWN AS IT PERTAINS TO THE BASEBALL HALL OF FAME.
Here's what Cooperstown is like, for those who have not had the opportunity:
There’s one street. And it's right out of the 1930s. Beautiful brick buildings line Main Street, most of the shops sell baseball collectibles. Most of the businesses are locally owned; CVS might be the only chain store. There’s a mix of restaurants and bars mixed into the quarter mile stretch of downtown. One side is anchored by the Hall of Fame itself, set on the grounds of an old mansion with several acres behind Victorian wrought iron gates and beautiful stone work. The other side of the street is anchored by Doubleday Field, set back a bit behind a large parking lot. The stadium is small but perfectly acceptable for at least one MLB game a year. More on that later.
The side streets are lined with beautiful homes. The nicer homes seem to be closer to the lake, and that side of the village is dominated by the grand old Hotel Otsego, which sits on several more acres of land and is adjacent to the “better” golf course. The hotel and golf course is reserved for the ballplayers and officials on induction weekend. Once I innocently wandered onto the golf course while searching for my buddy George. I yelled “Jorge” while looking peeved and that seemed to appease the security gorillas while the autograph seeking hordes clustered behind the yellow safety rope. But I digress.
The last corner of the village is occupied by a large hospital complex that sits on several acres of the former Singer Sewing Machine factory and headquarters. The Field of Dreams lays beyond here, a short 15-minute walk from downtown (your mileage may vary). There is a large field house and outdoor stage platform, which is surrounded by acres of former farmland. There is so much land that you never see the 30-foot tall fire safety training structures that are beyond the rows of hundreds of Porta Potties. These wooden structures appear to be straight out of Ape City. But I digress.
Hey did you notice I didn't mention any hotels? I mean besides the big beautiful one? There's a couple, with a handful of rooms each. One place on Main Street, and one place on a side road on the way to the field, the Cooperstown Motel, which has a parking lot. And cots. South of Cooperstown on each side of the lake there are a couple of small multiple room hotels, I imagine you'd be lucky to get a room for induction week at these fine two star establishments. Many people that come to Cooperstown stay in the larger and modern chain hotels that are just over the line in the next village, there's several to choose from, and Oneonta isn't that far away (but a hassle to get to and from during induction week).
The southern end of the lake is actually in another village/county, but there is a pretty good golf course and the Glimmer Glass Opera House. There are some much larger farms out this way and all around Cooperstown.
So meanwhile, the hills rise behind the Field of Dreams and small family farms dot the landscape, there is a great farmers market that thankfully has nothing to do with baseball, because frankly, even on just a long weekend, it's nice to take a break. (The Cooperstown Museum of Art is right across from the Hall of Fame, and The James Fenimore Cooper Museum is across from the Otsego Country Club. And Natty Bumpo’s grave is high on the hill next to the lake.)
Lake Otsego is seven nautical miles, enough for the curve of the Earth to be evident. Years ago we made the acquaintance of a local family and have been staying lakeside on their family compound. There's nothing so manly yet peaceful as waking up in a house full of Yankee and Red Sox fans. Oh what a beautiful morning!
WHAT COOPERSTOWN GETS RIGHT:
With an influx of NY Staties, local cops and visiting police help keep people safe. The fire department (right near Doubleday field) are in their finery and the engines are shining and ready for action. Retired players line the streets sitting at tables in front of stores, or in the stores, signing autographs, shaking hands and posing for pictures. Restaurants have food carts and BBQs out all weekend. Events seem to kick into high gear Friday through the big event on Sunday. Local breweries, bat companies and jewelers seem to be the biggest producers of tactile things. The sports paraphernalia items seem to be all in the same place on the same shelves every year, although they probably are making money hand over fist on induction weekend. T-shirts are one of my favorite items. There's the official shortsleeve from the Hall gift shop (no ticket needed) and many vendors sell their particular take on things.
The actual Field of Dreams is large, spacious, well maintained, and community volunteers and fundraisers help out with cleanup and selling food to the throngs.
There is also a complex of playing fields and dormitories for kids (and grownups) to come play tournaments in Cooperstown. (This is also called The Field of Dreams?)
The Blues Train runs on an old line between several of the local villages. It’s privately run, mostly by train-loving volunteers. There are many types of runs. My favorite is the “Adult Only” with a live local rock band playing on the half covered platform car. There's the main locomotive, passenger car, diner car (they make great all natural pizza), bar car and caboose. The trip starts before sundown a few villages away and rides into and back out of Cooperstown. It’s a nice way to spend three hours and make friends with the locals like our buddy Farmer Dick who we find every year and gives us his homemade cider mash.
WHAT COOPERSTOWN GETS WRONG:
Parking. They could relax restrictions along the side streets. I mean, there’s not so many places to park the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile in this place. If the neighbors don't like it (some don't), it’s only one weekend a year.
Separating the annual interleague MLB game at Doubleday Field from Induction weekend. Sure, regular interleague play has diminished the appeal of watching the D'Backs play the Mariners, and some say the park is too small for an official game, but they say that about Fenway Park too. And many managers played their benches. I say let them play and let it count as an official game. Put it on TV and let's see a barrage of homeruns on the roofs of the neighbors. The minor league game is still interesting to watch, but let's see the big guys!
HOW HOPKINTON CAN BE MORE LIKE COOPERSTOWN:
1. Be open to a developer building a hotel. Seriously, there's no place for anyone to stay in town and hotels in the surrounding towns make out like bandits. Local room tax. Boom.
2. DO build the Marathon Museum. It's a nice way to get people to visit year round.
3. MORE restaurants, places to shop downtown.
4. MORE emphasis on the town commons and vendors and artists perform during the weekend.
5. MORE events in Hopkinton leading up to the Marathon
6. Find a way to keep people interested in sticking around the commons on Sunday. It's a ghost town by noon since the BAA changed the starting times.
7. MORE events with retired runners and champions
8. Invite Pete Rose and his reality show wife. I digress but good.
In summary, Cooperstown has places for people to be and things to do all summer. Hopkinton would have to add lots of interesting things to do. We don't need to spend tax money sending anyone to New York to see. (Also, baseball wasn't even invented in Cooperstown.)
Frank D’Urso is an old time Zisk contributer and SABR member. He is amazed that the Red Sox have won three World Series in the past decade or so, and still plays in the annual 100 Inning fundraiser to defeat ALS. Throws a clunky knuckleball.
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