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Official Review by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Any true baseball fan will, at some time in their life, make the pilgrimage to Cooperstown, New York. Home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, this lovely village in upstate New York also is the site of Abner Doubleday Field. Built on the site of Elihu Phinney’s farm, purported to be the location of the first recorded baseball game, Doubleday Field opened in 1920, with grandstands being added in 1924 and the concrete structure that stands today being completed in 1939 as a WPA project.
The stadium is owned by the Village of Cooperstown, but is maintained and managed by the non-profit Friends of Doubleday, Inc. Over the years, Doubleday Field has been used by numerous baseball teams and for a variety of functions. From 1940 until 2008, it hosted the Annual Hall of Fame game, pitting two “old timers” teams from the American and National Leagues during the Hall of Fame Induction weekend, which then became an exhibition game between two MLB teams. It now hosts the Hall of Fame Classic, which is held on Father’s Day weekend, and features many MLB alumni. The other main event held in the stadium is the annual Ford Frick/Taylor Spink Induction Ceremony, honoring a baseball writer and broadcaster for their lifelong service to the game. Past honorees include Ring Lardner, Damon Runyan, Red Barber, Mel Allen, Curt Gowdy, Ernie Harwell , Harry Caray and Jack Buck. These ceremonies are held the same weekend as the annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony in July of each year.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There are no concession stands in the stadium on a permanent basis. Teams using the field for special events are allowed to bring in catered food, or food can be brought in from one of the numerous restaurants, shops and ice cream stores just outside the stadium. Vendors do set up inside the stadium for major events such as the Hall of Fame Classic/ Induction Ceremonies. Restaurants located within a few blocks of the stadium worth checking out include the Doubleday Café and Nicoletta's Italian Cafe.
You are sitting at the site of the origin of baseball, and the sense of history pervades the place. From the time you enter through the 19th-century arched entrance, to sitting in the bleachers under the covered grandstand, to watching players on the field, you will truly feel transported back in baseball time. You can almost see Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Ty Cobb and other baseball immortals that played on this very field. This is truly baseball's "home church."
Doubleday Field is located in the lovely village of Cooperstown, NY. It is a village in the true sense of the word. Main Street hosts mom-and-pop stores, locally-owned restaurants, and the friendliest people you will ever want to meet. Both Doubleday Field and the Hall of Fame can be found on Main Street, just three blocks apart. Do not look for chains or big-box stores in this town. Cooperstown is proud to be home to these major baseball attractions, but has kept the small town flavor and not allowed things to go too tacky or commercial. There will be plenty of baseball-related shops, but they offer very dignified merchandise, not cheap knock-offs. The setting of the park sits with Main Street at its front door and a quiet residential neighborhood over the outfield walls, all framed by a lovely church steeple just over the left field wall. Everything in Cooperstown is walkable.
Obviously, the fan base for this park is primarily tourists who are there because they love baseball. The stadium is more of an attraction than a live game, so it is hard to rate using Stadium Journey's normal criteria. Also, expect some bus tours full of fans, though they are not overwhelming in number, except during induction weekend. However, the fans for the Hall of Fame Classic are definitely hardcore baseball fans that have a great respect for the alumni players taking the time to come to Cooperstown and play in the game.
Cooperstown is located in rural upstate New York, with Albany being the nearest airport/major city. (90 miles). It is not located near an interstate, but the roads and villages you pass through on the way to Cooperstown are scenic and not too traffic filled. Once you reach town, parking is free immediately in front of Doubleday Field. You can also leave your car at Doubleday and take the short two block walk up the street to the Hall of Fame.
Visiting Cooperstown is a pilgrimage for those who love baseball. Cost wise, there is no fee charged for visiting Doubleday Field, even on Classic weekend. They simply request a donation at a small contribution box at the entrance. Your main costs would be in getting there and lodging, which is limited and expensive (average $120 a night for the Best Western or Holiday Inn) even when no special events are going on. Cooperstown also has a very vibrant bed and breakfast inventory, for those who prefer period lodging.
To generate funds to maintain the stadium, The Friends of Doubleday organization rents out the field to groups to play on the actual diamond. The cost is $500 for a two hour period and is available from May - Labor Day. This is a popular fundraiser, and the field needs to be reserved well in advance.
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96 Main St
Cooperstown, NY 13326
93 Main St
Cooperstown, NY 13326
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