No need for an umpire’s call: Cooperstown, New York, runs on baseball.
And as the Baseball Hall of Fame celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2014, baseball lovers can cheer more than one milestone. July also brings a new batch of inductees (including star players Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine) following last year’s steroids-disqualified dry spell.
But some things never change: The induction ceremony, to take place on July 27, draws an endless stream of baseball fanatics from across the country, who hold their caps and grow misty-eyed when approaching their heroes. Living legends recount locker room pranks from their signing tables at baseball card shops and stroll together through manicured gardens to the 105-year-old Otesaga Resort Hotel.
“Cooperstown is like visiting the old days,” says Yogi Berra, the patriarchal former Yankees catcher. All summer long, youth teams arrive in caravans soap-painted “Cooperstown or Bust” to test their mettle at Dreams Park.
Yet many visitors leave without realizing that this village hits all the bases in the arts, too—from the Fenimore Art Museum to Glimmerglass, a lakeside opera festival named for what native writer James Fenimore Cooper called Otsego Lake. Music-loving Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg usually attends and sometimes gives lectures.
- Tip: Catch a free fireworks show each Thursday night at Dreams Park, following weekly youth baseball games.
- Fun fact: The notion that Cooperstown is baseball’s birthplace dates to a 1907 claim that Abner Doubleday invented the sport here in 1839. Doubleday, who went on to be a hero in the American Civil War, died 15 years before he was named the father of baseball, but the idea has since been largely refuted by historians. Regardless, Cooperstown has become almost synonymous with baseball, with the hall of fame opening its doors in 1939.
This piece, written by Sascha Zuger, first appeared in the June/July 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.