Cooperstown: One of Best American Small Towns

Cooperstown, New York

Cooperstown, New York

AARP (American Association of Retired People) has now picked Cooperstown, NY as No. 8 on its list of America’s Best small Towns under the 30,000 full-time population mark. In these study findings, they don’t exactly recommend any of these listed places as future home prospects for retirees, but as places that have much to offer visitors in the way of education, beauty, cultural uniqueness. great dining, and affordable fun.

As one-time, but going-back-someday visitor in Cooperstown, and as a Deep Blue Level lover of baseball and its history, I would love to live there full-time, but my dear wife doesn’t want to live anywhere it gets that cold, and stays that cold, throughout the long northeastern American winters. And, who knows? I’m a native Texan and have never even seen a snow that lasted 24 hours. – Maybe, at age 77, I might have a little trouble finding the right end of a snow shovel long enough to do us much good under blizzard conditions, anyway, but then – people don’t shovel snow during blizzards, do they?

We were there briefly with other family members in June of 1994. I recall asking one of the baseball memorabilia shopkeepers what he did during the winter? “inventory” was his one-word answer. So, maybe my little sweetheart is right this time. Maybe, I would not like the long periods of snowbound enclosure either, but I’m still not sure. – Has anyone ever been snowbound inside the National Baseball Library? – That fate sounds like a cool way to be imprisoned for a while – to me, anyway.

Short of moving there. Maybe I can just go spend the summer there sometime, even if I have to go alone. That would be the Dream Summer of my life, as I now think about things. Just taking a few slow contemplative weeks living in the heart of baseball’s Valhalla would do me just fine.

On the only previous dawn I ever spent in Cooperstown back in 1994, we were saying in a place called “The Shortstop Hotel” on Main Street, very close to the Hall of Fame. I was so excited to be there that I awoke before the sun and quietly dressed to walk around by myself without waking anyone else in the family.

When I hit the streets and started walking Main Street in the quiet darkness, among the orderly placement of those old style street lights, I could not help but be reminded of how much it made me think of Bedford Falls in that wonderful old Frank Capra movie from 1946, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. After a while of much sauntering, I was attracted to the sound of some noise down the way. Lo and behold, I stumbled upon Doubleday Field, only minutes away from dawn. A ground crew was there to do some work and get the field ready for some kind of amateur game that was on the docket for that afternoon. I asked if it would be OK to enter and just walk in and take a seat for the sunrise. Those guys had no problem with that request – and so I did just that on the home plate first base side – I found a seat in the empty stands – and I sat back in a state of gifted waiting – in full anticipation of what I was about to see as the darkness lifted. I had not counted on anything on this spiritual level in my first-and-only-time experience of Cooperstown. and here it was – unfolding for me suddenly, like Christmas in June.

As the sun rose on Doubleday Field that summer pre-dawn morning, I was the only one sitting in the stands to salute its arrival. The changing of the light, as it streaked and glowed in orange color variations in the eastern sky behind the outfield walls, was simply magnificent. And the higher the sun rose in the sky, the more the rustic civil beauty of bungalows nestled among the tall evergreens there shown forth in settled glory, as light rays trickled more strongly through the parting spaces between the leaves, almost inviting me to pay attention to the towering church steeple that completed this scene, and at the same iconic field ushered into perpetual service and celebration in 1939 with the help of people like Honus Wagner, Cy Young and the one and only George Herman “Babe” Ruth.

“Where is Norman Rockwell when you really need his company?” Or so I thought.

Cooperstown, as far as small towns with much to offer, you will always be Number One with people like me. And I am only one of the millions you could not handle, should we all decide to move in with you at the same time because of what was long ago built into your already most beautiful depiction of the early American Dream by the game of baseball.

Better we all visit, one by one, and get down to Doubleday Field before the sun rises, individually or in small company, in the hope that some other kind soul will be there to help us begin our visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame with this kind of sublime half hour of sunrise meditation.

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Here’s the AARP “America’s Best Small Towns” description of Cooperstown and the link to their piece on all ten towns with populations under 30,000 that they recommend:

America’s Best Small Towns: No. 8, Cooperstown, New York

“Founded in 1786, this town is filled with stately homes and civic structures — but most know it best as the location of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. But this isn’t just a destination for sports lovers: Cultural attractions include the Cooperstown Chamber Music Festival, the annual Glimmerglass Opera season and the Fenimore Art Museum. Outdoorsy types, meanwhile, can enjoy golfing at Leatherstocking Golf Course, boating on Otsego Lake and hiking in Glimmerglass State Park. Beer lovers shouldn’t pass up a chance to tour the esteemed Brewery Ommegang, which produces Belgian-style brews and hosts a Belgian food-and-drink festival on its grounds every August. For dining, highlights include the global-inspired menu at the Alex & Ika Restaurant and the waterfront views at Lake Front Restaurant and Bar.”

~ excerpt from America’s Best Small Towns by Michael Alan Connelly, Abbey Chase, Fodor’s Travel

Full Story Link:

http://travel.aarp.org/articles-tips/articles/info-07-2014/best-small-towns-america-photo.html?cmp=NLC-WBLTR-DSO-NMCTRL-050815-TS1-TRAVEL-593658&encparam=Wueocu2B5p71a0XxeCsVXV8HRwoCIA4EVR0NIn9wSQo=#slide1

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    Double Day Field     Cooperstown, New York     By Deborah Geurtze

Double Day Field
Cooperstown, New York
By Deborah Geurtze

We were out of town all day today, Saturday, May 9th, so I just came in to find this wonderful “Rockwellian” landscape of Doubleday Field by artist Deborah Geurtze, with a crucible note from baseball friend and fellow SABR member Bill Hickman. Art and narrative both are deserving as this late inclusion into the Doubleday Field-focused column. Thanks, Bill Hickman for all you do the good in the name of baseball!

“Your mentioning Norman Rockwell in your column today prompted me to send you the attached.  The artist wasn’t Rockwell, of course, but instead was Deborah Geurtze.   This print sits above my computer, along with another one of hers which shows the front entrance to Doubleday Field.  Perhaps this will give you another good memory of your day at the field with the church steeple in the background.  Deborah Geurtze was located in Cooperstown at the time I purchased her prints, although I acquired them at craft shows elsewhere.

“The photo is askew because I was trying to avoid the reflection of lights in the room off the glass covering the print.
“Much enjoyed your description of Cooperstown.  It’s a terrific place, and I’d love to return there again.  Been there twice.  I salute you for getting up and seeing the sunrise at the field.  What a terrific experience to enjoy!”
~ Bill Hickman, May 9, 2015
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2 Responses to “Cooperstown: One of Best American Small Towns”

  1. stanfromtacoma Says:

    Great post Bill. I was there in 1961 and again a few years later. I too long to go back. I’d like to be there at World Series time. The Hall of Fame combined with the fall colors of upstate New York would be beyond spectacular. Really though any day spent in Cooperstown would be special.

  2. Tom Hunter Says:

    My father attended the four-month Bell System’s Marketing Curriculum in 1963 in Cooperstown. The attendees were housed at the Otesaga Hotel on the banks of Lake Otsego. I’ve made two pilgrimages to Cooperstown and also remember sitting in Doubleday Field–though not at sunrise. I’ve been to the football and basketball halls of fame, where the crowds are fairly noisy, but entering the Baseball Hall of Fame is akin to walking into a cathedral, with people speaking in hushed tones.

    I also remember the caution-yellow road sign outside the Glimmerglass Opera Theater that read, “Opera Crossing.”

    Bedford Falls indeed.

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