Trip of a lifetime

Visiting the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown can be life-changing

The Hall of Fame is truly a special place.

Today, Cooperstown New York enjoys a quaint little place in the world. Once a year though, it is the epicenter of baseball glory. On the last weekend in July, thousands of people flock to those hallowed grounds to witness the induction of the latest members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

I have been one of those fans, and the experience was one of the greatest sports moments in my life. But that was only one weekend; the museum is open year-round and there is still plenty more to enjoy around town and the surrounding areas.

The museum

The museum is the centerpiece of the town for obvious reasons. It is a three-story shrine to America’s national pastime, founded in 1936 by Stephen Clark. It was created as a result of a 1905 commission that concluded the first “scheme for playing baseball” was devised by Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, New York. Clark purchased the first modern baseball from 1839 and displayed it with other objects in Cooperstown in 1935 drawing the attention necessary to create the Hall of Fame and Museum a year later.

At the heart of it all is the Hall of Fame Gallery. This is the cathedral-like room in which the bronze plaques representing each of the members are displayed. The first group of players was inducted into the Hall in 1936. They were Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner, and Walter Johnson. Since those first five men were inducted there have been only a few hundred more elected to join them in more than 80 years. There have been thousands of players going in and out of professional baseball during its history and the members of the Hall of Fame comprise only about 1 percent of them. That number demonstrates the enormous difficulty of accomplishing what these players have done.

That is just one section of the museum. The other two floors are full of wall-to-wall history of the sport. From exhibits dedicated to Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron to the incredible pieces of stadiums that have long since been torn down, visitors can travel back in time to eras of baseball long gone by. If you stop to read every piece of literature it can take a full day to see it all. Those who just like to take a brief look will still spend a few hours taking it all in. 

Induction weekend

If you decide to plan your trip around induction weekend, there are a whole host of other activities that are available for you to enjoy. Doubleday Field is located just behind Main Street in the center of town. In the days before and after induction weekend there are little league games here, offering young kids the opportunity to play the game they love in the place dedicated to its history. If you are looking for other times to visit that offer large events, there is the Baseball Hall of Fame Classic played Memorial Day weekend. That game brings recently retired players from every major league team together to be coached by Hall of Famers in an exhibition game.

In addition to the events at Doubleday Field around induction weekend, there is the Hall of Fame Parade on Saturday. Dozens of Hall of Famers ride down Main Street while thousands in attendance line the route waving and cheering them on. You can cheer as living legends of the game ride by while the announcer recalls their great career achievements. Be ready to take a lot of pictures. And if you’re so inclined, you can join the folks who camp out overnight across from the museum. The parade route ends there, and some of the players come down from their vehicles and sign autographs for the fans.

The ceremony

The biggest event of induction weekend is the ceremony that takes place about a mile away from the museum at the Clark Sports Complex. It is named after the founder and is led by his granddaughter. This event brings back as many members of the Hall of Fame as can make the trip to sit on the stage and watch the newest members get inducted. Each member that comes to the stage is preceded by a video highlight reel of his career. Thousands of fans sit out on the grass and watch as this all unfolds, leading up to the introduction of the year’s newest members.

Those new inductees are brought to the stage with an introduction video in which someone important to their career details what got them to this moment. It’s a stirring feeling to watch these videos and see the players enter the stage. As they arrive, the crowd reaches a fever pitch. There are some other awards given out and then the program moves on to the presentation of each member’s bronze plaque and speech. One by one, the plaques are read and speeches are given, reflecting on long careers, loved ones, friends and teammates along the way. The July sun was out in full force, but in Central New York the weather was still pleasant. The ceremony is long, so be sure to prepare with plenty of sunscreen and a chair to sit down and rest your legs. An umbrella would be useful as well.

Shopping

You will have plenty of time between events to make your way up and down Main Street to shop in the multitude of stores. Most have baseball memorabilia, so be prepared to find a million things you want to buy but know you shouldn’t. I am a baseball card collector so naturally I wanted to buy every card autographed by a Hall of Famer. In addition to baseball cards there were autographed pictures and baseball bats and many more items sure to please any fan. During induction weekend, just about every shop sets up a table outside the store to catch the eye of the thousands walking up and down the street.

In addition to the memorabilia shops there are several places to purchase Hall of Fame clothing. There are T-shirts, jerseys and hats available for every major league team. There are also several shops that sell Cooperstown merchandise.

