Tag Archives: Cooperstown

Thoughts on Cooperstown, NY

I spent Sunday afternoon through Tuesday morning in Cooperstown, NY this week. The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum served as the impetus for my trip. And the Hall was glorious. In addition to seeing the Hall of Fame I also toured Brewery Ommegang, watched baseball at Doubleday Field, and spent some time relaxing at Lakefront Park. Here are a few thoughts on my stay in Cooperstown.

Cooperstown is a paradox. It is a sleepy little town that is bustling with activity. Just off of Main Street there are cottages, many of them Bed and Breakfast Inns, with interesting designs and great perennial borders. On Sunday when I walking from Main Street to my motel I saw an elderly woman deadheading perennials in front of one of these cottages, and I stopped to compliment her gardens. She appreciated having her handiwork appreciated. Every time I saw her over the next two days (yes, it’s a small town, you run into the same people frequently) she had something to say to me.

A Cooperstown cottage with a well-maintained perennial border.

I love that baseball is the dominant theme in this town. The stores, restaurants, and road names embrace it (like Line Drives & Lipstick, home of the famous Baseball Bracelet™). Memorabilia shops are ubiquitous. I could easily spend a day looking through them alone. Pedestrians wear hats, shirts, and jerseys paying tribute to their favorite teams. Cars with license plates or bumper stickers with MLB ties are common. Little League teams roam the sidewalks–thanks to the local facilities that host international tournaments.

Shops along Main Street in Cooperstown.

The Sandlot Kid in the foreground, with Doubleday field in the background.

Of course everyone is drawn to the brick building in the middle of town.

The crown jewel of Cooperstown, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Since most of us like to be entertained and fed, here are my thoughts on the food I encountered in Cooperstown. I ate at three establishments. The first was the Brewery Ommegang cafe, which is located outside of the downtown area. The food at Ommegang was very good, as was the beer. On Monday morning I ate breakfast at the Cooperstown Diner. It is the smallest diner I have ever entered. My breakfast was good–the bacon and eggs were nothing special, but the pancakes were excellent. The biggest drawback to the meal was that the silverware was terrible. I think a bad fork can put a damper on a good meal.

The Cooperstown Diner. Small building, big food.

On Monday I stopped by the New York Pizzeria,which was located between my motel and Main Street. I asked the person at the counter if they had a specialty, he smiled and said: Everything is good. But if you truly want to judge a pizza, get a cheese pizza and savor the sauce. You can trust me, it’s the cheapest pizza on the menu. I’m not here to inflate your bill; I’m here to sell you a good pizza. While his honesty impressed me (there were expensive specialty pizzas he could have recommended), I elected to give the sauce some companionship and ordered a pizza with portabella mushrooms and mixed sweet and bell peppers, along with a side of onion rings. The pizza was very, very good. I’d place it in my lifetime pizza top ten  [1]. The onion rings fall around the middle of my lifetime onion ring scale, which is acceptable. As a perk, the New York Pizzeria offers unlimited refills on fountain drinks and a strong free wi-fi connection. The combination of staff, food, and amenities made me a fan of this establishment.

The New York Pizzeria in Cooperstown.

On Monday evening I walked to Lakefront Park, which sits along Otsego Lake. I’m glad I did. The view–which James Fenimore Cooper found inspiring–is nothing short of picturesque. Conifer-covered mountains line the sides of the lake. Birds frolic in the skies. Boaters recreate. It is a peaceful place. I sat by the gardens near the lake reading, thinking, and praying until dusk arrived. If you like contemplating, reading, or seeing a beautiful place you should spend a summer evening at Lakefront Park.

Lakefront Park in Cooperstown.

My view on Monday evening.

“Music has sounds for it–I know no words” – Leo in Armgart (George Eliot)

My short time in Cooperstown left me with this list of recommendations if you are planning a visit:

  • Experience the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
  • Roam the shops on Main Street
  • Tour Brewery Ommegang
  • Watch baseball at Doubleday Field
  • Eat a pizza at New York Pizzeria (I recommend portabella mushrooms and peppers)
  • Savor a summer evening at Lakefront Park

This list is not exhaustive–there are many things I did not experience while in Cooperstown. If you have additional recommendations feel free to leave them as comments below.

[1] Disclaimer: When I travel I skip meals frequently, meaning I’m quite hungry when I actually eat. Because of this my ability to evaluate the quality of food may be impaired.

