This week Road Trips with Tom heads for the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
While the hall doesn’t really merit being a primary road trip destination, it may be worth a visit next time you’re in the area
And that, podnuh, is its problem. The Baseball Hall of Fame isn’t in the vicinity of anywhere most road trippers would go.
Nobody goes there by accident. Why? Because it’s smack dab in the middle of nowhere. It’s a long slog from any major city and 90 miles from the nearest commercial airport. Only dedicated baseball fans will mosey down to Cooperstown to worship at the altar of the sport that calls itself “America’s National Pastime.”
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks
About 300,000 people make the pilgrimage every year. While that may seem like a lot – and indeed tiny Cooperstown (pop. 1,800) can get crowded during the summer – it’s small when compared with other attractions you might consider as road trip destinations. Example: The Grand Canyon is also in the middle of nowhere and even farther from a major airport, yet it attracts over six million people every year. That’s 20 times as many as the hall of fame. Okay, that’s an unfair comparison, but you get the picture.
The hall’s location is based on the notion that Abner Doubleday invented baseball here in his hometown of Cooperstown. That notion has since been debunked as a myth, but local promoters were able to organize and build the museum in 1939. For more on this, go to www.sportingnews.com/mlb/news/the-baseball-hall-of-fame-would-be-foolish-to-relocate/53y7znik4tej14j7lncvwwd2n
But if you live and breathe baseball, or if someone who travels with you does, you just might want to make the trip. In this post I’ll tell you what you need to know to visit the hall of fame, including what you’ll see when you get there. So buy yourself some peanuts and Cracker Jacks, and let’s play two.
First, I have a confession to make. I’m as big a baseball fan as anyone. For example, I often watch MLB-TV and have a radio preset in my car for the XM MLB channel. I was excited about visiting the sport’s sacred shrine and was expecting something larger than life. What I got, however, was something smaller – a rather ordinary brick building with low-tech displays on a par with what you find at a typical national park visitor center, minus the helpful rangers always ready to answer your questions.
Parking lot trolley
A typical visit is walking around, reading stuff and looking at stuff – nothing interactive. There are no helpful docents stationed around the museum. I started getting bored fairly quickly. Sadly, the hall of fame was a disappointment for me.
On the upside, Cooperstown is a delightful small town with a spiffy downtown and lovely homes along the shore of Otsego Lake – “Glimmerglass” in James Fennimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking tales.
To get there, take SR 28 from I-90 (Exit 30) or I-88 (Exit 17). This part of upstate New York is gorgeous country, with wooded ridges and valleys with picturesque farms.
The Baseball Hall of Fame is open daily, 9-9 from Memorial Day to Labor Day and 9-5 the rest of the year. Admission costs $23 for ages 13-64, $15 for seniors, and $12 for veterans and kids 7-12.
For my visit on Thursday, May 11, I arrived about 10 a.m. and found a parking space right across Main St. You probably won’t be so lucky. Assuming no available street parking, head to one of three lots and ride the special trolley. Parking is free, and the trolley costs $2 for all-day riding. For details, including a map, go to www.cooperstownchamber.org/visit/trolley-parking/
Three floors of exhibits
The hall of fame has three floors of exhibits. All areas are wheelchair-accessible. The printed guide you get when you enter recommends you start on the second floor. A nice feature is the virtual tour on the park’s website; go to www.baseballhall.org/discover/museum. On the same page is a link to a map showing you where the major exhibit categories are located.
Two interesting exhibits on the second floor were on Latin American players and African Americans, including the old Negro Leagues. Oh, and let’s not forget the character known as The Chicken (pictured above). On the third floor was a special new gallery honoring all-time home run king Hank Aaron.
On the first floor is the hall itself – a gallery with a plaque for each former player elected to the hall. There was also a small display on the three new members being inducted in late July – Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez.
How long should you allow?
All tours are self-guided. How long should you plan to spend? I browsed the major exhibits, paying special attention to my hometown team, the Dodgers, made a pass through the museum store, and left after 1 ½ hours. For most people, two hours should be adequate.
Want to spend the night? You’ll find listings on all the major hotel sites. Expect high rates. For example, the local Best Western will cost $215 or more. As for food, there are plenty of choices. In a town where most restaurant customers are transients, I would expect so-so food and high prices. I didn’t stick around to find out.
Lastly, there are two other attractions in Cooperstown that might interest you: The Fennimore Art Gallery and the Farmer’s Museum. Google them for web-based information.
Thanks for visiting Road Trips with Tom. I hope you’ll join me again on Sunday, June 11, as we return to the West and visit historic Goldfield, Nevada.