Every serious baseball fan has heard of Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Located in central New York, this town received its name from the family of American author James Fenimore Cooper (The Last of the Mohicans). Home to just under two thousand residents, Cooperstown is really little more than just a village that lies within the town of Otsego.
Cooperstown became the location for the Hall of Fame thanks to the myth of Abner Doubleday. Abner Doubleday was a Union general during the American Civil War who initiated the first shot of the war at Fort Sumter and later served in the Battle of Gettysburg. By many accounts, Doubleday was considered a war hero. In 1907, the Spalding Commission, headed by sporting goods titan A. G. Spalding, determined that it was Doubleday who invented the game of baseball in a cow pasture in Cooperstown in 1839. That cow pasture is now known as Abner Doubleday Field.
In the 1930s, Cooperstown native Stephen Carlton Clark approached the president of the National League, Ford C. Frick (who later became the Commissioner of Baseball), with the idea of establishing a Baseball Hall of Fame. As an art collector and affluent businessman, Clark’s motivation behind founding the Hall lay not only in his desire to celebrate and commemorate the sport, but also to boost the economy of his town, which suffered in the wake of the Great Depression. Frick approved of the idea, and in 1936, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Babe Ruth became the Hall’s first inductees. Stephen Clark donated funds towards the erection of a building, and the Hall of Fame’s official dedication took place on 12 June 1939.
Today, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum features more than 38,000 artifacts spread out over three floors. In the Plaque Gallery, nearly three hundred bronze plaques honor the achievements of the game’s Hall of Famers. The Hall’s motto is “Preserving History, Honoring Excellence, Connecting Generations.”
“The Doubleday Myth is Cooperstown’s Gain: Pastoral village has become the heart of baseball folklore.” National Baseball Hall of Fame. National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Web. Accessed 31 May 2013. http://baseballhall.org/museum/experience/history
“National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum.” Believe it or not, this is Cooperstown: The official website of Cooperstown/Otsego County, New York. Cooperstown/Otsego County Tourism. Web. Accessed 2 June 2013. http://www.thisiscooperstown.com/attractions/national-baseball-hall-fame-museum
“Stephen C. Clark, Art Patron, Dead: Noted Collector Was Singer Sewing Machine Heir–Set Up Baseball Hall of Fame.” New York Times 18 September 1960. ProQuest Historical Newspapers. The New York Times (1851-2002), p. 86.