I moved to Cooperstown, NY this week. It was a long time coming, with about seven and a half months to prepare, but it had to be this week, and no later, of course. It’s been a wonderful week, made all the more exciting by the presence of many of you, clad in blue and white and teal and gray. Hopefully, weather-permitting, I’ll see many more of you this weekend. I’ll be providing coverage of the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies here, but wanted to put together something useful for anyone else attending, who might be overwhelmed at a town of ~1,700 that swells to 50,000+ for these next couple days. To do so I’ve enlisted the hard-earned advice of our own Eric Sanford, who made the pilgrimage three years ago for Ken Griffey Jr.’s induction.
We’ve skipped the traditional “where to stay” portion of a guide like this because if you don’t have a spot already you won’t find one. People have had rooms for next year’s induction weekend booked in advance since the day Derek Jeter retired, and Mariano Rivera has earned similar, though not identical homage.
How to Get Around
This could change temporarily, but during my residency (and Isabelle’s) in Cooperstown right up to the publishing of this article, Uber and Lyft do not operate in Cooperstown. This could change for the weekend - it’s not due to any laws to my knowledge, merely a lack of demand 362 days of the year. Ride-shares could appear, up-charging egregiously, but I would not count on them for transportation.
Fortunately, the downtown of Cooperstown (aka “The Village” component of town) is flat, charming, and approximately three square blocks. If you’re spry enough for a stroll through Volunteer Park, you can handle walking Coop. Of course, it will be hot and humid - looks like mid-80s to low-90s tomorrow, and the Induction itself is at the Clark Sports Center, about a 10-15 minute stroll from downtown. If you were unable to secure lodging within The Village itself, however, you can still get around.
There are three trolleys that cycle through town from 8:30 AM to 9 PM ET, stopping at three different lots outside Cooperstown. You can track the trolleys (which are a year-round service) at http://followthetrolley.com/. If you’ve brought a car, I beseech you not to bother trying to snipe a parking spot in town (there already are none remaining) and instead park for free at one of the trolley lots. You can then purchase a $5 day pass to the trolley which will bring you into town. As Eric can attest, this is the only sensible way to get into town. Once you’re in town, the Hall of Fame provides a consistent stream of shuttle buses to ferry attendees from downtown to the Clark Sports Center where the ceremony is held. While they will get you there before and back afterwards, the shuttles shut down during the ceremony itself on Sunday, so prepare to be in for the long haul.
Where to Eat
Things you will find: Bar & Grills, Italian food, burgers/hot dogs, fairly loose public drinking regulations, a few neat breweries and cider spots, a 24-hour grocery store (Price Chopper), one coffee shop, ice cream parlors, lines
There’s good food to be had in Cooperstown, but consider the situation when setting your expectations. Every restaurant in town operates throughout the summer, with several closing down entirely during the winter months. There is not the infrastructure to conveniently process 50,000 people because 51 weekends out of 52 that infrastructure would be useless and unprofitable. In my brief residence and visits, the New York Pizzeria of Cooperstown, Doubleday Cafe, Stagecoach Coffee, and Bocca Osteria have been my favorite spots to nosh, with Cooperstown Beverage Exchange, Mel’s, Cooley’s, and the Cooperstown Bar & Grill offering good drink options. Cooley’s and the Coop B&G are the two notable late-night options, open until 2 AM, but you will of course find yourself without shuttle service/Uber/parking.
If you’ve got time to journey around, Ommegang Brewing is the power in these woods, so to speak. They’ve got an expansive brewery about 10 minutes out of town with plenty of indoor and outdoor space for food. On that same road, Red Shed Brewery is a personal favorite of mine, with a more mellow, Northwest-like vibe, lovely outdoor space, and gigantic soft pretzels. Also to the south of town, Council Rock Brewery has some creative brews and delicious food. West of town is the Fly Creek Cider Mill, with a fun atmosphere and a million free samples of anything you can imagine using apples to make. Sauces, salsas, ciders, wines, fudge, mac and cheese, you name it, you can try and buy it, and get a jingle stuck in your head too. They open early but close earlier too (9 AM to 6 PM) but it’s a delightful Saturday activity if you or part of your travel party - kids especially - want to take a baseball break.
Things you will not find: Price-appropriate foods originating from the continents of Asia, Africa, or South America, nor the region of Central America, more than two places open past 10 PM, parking (not a food but I cannot stress this enough), a second coffee shop
If you would like to eat food you could get at a baseball game, Cooperstown has that. If you would like to eat anything else, you may want to cook at home. Also, while most places serve coffee, there is only one coffee shop - Stagecoach - and you cannot bring drinks into the Hall of Fame itself so plan accordingly.