Dining

While you’re out walking around town you will certainly work up an appetite. The food choices available are many. If breakfast is what you want, then the Doubleday Café or the Cooperstown Diner have just what you need. I had breakfast at both places, and you can’t go wrong. I thought the Cooperstown Café was the best but its small dining room can leave you waiting outside for some time. If you are only interested in picking up a small breakfast, your best bet is to stop by Schneider’s Bakery at the corner of Main Street and Chestnut.

Lunch and dinner opens quite a few more options. If you’re in a hurry you can grab a slice at Sal’s Pizzeria & Restaurant or Hey Getcha Hot Dog. But if you have time, visit The Back Alley Bar and Grill across the street from the museum or the Hard Ball Café. If you’re in town for induction weekend there is no limit to the number of vendors selling hot dogs, hamburgers, and sausage and pepper sandwiches right in front of their stores. The smell of it all was intoxicating, and I felt like I could have eaten at every one of those stands we passed. There are plenty of other options to choose from, including some of the local taverns located just off Main Street in the heart of town.

Cooley’s Tavern was the first one we visited while seeking out an adult beverage and lively entertainment. It was induction weekend so I had to assume that was why there was a jazz duo perched on the balcony playing all the hits. When we walked in there was a great feeling of nostalgia as we stared at a small room with a horseshoe bar as the centerpiece. There were booths off to the side and a back room with some TVs. But the bar was truly where the action was. Across the street was Sherman’s Tavern with a similar set up but more space to move around. There were several people enjoying themselves on the front steps of the tavern, giving the place a great hometown atmosphere.

Family entertainment

But if family entertainment is what you’re searching for then you can always take a trip to the Hall of Heroes Wax Museum where you can get a glimpse of what some of the Hall of Famers looked like in their prime. Additionally, you can take the short walk down to the lake and enjoy the scenery at the park or take in the sights on the one-hour lake tour. Those offer great views and a relaxing environment to break up the busyness that is shopping and sight-seeing.

Looking back at everything there is to see and do in Cooperstown, it’s no wonder people make the trip at different times of the year. Look carefully when you search for accommodations. When we took our trip, we chose to stay in Albany and make the one-and-a-half-hour drive every morning and evening. During induction weekend the prices for lodging in Cooperstown are through the roof. They decrease the further away from town you get; look separately at every little town that exists for the fit that suits your travel needs.

During induction weekend, there are thousands of people crowded into the streets and the energy is electric. It is one of the greatest events in professional sports and anyone who is a fan of baseball should make the effort to see it at least once. If you choose not to go that weekend, then choose the one that gives you the opportunity to see it all in your own way. Plan accordingly, and you will have a wonderful time with memories to cherish the rest of your life.

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com

Let's talk gentrification or shall I say improving to conform to middle-class taste. (I looked it up) Wait this sounds like a trick. That depends on who is telling the story. So, I'll tell you my story of gentrification.

As always, this story starts with a walk. This time in Rice University. My foot steps onto the cinder path. I can hear the pebbles underneath my feet. The trees were swaying and the sky was blue.

I had run this path so many times during marathon training. I remember running into regulars that I used to wait on at a local restaurant. I used to see Julie every Saturday on this path. She once told me that her favorite part to training for her own half marathon was seeing "Flower Man."

I had never met him, but he was somewhat of a legend. They called him "Flower Man" because the flowers that he used to adorn the basket on his bicycle. I smile to myself and continue my walk.

From Rice University, I walk through the Museum District before boarding the light rail. I believe that was about 4 miles already, but whose counting? I'm looking for something special today. I'm not stopping until I find it. I step off the Metro at the Ensemble stop.

As soon as I step onto the platform, I knew I was in a different world. I could already see that this neighborhood was full of surprises. I was definitely not in Rice University anymore. I stand in one spot and look all around me. Without even moving, I could see the culture. Ensemble Theatre. Breakfast Klub. Double Trouble. And a number of murals.

I walk over to the Ensemble Theatre to get a better look. Just my luck. It's not open, but I could see a description of the theatre. Apparently, this is Houston's first professional African American theatre. It produces it's own in house shows. What's coming up next? Freeda Peoples and Pipeline. We will have to come back to that. On to the next.

