About the Museum
There is no definitive answer to who invented baseball, but the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown tries to find the answer. The museum, highlighting some 40,000 artifacts from baseball history paints an informative picture of the history of the sport, creates an amazing visiting experience. The city of Cooperstown itself also creates a delightful setting for a family getaway.
The origins of baseball are thought to have happened as such. It is theorized that it was inaugurated by Abner Doubleday, who fired the first shot in defense in Fort Sumter during the Civil War, in 1839 in Cooperstown. Come 1936, Cooperstown philanthropist Stephen C. Clark decided that he wanted to celebrate and protect what had at that point become the national pastime. He contacted the National League president, who thoroughly supported the idea. Three years later, the Baseball Hall of Fame opened its doors, and the first class of players, which included Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson, was elected.
Since then, the myth of Doubleday has been refuted, but the world of baseball paused to celebrate the baseball centennial at the museum opening. Today, the museum welcomes some 3,000 visitors per day during peak season and receives more than 400 new items per year. Because the museum vows to care for these items for eternity, the temperature and humidity levels must be constantly regulated and adjusted for fear that they deteriorate.
Elected baseball players traditionally donate items, a ritual started by Cy Young in 1937 when he donated several artifacts such as the 1908 ball from his 500th win and his 1911 Braves uniform. Fans are also encouraged to donate items.
Another tradition began at the opening of the museum: the annual Hall of Fame game was played for 70 years, when two Major League Baseball teams played a game at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown. The games were unfortunately discontinued in 2008.
What’s Worth Seeing?
Though the entire museum is very much worth a thorough visit, some items are absolute must-sees. The Plaque Gallery is the most famous site in the museum and contains induction plaques for all members. The gallery contains over 300 inductees as of 2018. But the museum has much more to offer. Another popular exhibit, called Baseball at the Movies, houses baseball movie memorabilia while a screen shows sample footage from those movies. A most impressive exhibit to choose from is the Scribes and Mikemen. This baseball media haven honors baseball writers and broadcasters with photos and artifacts dedicated to the subject. Best of all, floor to ceiling windows face an outdoor courtyard with various statues, the latest addition being of Satchel Paige in 2006. The second floor of the museum is quite interactive, with Today’s Game being the most popular activity. The exhibit contains thirty locker stalls, each with jerseys and memorabilia from a major league team. A display case contains rotating artifacts on various themes such as the World Baseball Classic.
The museum is well worth the expedition to Cooperstown, be it via plane, car or train. Tickets are reasonably priced given that a visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame is an all-day activity for the entire family. But Cooperstown itself is a gem waiting to be explored. The autumn leaves turn red and gold in a picture-perfect setting. Some other sights to see in Cooperstown include the Fenimore Museum, set near the breathtaking Otsego Lake, and the Farmer’s Museum, which features an immersive experience in a 19th-century village.