If You Build It…
Tucked away in upstate New York, on the edge of Ostego Lake, rests a town surrounded by the country’s favorite pastime. Where an American cornerstone takes precedence, the town attracts more than 300,000 visitors annually.
A beautiful little village of fewer than 2,000 residents, Downtown Cooperstown is different from any other Main Street in the United States. There are no chain stores, instead featuring mom-and-pop restaurants and shops. And best of all, almost every business is related to baseball. Doubleday Field is a real-life field of dreams. Used bookstores sell old copies of “Eight Men Out,” the tale of the Black Sox and the infamous 1919 World Series. Anyone you pass on the street knows who’s on first. No matter where in the village you go, you can overtly tell that baseball is their pride and joy.
The baseball adage, “If you build it, they will come,” couldn’t be more fitting in this case. Undoubtedly, the town’s central focus is The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. It’s a place where hundreds of thousands of people pilgrimage each year to honor the game that has left such a steadfast imprint on our lives. It’s home to all the great stories of all the great players who became the great legends we know today.
Thinking about baseball and its history can send excitement coursing through one’s veins, all the way to the bottom of the soul. It’s nearly impossible not to get emotional as you peruse the many floors showcasing the game’s history. Elderly men can be heard talking about the sport as they knew it growing up, and there’s a strong sense of camaraderie in the air. It’s unlike anything else. Here, you can revisit the movies that you’ve seen a thousand times: “A League of Their Own;” “Bull Durham;” “Field of Dreams;” “The Sandlot;” “Major League” and countless others.
The museum itself features three stories of exhibit spaces that bring to life baseball’s history and connect the game to the development of a nation’s culture. “The National Baseball Hall of Fame is more than the iconic Plaque Gallery in which we celebrate and honor the 317 all-time greats of the game — although this is certainly a main attraction,” said Jon Shestakofsky, vice president of communications and education with the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
It certainly is so much more. With exhibits showcasing The Great Bambino and all his glory; one that examines ballparks, both historic and current; and, of course, one that brings to fruition Hollywood’s love affair with the game. Within the Museum walls, attendees can spend all day on the self-guided tours to learn about baseball history, see thousands of artifacts from the game’s past, enjoy hands-on learning, and delve deeper to test their baseball knowledge.
Some of the Hall of Fame’s most popular exhibits include “Pride and Passion,” about the African-American baseball experience; “Diamond Dreams,” about women in baseball; “One for the Books,” about baseball’s most indelible records; and “Whole New Ballgame,” its newest permanent exhibit filled with interactives and dedicated to the last five decades of our game, and baseball’s impact during that time on America.
The museum features both a retail store by the entrance lobby, and a bookstore within its library atrium. The shop features numerous one-of-a-kind items, and fans can choose from a number of exclusive apparel and collectible products, including beautiful wooden or acrylic replicas of their favorite Hall of Famer’s unique Hall of Fame plaque. Additionally, there’s a membership program visitors can join. “By joining the Hall of Fame’s Membership Program, baseball fans from around the country and around the world can be part of the team that is preserving the Game’s history and celebrating the all-time greats,” said Shestakofsky. Every baseball fan can become a part of baseball history by joining.
For lovers of baseball, both young and old, Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame act as a mecca — a happy place you can visit anytime you want. Since 1869, when the Cincinnati Red Stockings were established as America’s first professional baseball club, baseball has been at the heart of American culture. The rest, as they say, is history.