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Staying at the Cooperstown Motel: A Unique Lodging Experience

During my visit to Cooperstown, NY I stayed at the Cooperstown Motel. On Google Reviews it manages to pull off a zero (0) rating, with the comment “This is desperation.” The dominant review is “Terrible” on TripAdvisor.com, though with shaky math it gets a 2.5 star rating, and comments like: “Just stay away” and “All in all not worth the price, not worth half the price” and “Stay Somewhere Else!” When I was booking my trip I realized that the motel was 38% of the cost of the cheapest alternative I could find in Cooperstown, which translated to saving ~$275 for a two night stay. Add in the parking savings, and it would be about $300.

LOWER RATES? Lower than what? (This is the editor me speaking.)

Seeing the bad reviews made me curious. Is it really that bad? I had to find out.

I’ll begin this review with a quiz.

Question 1. If you open the door to your motel and get assailed by stale cigarette smoke and cheap industrial cleaner fumes that make your throat burn and your eyes water do you:

(A) Just ignore it.

(B) Store your luggage in your car, open the windows and the door to the room and leave for a few hours while it airs out.

(C) Go right back to the office to demand a new room or your money back.

Question 2. If a millipede walks across the floor of your room you:

(A) Kill it and carry on.

(B) Notice it, acknowledge it is not causing any harm, time how long it takes it to reach the other side of the room.

(C) Experience an increase in blood pressure, fear, or some sort of duress.

Question 3. If the bathtub and shower look a little slimy, do you:

(A) Jump in anyway.

(B) See this as an opportunity to wash your flip-flops.

(C) Refuse to shower.

If you answered C to any of the questions above you shouldn’t be considering this type of motel. Cigarette smoke, bugs, and a little slime are part of the package.

The motel.

Yes, the room smelled so bad when I arrived I momentarily doubted that I could stand it. But I opened the windows and door (both windows stayed wide open the entire time I was there) and the results were impressive. Having windows on either side of the room allows air flow to occur when they are both open, that’s a plus. (I stored all valuables in the trunk of my car when I was away from my room, because leaving the windows wide open is like leaving the door open. Anyone could have tapped the screen out and hopped into the room in 2 seconds.) The biggest downside to having the windows open is that the street noise was loud, particularly late at night and early in the morning. I believe trucks spontaneously downshift at the sight of Cooperstown, and most drivers are compelled to honk their horns for no apparent reason when entering the town.

I saw a medium-sized spider, a millipede, and a large beetle in my room. They did not hurt me. I did not hurt them.

The bathtub had more slime than I was comfortable with, so I wore my flip-flops and showered quickly. The water was hot, and the pressure was respectable.

This picture is deceptive–like Mr. Burns appearing to resemble Liam Neeson.

Everything in the room was old. The mattress felt like a piece of plywood with a gym tumbling mat attached to it (except it wasn’t that soft). Despite knowing I shouldn’t, I pulled the bed apart to see its pieces. I saw stains on the mattress and box spring I wish I had never seen. The tag on the mattress revealed it was delivered on December 17, 1986. I couldn’t bring myself to get close to the mattress, so I slept on top of the comforter reluctantly.

Along with the aged theme in the room, there was also a theme of fake. The end table looked  wooden, but was plastic and weighed about 4 ounces (I placed my keys on one side and it almost fell over). The chairs were pleather. The desk and nightstand were particleboard with a plastic veneer.

The carpet had ridges and valleys, with some spots containing padding underneath and some spots lacking it. It had character. It reminded me of the 1960s.

Say what you will; floors with a varied topography have character. It might be bad character, but it is still character.

When I saw the air conditioning unit in the room I made the immediate decision not to touch it. It looked like a fire hazard, and I suspect it would have sounded like a Harley Davidson. The thick dust in the filter made me feel congested at the mere thought of turning it on.

The sink and air conditioner (yes, I travel with my electric kettle and favorite mug–don’t you?).

The Daewoo television was also a throwback. It had terrible picture quality (but I wasn’t traveling to watch television—so that didn’t bother me). I’d happily trade the 70 cable channels for a wifi connection (which was not provided).

As far as general cleanliness goes, the room scores rather low. I found enough hairs to assemble a wig. The edges of the room and the corners had accumulations of dust and debris. Some of the walls had splatter stains that were troubling.

The key for the room was pretty cool.

What can I say for the room? Well, it had a great key.

A few notes:

  • In hindsight I would have brought my air mattress with me, along with a bottle of all-surface cleaner and some paper towels.
  • I almost forgot to mention that the toilet seat was made of some composite material, and the outer veneer was cracking, leaving what appeared to me to be a medium favorable to harboring things exposed. It wasn’t clean. I stayed away.
  • I think there is considerable variation between rooms. I walked past a room that had the door open and it appeared much nicer than room 32.

So what’s the verdict? Would I do it again?

