The main goal today is the baseball fan’s pilgrimage location of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, NY. It was about a 60 minute drive from where we spent the night in Schenectady. Along the way, actually just a couple miles short of the Hall, and also in rural Cooperstown is the Ommegang Brewery. We had to go, as this is one of the better-known craft breweries.
They are actually owned by the Belgian (I think) company that owns Duvel, but from what the tour guide said, they are pretty much left to run their own operation and do what they do. They make several Belgian-style ales, including a Witte, a Farmhouse Saison, a Dubbel, and a Tripel (called “Three Philosophers”).
It was a pretty basic, short tour, but then for $3, we each got a 2 ounce tasting glass and we got to try their six standard brews in the tasting room. My favorites were the Rare Vos, an amber ale, and Hennepin, the Saison. Ommegang sells their beers in small bottles (8-10 ounce?) in a 4-pack, and also in large single bottles. It was nice to try them, because now, when I got to Total Wine in CA, I will know what I am getting before I shell out $10 for one of the larger bottles.
Ommegang is in a rural area and has a large field which they use to host concerts. We just missed Grace Potter and Old Crow Medicine Hat. The Black Crowes are up next. A fun place to stop if you’re in upstate NY.
Next it was onto the downtown area of Cooperstown, a quaint lakeside town. It took a little while to search for a parking space because it seems every spot in the entire city is 2 hour parking. So then, we figured out there are three remote parking lots with trolley service into downtown. We chose that option and were soon on the main street. We got some quick lunch amidst the strolling people of all ages, almost all representing their favorite baseball teams. I was wearing my Dodgers shirt and hat. And then, we were at the hall. Like happens to all of us so often, the experience did not match what I had imagined and dreamed of ahead of time.
In my mind, I envisioned the Hall of Fame much bigger than it is. That’s not to say that it is small – there are three floors of stuff. I guess I mean underwhelming. I have always had the impression that the HOF was a facility – a high security facility, even, like the Mint – where every historical piece of memorabilia was preserved and catalogued. And it was all there for you to see. But like any art museum, only a small fraction of their possessions are on display. I didn’t see anything that said that, so I’m just assuming, but it’s obvious. A large part of the building is set up as a baseball museum. Maybe that is obvious, but I never considered that. When I hear “Baseball Hall of Fame” on TV, they don’t use the correct name, which is “Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.” I never considered that it would be a museum. And, at least in my perspective, it comes across as a small town museum, with lots of little exhibits focused on particular aspects of baseball.
There was an exhibit on Latin teams, and on Negro teams, and a “picture window” with random memorabilia from each of the teams. A glass picture window with each of the dynasties: Yankees of the late ’20s, Cardinals of the early ’40s, Reds of the ’70s, etc. There is a room about Babe Ruth, an exhibit of original prints from some random insurance adjuster guy who look pictures of the Cleveland team in the ’20s and ’30s. That was cool to see portraits of so many legends, and other’s I’ve never heard of. They all look so aged, for their ages. But that’s typical of life back then – oh, so long ago! There were lots of baseball cards – ones that I know are extraordinarily valuable – it was an exhibit on the history of cards, focusing on pre-1960s or so. There is also a lot of memorabilia on the early history (1830s-1900), which I think is most important. Where else are you going to see the Doubleday Baseball and the official scorebook of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings? There was also a small art gallery with baseball-themed work from Warhol, Rockwell, and others.
Still reflecting, the best way I can describe the feel is as I said before – as a small-town museum, and not a treasure vault of priceless memories. Maybe that’s good. Maybe it isn’t. Not everything was behind glass, but with no security or ushers nearby, it was nice to have personal space to reflect without a guard telling you to back up, turn off the flash, stop touching, etc.
Everything I have described is on the 2nd floor, where one’s visit begins. Then you go up to the 3rd floor. This is different because it is specifically about baseball’s records, and the relevant memorabilia is on view.
At the end of the journey, the 1st floor calls. This is where the “Hall of Fame” (and multiple gift shops) is located. I enjoyed being near the plaques that each inducted member receives, but it was anticlimactic for me. They are in a hall, a regular room, but I was expecting a grand room, something imposing, demanding of reverence. They are just in a regular hallway, and I sort of said, “that’s it?” to myself. Part of it is that there are enormous ceilings and there was so much empty space above the plaques.
Still, you can’t help but stand in awe, respect, and wonder as you read the text on the plaque. For the members who are no longer living, their likeness on this plaque, and the one or two sentences below preserve their memories for eternity. I wish I could do back in time about 80 years and watch so many of these “greats.” I don’t know that they were great, legends. That’s what others have told me. I would like to see for myself.
These are some of my favorite players:
Possibly my favorite memorabilia at the Hall, and something that is probably overlooked by many people, are the scouting reports of future stars. You can read the little “report” that a scout filled out after watching legends play when they were in high school or college. It’s fascinating to read how their abilities were rated, and to read the assessment of their character, drive, perseverance, etc. Some are right now, others – far from it!
We’re heading toward Boston, where we’ll stay with friends I met in Hungary.