I love sports as much as travel, so I often look for ways to combine both passions.
Cooperstown, home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is one of my favorite destinations. It's hard to accurately describe the quaintness of Cooperstown. A tiny village with about 2,000 residents was named for the family of author James Fenimore Cooper, who wrote the well-known novel "Last of the Mohicans."
The town is located in the heart of the Central Leatherstocking region of New York state, an area flush with wooded countryside, lakes, family farms and sprawling estates.
Cooperstown is best known for the hall of fame, however. As you drive deeper and deeper into the region on your approach, it's amazing to consider how many kids playing the game of baseball around the world, from youngsters on rocky fields in Venezuela to teens running around diamonds in Texas, all dream of the possibility that they might one day be good enough to merit enshrinement in the hall. The building and museum are located on Main Street in the one-stoplight town, which is so serene for most of the year before bursting to life during the summer tourist season leading up to the annual induction ceremonies.
I took my visit during the opening week of the baseball season, and my good friend Craig Muder, who is the director of communications for the Hall of Fame, gave me a tour.
The town and Hall of Fame are fairly quiet this time of year. Craig says about two-thirds of the visitors to the Hall of Fame and Museum come in a three-month period, June through August. Sandwiched in during the summer rush is the event that annually becomes the focus of the baseball world: the induction ceremony. This year, the event is July 27 and marks the highlight of the hall's 75th anniversary year.
I was privileged during my visit to get an inside look into some of the more unique aspects of the hall as well as pick the brain of Craig, someone who knows more about the game than almost anyone.
The hall features a library with a collection of more than three million documents. You can access items such as photos, books, newspaper clippings and team documents. Each player who has ever appeared in a Major League Baseball game has a file at the library. Access is granted by appointment, and you need to have purchased a museum admission and will be assisted by library staff when viewing items.
The highlight of my tour was my time in the library, officially the A. Bartlett Giamatti Research Center, where I viewed the very thick player file on Pete Rose and saw the player logs of every game played in 1947. This log is especially significant. It is the document that marks the line score of Jackie Robinson's first day in the majors, April 15, thus breaking the color barrier.
Check out other highlights from my visit in the slideshow and video below.
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ï»¿The Doubleday Mythï»¿
Of course you know that Abner Doubleday invented baseball. You've at least heard something like that. But did you know that story is a myth?
The elaborate tale of how a Union officer who directed the first shot at Fort Sumter at the beginning of the Civil War became associated with the origin of our national pastime and how Cooperstown became home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame is a fascinating one.
NPR offers a concise version of the amazing story and how it came to be.