As I walk along the Metro rail, I see Double Trouble. I've heard of this place. It's a coffee shop that serves cocktails and opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 2am. Bring your computer or bring your dog. I walk to the end of the street and turn the corner towards the Breakfast Klub. I have to push through an unexpected line of people.

"How long have you been in this line," I ask the closest person to me. "I've been here since 8 a.m." I look at my phone. 11 a.m. How good can it be? He hands me a menu. Wings and Waffles and Catfish and Grits. I think it's worth it, but not right now.

From driving by on the street, I noticed there was an impressive black and white mural of Barack Obama. I think now is a great time to finally get that picture I've been wanting. I move past the crowd to cross the street. I wonder who the artist is. It looks like it could be Icy and Sot (the Iranian brothers who painted the black and white mural in Graffitti Park) I look for a name….Reginald Adams. I proudly look at my photo. Time to keep moving.


I walk to Truxillio. I heard that there was a brewery here called Under the Radar. As I walked down the street, I looked at the old wooden houses that lined the street. It always gives me a good feeling to see old houses.

What's on the left? The Buffalo Soldiers Museum. I had no idea that Houston had one of these. In fact, I don't even know what a buffalo soldier is. That's why I bring my phone with me. The buffalo soldiers were African American soldiers charged with keeping white soldiers safe from American Indians. They were called buffalo soldiers by the Indians because they were strong and built to last making them hard to kill just like a buffalo. That goes on the list to must visit too.

I find Under the Radar a couple of houses down the street. If it were not for the hanging tea lights and and the picnic tables. I would have missed it. I go to the bar and look over the menu. Dirty Blonde. Radar Love. Midtown Bock. Mid Frequency IPA. I'm an IPA girl, so I place my order. I savor my first taste. It's a winner. I finish my beer and time to keep it moving.

I'm still on Alabama St. Just over the bridge, I see a red brick house. It's a little different from all the other houses near it. There is a lot of sculptures in the front yard. Because it is time for me to be curious, I don't hesitate to go in. This house is called the Gite Gallery. It's owned by Lloyd Gite. Through his many travels to Africa, he developed a love for Afro-Cuban art. He now shares this art with the public. African masks, Colorful paintings, Tribal sculptures are among his offerings. I'll let you in on a secret. Lloyd Gite was a journalist before. Around his gallery, there are many photographs he has taken with celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover, and even Rosa Parks.

Back out on the street, I see that I am approaching Emancipation Ave. I turn left. I came out today because I wanted to check out Project Row Houses. For those of you who don't know, Project Row Houses is a row of Shotgun Houses that have been repurposed into galleries. Each home has its own theme and is created by a different artist.

Project Row is much more than that. This 30 building campus also serves as an incubator for black business. NuWaters is a co-op that sells organic fruits and vegetables to the Third Ward Community. This produce comes straight from the NuWaters farm. Step in and listen to the manager, Carmen tell light hearted stories of how to keep rabbits out of the garden.

Next door, you will find Crumbville Bakery owned by Miss Ella. Miss Ella, who greets everyone with a hug, specializes is cupcakes stuffed with cookies. With favorites like her strawberry cookies called Cookie Minaj, carrot cake, and banana pudding, its easy to see why its hard to keep stocked.

I'm in the shotgun houses now. I saved them for last. Some of the exhibits have an overtone of frustration. Some have a note of inspiration. I came to the last house. When I opened the door, the first thing I saw was a sign on the wall with the instruction to elect my Third Ward hero. There were small pictures on the wall of people of the neighborhood. Beside each photo was their name and something special about them. I walked the wall and looked at each picture before coming to the last. I stopped in front of it and read the note: "I elect Flower Man as my Third Ward hero."

I could feel the goosebumps forming. I came out looking for something and I found it. I left the house in an energetic comptemplation.

Back to the gentrification issue. When I think gentrification in Houston, I think about Third Ward. There has been much controversy over the changes that are being made. I, personally, like to focus on the positive changes. Project Row Houses does much for the community. They purpose to bring voice and community to Third Ward. I say that they have done just that.

By the way, Flower Man, whose real name was Cleveland Turner, was a gardener who worked in River Oaks. He was also an artist who kept not only his bicycle colorful, but his front yard too. He used art to celebrate his sobriety. When he passed, the neighbors came to his house to claim their own Flower Man original work of art.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome