Cooperstown: a History of Baseball

Front of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum (Anthony Bianchi)

I had an opportunity to visit Cooperstown, New York recently and for baseball fans, it’s a “must” for your bucket list. Founded in 1939, The “National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum” in Cooperstown, New York, features a history of the entire sport of baseball (not only a history of Major League Baseball). Cooperstown sits almost in the center of the state of New York. It falls between I-90 and I-88 about 40 miles southeast of Utica, NY and 25 miles northeast of Oneonta, NY in Otsego County.

Cooperstown, New York was founded in 1786 by William Cooper, father of the famous author, James Fenimore Cooper (The Last of the Mohicans’). According to the 2010 census, 1,852 people call the village of Cooperstown their home, though it is believed that the current population has increased to approximately 2,200. Additionally, Cooperstown is also known for Otsego Lake which provides residents and visitors with aquatic recreations of fishing and swimming. The lake is just north of the village.

According to the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s website, Cooperstown is also the home of Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers’ Museum. Approximately 300,000 people visit the village every year. Although the town was founded in the 18th century, most of the village lives in a post-civil war era as a devastating fire destroyed a good portion of Cooperstown in 1862

Entrance to the enshrined members of the Baseball Hall of Fame (Anthony Bianchi)

As you enter the first floor of the hall of fame and make your way to the “Bronze Plaques”. You will find a brief history of why Cooperstown is the home to The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The hall was founded in 1939 which was exactly 100 years after what early American historians believe was the birth year (1839) and birthplace (Cooperstown) of baseball.

The sign in the shrine reads, “In 1908, sporting goods magnate A.G. Spalding announced the verdict of a special historical commission that had been formed to determine the origins of baseball. ‘The first scheme for playing [the game], according to the best evidence obtainable to date, was devised by Abner Doubleday at Cooperstown, NY in 1839’.” Doubleday, a career union officer died in 1893, 15 years before Spalding announced the verdict of the special commission.

Though, we go on to read, “Today, historians agree that Doubleday had nothing to do with baseball’s beginnings, but Cooperstown remains the spiritual home of the National Pastime.” According to baseball-reference.com, it is now known that the earliest mentions of baseball began in 1792 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Additionally, according to the website, “base ball” (two words) was regularly played on the outskirts of New York City (now known as Greenwich Village) in 1823. The website goes on to read that the first team to play baseball under modern rules were the New York Knickerbockers in 1845.

Babe Ruth Gallery (Anthony Bianchi)

So, Cooperstown was once believed to be the birthplace of baseball, but that is no longer the case. Abner Doubleday was believed to be the father of baseball, but that is also no longer the case. With the earliest mentions of baseball in Massachusetts and New York, it’s easy to see why the hall was centered in the Northeast. It’s also easy to see why Boston and New York enjoy their baseball history as it’s a part of their historical culture. There are many spectacular things to see in the hall as there is something there for all baseball enthusiasts to enjoy. There are many places to stay and eat as well in case you would like to make your visit to Cooperstown a bit longer.

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About Anthony Bianchi 44 Articles
Anthony Bianchi has been a lifelong baseball and Cleveland Indians fan. He was lucky enough to attend game 5 of the 1997 World Series as a child. He has received his Bachelor and Master degrees in classical music from the University of Akron. Anthony is excited to bring his knowledge of both Major League Baseball and the Cleveland Indians to Blue HQ Media.