What To Do (before Induction)
Eric checking in here! As John mentioned up top, my dad and I made the trip for Griffey’s induction and it was truly a magical and unforgettable trip. I went into great detail on my old blog here if you’re inclined to read about it, but I wanted to drop a few tips to those who are making their first trek to Cooperstown.
Today being Friday, hopefully you’re using today as your big museum day if you’re already there. That’s what we did in 2016 and the crowds were very manageable that day in comparison to the rest of the weekend, before the entire state of New York and large portions of every other eastern seaboard state showed up on Saturday and Sunday. So, yes, use Friday to drink in every inch of the museum. It’s well worth it. Also well worth the money is buying a silver level membership to the Hall of Fame because that allows you to skip all the huge lines to get in the museum and you can come and go as many times as you want throughout the weekend. It also gets you reserved seating at the induction in a section that’s about 100 yards or so away from the stage. Absolutely worth the money if you’re already spending the cash to go all the way to Cooperstown because you’ll be able to use your time there much more efficiently (Side note, this trip ain’t cheap! Thankfully food and drink prices in Cooperstown are pretty reasonable for the most part).
That Friday evening, we drove the 20 minutes or so out to Ommegang Brewery, which is well worth it, as John mentioned above. They have this amazing farmhouse facility with tons of outdoor seating, games, and of course, fantastic Belgian-style beers (and a few non-belgians, as well).
Onto Saturday! Absolutely go to the Ford C. Frick and J.G. Taylor Spink awards presentation at Doubleday Field around the corner from the Hall. They bring out all the attending Hall of Famers, so it’s your first chance to cheer deliriously for your favorites, and then they give out the lifetime achievement awards for baseball broadcasting and baseball writing. This is where Dave Niehaus gave his excellent and stirring speech in 2008 when he received the Frick award. COMMON MISCONCEPTION ALERT: Winners of the Frick and Spink awards are not considered Hall of Famers. Rick Rizzs, bless his heart, always refers to our dear Dave Niehaus as a Hall of Famer on the air. I believe this is part of what perpetuates the misconception. The first time I went through the main hall with all the plaques, I got to the end where Griffey and Mike Piazza’s plaques were to be placed and realized afterwards, wait where are the broadcasters? Where’s ol’ Dave? Turns out the section for the Spink and Ford award winners is up in the annex area behind the plaques and it’s just a display of their photos and bios. Obviously, it’s still a tremendous honor and prestigious award, but it’s definitely very separate from the players, managers, and owners section in the eyes of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Grab a spot in the shade on the right field line in the bleachers if you can and enjoy some great speeches and player intros. After that, all the Hall of Famers hop into pick up trucks and drive down Main Street for a hilarious spectacle of a parade. Totally worth seeing and cheering for your favorites. However, if you are height-challenged, visibility will be tough.
Saturday night, try to find a spot at one of the many aforementioned Italian joints and do some bar-hopping, but be sure to hydrate because tomorrow is gonna be a sweaty one.
What to do (Induction Day)
The induction ceremony is free to the public, which is very neat. The shuttles are not very air conditioned and pretty slow, so honestly if you’re able to walk from downtown Cooperstown, it’s very flat and not a bad stroll at all. We ended up walking back downtown after the ceremony.
So, whether you’re posting up way out in the field or sitting in reserved seating, I cannot stress enough how important it is to bring sunscreen and some kind of umbrella or sun cover. In order to get a good spot, you’ll be out there baking for at least an hour or more before the ceremony starts. They sell water and hot dogs at the event, but the lines were insane as I recall, so bringing your own refillable water bottle is very clutch. Once the ceremony starts, you’ll have to be a decent human being and put your umbrella down so you don’t block anyone’s view, but the hour plus that you shielded yourself will allow you to endure the impending exposure (in theory).
Afterwards, make your way back to town. My dad and I got some delicious pizza and beers at the aptly-named New York Pizzeria on Chestnut street. Definitely recommend it. If you’re trying to get out of town right after the induction, then make a beeline to the Hall to get in line to see the newly unveiled plaques. If you’re in no hurry, then just go later that night. We showed up about an hour before close and were able to see Griffey’s plaque in about 45 minutes or so.
Induction Weekend is definitely a bit crazy in terms of the amount of people flooding a very small town, but Cooperstown handles it pretty well. I hope all Mariners fans in attendance this weekend have an absolute blast, have no travel delays, stay hydrated, and cheer (and cry) their hearts out for our Patron Saint of All Good Things (and Mariners Baseball), Edgar Martinez.