Yes, for this trip I would probably book this room again for myself. I see it as a bit of adventure and roughing it. Plus I was able to use the money I saved to fund part of the Boston portion of my vacation. That being said, if I were traveling with someone else I would never subject them to this. I’m also hesitant to give my endorsement, so I’ll phrase it like this:

The Cooperstown Motel is a nice 0 star motel. I stayed at the Cooperstown Motel and I lived.

Had I eaten anything from the 5 cent vending machine on the porch I doubt I would be writing this review.

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The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Today I am in Cooperstown, New York. I decided it was nearly criminal that I had not seen the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, so today I remedied that. This morning I got up and walked from my motel to downtown Cooperstown. I had breakfast at the Cooperstown Diner. I was the only customer in the diner who had to order off the menu, everyone else who walked in when I did just said “The usual” or gave a little head nod that I suspect means “The usual.”

After breakfast I walked toward the Hall of Fame. The intersection in the middle of town is very cool and slightly bewildering. It is a major four-way intersection with a flagpole in the middle and no lights or signs to regulate traffic flow. I stood on the sidewalk watching cars for a moment—it was entertaining.

The interesting intersection in the middle of Cooperstown.

 

I arrived at the Hall before the doors opened. I talked baseball and traveling with several Pennsylvanians, took photos for some visitors from Toronto, and explored the outside of the building.

Once inside I went to the third floor and commenced making my way down. To say it was overwhelming is an understatement. The mixture of memorabilia delighted me. Stadiums and locations. Players renown and obscure. It was great to find an Eric Bruntlett jersey from his unassisted triple play, shoes  Otis Nixon wore on his 6 steal day, Eric Gagne’s prescription goggles from his consecutive save streak, Mark Whiten’s batting helmet from his 12 RBI day, the uniform of MLB’s shortest player  (3’ 7”)Eddie Gaedel, Curt Schilling’s bloody sock, the final flapless batting helmet allowed in MLB (worn by Tim Raines on the Marlins), and so much more.

Here are some things that captured my attention:

This is the cornerstone of Ebbets Field, which was built in 1912 and demolished in 1960.

The cornerstone from Ebbets Field.

 

People think of Hank Aaron as a slugger, but he won a couple of Gold Gloves. Here is his 1960 Gold Glove Award, along with his 1966 Mel Ott Memorial Award (given to the N.L. home run leader, Aaron had 44 home runs that year).

Two of Hank Aaron’s many awards.

 

I don’t know if I never knew or if I just forgot that Johnny Kling and Walt Dropo are tied for the record of most consecutive hits at 12. Twelve! Here is the ball from Dropo’s 12th hit.

Twelve consecutive hits bodes well for the batting average.

 

I love all the milestone balls and bats. Here is the ball Barry Bonds hit for career home run number 756, eclipsing Aaron for the all-time record. The ball has been defaced, with an asterisk carved into it to denote Bonds’ alleged drug use.

The ball Barry Bonds hit for his 756th home run.

 

This is the hat Roy Halladay was wearing when he threw his perfect game. I was working on my research while watching that game.

The Doc wore this hat on a good day at the office.

 

In 1919 some Chicago White Sox conspired to intentionally lose the World Series. It is an event that has become part of baseball lore. The first pitch of that series was made with this ball.

A piece of memorabilia from the famous 1919 World Series.

 

In the 1929 World Series, the Philadelphia Athletics surprised everyone and sent pitcher Howard Ehmke to the mound as their starter for Game 1. He defeated the Cubs. He would never win another game in his career and would retire the following season. This is the glove he wore for that World Series start.

The glove Howard Ehmke wore during his greatest baseball moment.

 

This is the bat Joe Carter used to ruin my dream summer of 1993. I don’t blame Mitch Williams.

Joe Carter’s bat.

 

During Game 1 of the 1954 World Series Willie Mays made a defensive play that is simply referred to as “The Catch.” This is the glove he was wearing (I just stood and looked at this for the longest time).

The glove Willie Mays used for The Catch. Say hey!

 

The gallery of old portraits was very cool. I liked that it contained stars and average players.

 

 

One of my goals during the day was to find Von Hayes in the Hall of Fame. I thought maybe he would get in thanks to hitting two home runs in one inning, but that didn’t do it. I was beginning to lose hope, but then I saw the wall of baseball cards. I scoured that wall. Success! Of course Von Hayes is in the Hall of Fame, anything less would be disgraceful.

Von Hayes immortalized in the Hall of Fame.

 

Several famous fans have been given tribute. While I was looking at this display an elderly gentleman from New York stopped by and told me that he remembers seeing Hilda Chester (the woman with the bell on the far left of the photo) at Ebbets Field. I had seen footage of Hilda in baseball documentaries before, but it was very cool to talk to someone who had seen her in person.

Famous fanatics.

 

Babe Ruth wore this glove. (I think the gloves were the most mesmerizing aspect of the Hall to me.)

