Mrs. Nomad and I first visited Cooperstown almost 40 years ago, the week before she made the dangerous and somewhat dubious decision to become Mrs. Nomad. We were married in New York City and were living in New Hampshire and decided to make a short detour to see the mythical birthplace of baseball. It was a trip I always wanted to make, she was slowly adapting to my passion. I consider it heaven on earth, because of the baseball, scenic beauty and charming restaurants. We’ve been back many times since. This year I wanted to include it on the 4bases tour because of the obvious baseball connection, but I especially wanted to stay at the famed Otesaga Hotel and check out Cooperstown Dreams Park.
Here are a few pictures and comments
The Otesaga Hotel
Cooperstown was settled in the late 18th century by William Cooper, the author James Fenimore Cooper’s father. By the mid-19th century, it was a popular summer retreat due to the beauty of the wooded hills that surround Lake Otsego. The estates and houses are still in use today. 1
The Otsego Hotel was developed by Edward Severin Clark and Stephen Carlton Clark, two grandsons of “Cooperstown’s prominent benefactor, Edward Clark.” The hotel opened in 1909 and included the Leatherstocking Golf Course. It is still owned by the Clark family. 2 Interestingly, the Hotel opened roughly 27 years before the Hall of Fame did. Cooperstown was a destination before the odd baseball connection. 3
The Clark family’s fortune originated with a half-ownership of the patent for the Singer Sewing Machine. They have lived in Cooperstown since the mid 19th century and own “more than 10,000 acres of largely undeveloped land in and around greater Cooperstown.” 4 Thus, Cooperstown and Lake Otsego retain their natural beauty which is why its a wonderful place to visit.
The Otesaga is where many of the Hall of Fame members stay when they visit, especially induction weekend. They meet and swap stories on the veranda that overlooks Lake Otsego. Its where we relaxed and ate breakfast each day of our stay.
Pictures of the Otesaga viewed from Lake Otsego, the lake and a picture of Babe Ruth that i took in one of the men’s rooms. Kids, always take your camera.
Around the Village
The village is small and quaint with a focus on baseball, souvenirs and its rustic history. A brief walk around takes you by the “Hunter and Dog” and “Sandlot Kid” statues. It’s nice to walk down Main street which retains its old-time charm through its architecture. Moreover, it’s fun to watch amateur and semi-pro teams play in historic Doubleday Field.
Of course, there are many souvenirs to purchase. Mickey’s Place has a vast assortment of caps. On my last visit, I bought replicas of Brooklyn Dodgers and St. Louis Browns caps. This trip I purchased a mid-50s New York Giants cap and a 1914 Cubs hat.
You’ll see my new hats in later posts. Since I made a commitment to take a selfie with a different hat at each game or experience I needed to buy these. I have three games at Wrigley with no gear. I figured I could get the classic home cap and a batting practice cap at the stadium. Similarly, I have two games in San Francisco and only have the home cap that I bought a few years ago. I figure the New York version will go nicely.
Yankees gear is prevalent since Cooperstown is close to New York City. You can choose from a large selection of jerseys with or without the names on the back. There’s no accounting for taste, I guess.
Statues, architecture, baseball and souvenirs.
The Hall of Fame
Of course, there is the Hall of Fame and Museum. Go once, and go often. We hadn’t been in a few years, and everything looked new. They constantly change the displays, so it’s always fresh.
This time, we saw a new film about baseball across generations that left me in tears. Watching Cal Ripken Jr. talk about Lou Gehrig whose record he broke or Ken Griffey Jr. talk about Willie Mays the previous great centerfielder is quite moving.
The records area, most of the second-floor displays and a new Hank Aaron room are among the other things we saw. Please note, when I say “new,” I mean new since the last time we visited about four years or so ago.
Fenimore Art Museum
You can do more than baseball in Cooperstown. We visited the Fenimore Art Museum and spent a few hours having lunch, walking the grounds and visiting the exhibits. Of special interest were the Herb Ritts exhibit and the Native American art and artifacts.
Native American inspired art and artifacts.
Pictures from the Herb Ritts exhibit.
Cooperstown Dream Park
Finally, there is the Cooperstown Dreams Park where they hold a youth tournament each week of the summer for players 12 and under.
We were hoping to spend a few hours on Friday or Saturday watching the teams play. However, we found that the tournaments run from Sunday to Thursday. Friday is the day the kids move into their lodges and Saturday is for orientation and the opening ceremony. From Sunday through Tuesday, the teams play preliminary rounds. The teams are seeded into the single elimination championship tournament based on their won-loss record. That tournament starts on Wednesday and ends with the championship rounds on Thursday.
We saw the opening ceremony on Saturday and some games on Sunday morning before we left. I’d consider going back to watch the finals on Thursday.
From my vantage point, the tournament exhibits what is good and bad about youth sports in today’s America.
Youth Baseball and Cooperstown Dreams
The good side. The tournament is well run and they seem to do a fabulous job of organizing over 100 teams a week. Organizing means, getting them safely in and out, housing, feeding and of course competing. Moreover, the kids seem to have fun, they get to visit the Hall of Fame and play in Cooperstown.
On the other hand, it is a travel baseball tournament with some extra bells and whistles like the opening ceremony. No offense intended, but it naturally exhibits all the problematic issues that we encounter in youth sports. The teams consist of elite players who are obviously wealthy. They can afford equipment, travel and extra training. It’s not clear to me that there are scholarships that help teams afford the approximately $14k to participate. 7 These costs do not include costs to travel across the country to the “middle of nowhere.8
None of this is the kids, coaches or tournament organizers fault or responsibility. However, it still points to the fact that there is a need to help kids from underserved areas play the great game and participate in elite tournaments.
The opening ceremony and parade.
The kids play and the parents hope.
My next adventure starts in mid-June when I fly to St. Louis. In the following two weeks, I’ll see:
- Albert Pujols return to St. Louis when the Angels play the Cardinals
- Negro League Museum in Kansas City
- Twins and Royals in Kansas City
- Field of Dreams Film Site
- College World Series
- London Series – Yankees and Red Sox
- Yankees and Mets at Citi Field
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- The Village of Cooperstown, www.cooperstownny.org
- “Hotel History: The Otesaga Hotel, Cooperstown, NY,” Hotel News Resource, July 7, 2016,
- There is a long and tortuous story as to how Cooperstown was identified as the birthplace of baseball. The likely birthplace was in the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, NJ.
- Wikipedia – “Cooperstown, New York.”
- Wikipedia – “Cooperstown, New York.”
- Board of Directors, https://baseballhall.org
- The registration form indicates cost is $1,095 per player/coach with a minimum requirement or 11 players, 2 coaches and 1 umpire. Umpires participate for free.
- “Middle of nowhere” is how one parent from Salt Lake City referred to Cooperstown. Evidently not pleased with the flight from Salt Lake to Toronto and the six-hour drive to Cooperstown. Their plan was to fly out of Albany, which is a much better plan.