Cooperstown: A Little Slice of Heaven
Cooperstown, New York has only 1852 residents. However, I will bet there are more famous people from there than from your home town. It was home to the inventor of the Morse Code, you know him as Samuel B. Morse. The first patent on the Singer sewing machine was awarded to the Clark family which has called Cooperstown home since the mid 19th century. The town was not named after the noted writer, James Fenimore Cooper, but was actually founded by and named after his father. While the author of the masterpiece The Last of the Mohicans was not born there, he did die in the town that bore his last name. But perhaps the most famous resident ever, at least to they people who read this column, is a Civil War officer named Abner Doubleday.
Doubleday is often credited with inventing baseball, although Alexander Cartwright wrote a set of rules for the game in 1845. Doubleday, with all of his Civil War heroics, helped popularize a game which by the mid 1860s was already being called America’s national pastime.
Never could those inventors of the game or the code or the sewing machine have envisioned what took place in Cooperstown last weekend. The third largest crowd in the Hall of Fame’s history gathered in this tiny town to celebrate baseball. 48,000 people were there as Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas highlighted a spectacular class. That crowd is 25 times larger than the entire population of the town.
This was my second trip to this town that looks like a Norman Rockwell painting come alive in central New York. The first time I had the chance to attend Hall of Fame weekend was 1999. You may remember the headliners of that class, Nolan Ryan and George Brett. That year there were 50,000 baseball fans on hand. When Cal Ripken went in there were some 62,000 in attendance. All three of those Hall of Famers returned to Cooperstown this past weekend. In fact there were 55 members of the most exclusive club in baseball on hand. To me the most awesome to see were Whitey Ford and Bob Gibson.
Nolan admits he has not been back to an induction weekend since he was inducted. This year he was there with his wife Ruth to honor Eric Nadel. The Rangers long time radio announcer shared the stage with the greats of the game when he received the Ford C Frick award given to one baseball announcer each year. As Eric took the stage to deliver his acceptance speech I wanted to shout, “I know him!” Then he delivered the speech of the weekend. Billy Crystal was among those in the crowd who laughed out loud at Eric’s humor. Tom Brokaw was there too, with 47,999 of his closest friends.
As Eric finished his speech I had tears in my eyes and chills running up and down my spine. He nailed it! And so did Cooperstown. I get the feeling they always do. It is the biggest, best weekend of the year there, and they are proud to show off their little piece of heaven on earth.
You don’t have to be a baseball fan to love this town, maybe you like sewing machines or codes or literature. Whatever your passion, do yourself a favor and visit Cooperstown, you won’t be disappointed.