A big glove for a larger than life baseball player.

 

Robin Roberts wore this jersey for the Phillies. I am so happy that the Phillies have gone back to a look that is similar to this.

A beautiful jersey.

 

The gallery of baseball artwork was interesting. I particularly liked the original of this famous Norman Rockwell picture:

A painting that belongs in the Hall of Fame.

 

I was surprised that I got through the Hall in just over four hours. I thought it would take longer. One of the reasons this was possible was that it was early on a Monday morning—it was not crowded at any point while I was there, so I was able to move at whatever pace I wanted to. As I was walking out I noticed the line to get in was very long, so I think it would have taken an additional hour or two had I gone in the afternoon.

One very random note from the day. I never realized that Cy Young Awards always depict a right hand (Cy Young was right-handed). I had assumed (I don’t know why) that left-handed pitchers received awards showing a left hand. I realized this was not the case when I saw the Cy Young Awards of Sandy Koufax and Steve Carlton.

Since admission is good for the entire day I might do an encore walkthrough this evening. I love baseball.

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Visiting Doubleday Field in Cooperstown

I walked from my motel to Doubleday Field to see an afternoon semi-pro baseball game (Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League). The hometown nine, the Cooperstown Hawkeyes, were playing the Mohawk Valley Diamond Dogs at 5pm. Doubleday Field has no lighting, so all games are played in the mornings and afternoons. I arrived at the park 40 minutes before game time. Light rain was falling.

The front of the Doubleday Field grandstand.

Doubleday Field is a charming old ball park. As I walked up to the main entrance I noticed a game was being played. I also noticed that the ticket window was empty—so I just walked into the park. It turns out a previous game between the Hawkeyes and Diamond Dogs was suspended due to darkness, and the final few innings were being played. I settled into a seat right behind home plate.

The view from the grandstand, right behind the plate.

In the waning moments of that first game I saw Quinn Pippin, the Hawkeyes third baseman from Tulane University, hit a grand slam to right field. Soon after the hit the light rain turned into a downpour.

Things begin to get muddy. (Notice the authentic stirrups.)

The umpires met to discuss if the game should be continued.

The umpires discuss the weather.

The grounds crew was summoned.

Mound renovation in progress.

The first game ended, and a brief intermission occurred. I stayed put in the grandstand reading a Dietrich Bonhoeffer biography.

For the first 7 innings I stayed in the same seat behind the plate. During that time the rain went from light to heavy several times, but play was never stopped. I saw two very interesting plays in this game. One was a successful suicide squeeze, executed to perfection. The other was a balk with runners on first and third that scored a run. The pitcher was standing on the rubber, he came set, and then the ball dropped from his glove. He just stood there for about 5 seconds, looking up at the sky. The ball just rolled down off the mound.

In the 8th inning I walked out to the outfield bleachers. On my way back I shot some pictures from the seats along the line. This vantage point allowed me to show the batter, catcher, umpire, with the brick dugout of the visiting team in the background. Very cool.

When the game began I thought there was no way it would be played to completion. It started a little after 5:30 due to the partial game that had been played before it. Rain was falling most of the evening, which not only made a rainout probable, the overcast skies also put the game in danger of being called due to darkness.

Dusk arrives at Doubleday Field.

But the full 9 innings were played. It was a rough night for the hometown team, they lost both games.

It was great to see this old ball park. I’m glad there was a game being played the day I was here.

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Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY

I arrived in Cooperstown, NY in the early afternoon, checked into my 0 star motel (more on that later), then headed to Brewery Ommegang. Ommegang brews Bavarian-style beers.

When you arrive at the brewery you drive right through the brewing facility, which is pretty cool.

The entrance to Brewery Ommegang.

The visitor center and café are located behind the brewery. I registered for a tour as soon as I arrived, then went to the café to pass an hour.

The Ommegang cafe.

I ordered a Witte Wheat Beer, a turkey baguette sandwich, and Bavarian fries (frites) with Abbey ale and cumin flavored ketchup.

The tour of the facility is quick, but there is time for questions. It concludes at a tasting bar. Alas, I did not participate in this, for I had to drive to my motel and I had consumed my alcohol limit before the tour.

I heard a great exchange between a customer (she looked a lot like Diane Sawyer) and an Ommegang employee.
Customer: “Do you have any light beers? I like light beers. Like Coors Light.”
Employee: “We don’t make anything like Coors Light, but you should try our Witte, it’s the lightest beer we make. I think you’ll like it.”
Customer: “Okay, I’ll try it!” (With enthusiasm)
Unfortunately I did not see the outcome.

I enjoyed the tour, and the café was great! If you find yourself in Cooperstown I recommend visiting Ommegang.

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