Some of those who dispute the claim that Abner Doubleday invented the game of baseball in a cow pasture in Cooperstown, N.Y. in 1839 say the idea is nothing more than a “field of dreams”. Any notion that this former Civil War general may not have devised the game has had no effect on the success and popularity of the National Baseball Hall of Fame located – where else – in Cooperstown.

What partially inspired the establishment of the Hall of Fame was the 1935 discovery of the “Doubleday baseball” in a farmhouse just outside of the town that is now the mecca for baseball fans everywhere. Considered the first modern baseball with its stitched cover and cloth stuffing, it became a symbol of the game’s birth in this New York State community located four hours south of Montreal.

While theorists wrangle over whether Doubleday did or did not invent the game, more than 350,000 people a year flock to this best known sports shrine in the world. The expansive three-storey facility on Cooperstown’s Main Street contains more than 35,000 artefacts representing all facets of the game dating from the mid-19th century to present day.

The collection includes bats, baseballs, uniforms, player equipment, ballpark regalia, artwork, ancient ticket stubs and other assorted memorabilia. In addition, the repository features more than 130,000 baseball cards and, last but not least, the centrepiece of the museum is its historic gallery where the plaques of more than 280 esteemed members elected to the Hall of Fame line its walls.

This amazing baseball storehouse also contains a Hall of Fame library where there are more than 2.6 million documents including a file on every player to appear in a major league game. The library also has a half million photographs and 12,000 hours of recorded film, video and sound. A tour of the museum, which can take considerable time to fully explore, begins with a 13-minute film called “The Baseball Experience.”

From there, visitors proceed through a series of exhibit rooms that profile the history of the game, its notable players, legendary teams and historic moments. Of particular interest is the Babe Ruth Room which honours the game’s most recognizable star.

The museum is open daily year round except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Around town

While the Baseball Hall of Fame is Cooperstown’s most famous attraction there is a lot more to it than its renowned museum. Founded in 1786 by William Cooper (father of famous novelist James Fenimore Cooper) the community today is a village rather than a town. With just over 2,000 permanent residents and a compact web of streets filled with scores of Colonial and Victorian period homes, Cooperstown could easily be the subject of a quaint Norman Rockwell painting. However, in this case beauty is more than surface deep.

The community dubbed “America’s most perfect village” is ideal for a mini getaway and among other things to see and do beyond the Baseball Hall of Fame is The Farmers’ Museum, a family-friendly living-history museum where 19th century rural life is re-created. Here costumed interpreters practice 150-year-old farm chores and demonstrate everything from broom making to weaving and blacksmithing.

Another high-profile attraction is the Fenimore Art Museum where there’s an extensive collection of fine, folk, decorative and Native American art considered among the best assemblage of works in the country. In addition, the village’s Glimmerglass Opera is nationally renowned for its summer opera series and is ranked second largest summer opera festival in the United States.

Visitors can wet their whistles at the Brewery Ommegang where five distinctive Belgian beers are produced on a 135-acre hops farm.

Tourists can also take a narrated tour aboard The Glimmerglass Queen, an elegant tour boat that cruises Cooperstown’s Lake Otsego. Cruise patrons enjoy a relaxing glimpse of the history and beauty that inspired James Fenimore Cooper’s Leather Stocking Tales. In the town centre, Main Street is lined with an extensive array of restaurants, souvenir shops, antique emporiums, an ice cream parlour and an Irish pub.

The Otesaga

It’s impossible to miss Cooperstown’s most outstanding architectural jewel, The Otesaga, a historic hotel skirting 700 feet of waterfront on the shore of Lake Otsego. Built in 1902 and taking its name from the Iroquois word for “a place of meetings,” it has hosted the rich and famous including legendary ball players such as Cy Young, Joe DiMaggio and Ty Cobb plus Hollywood celebrities like Paul Newman, John Travolta and Richard Gere. This 135-room grand dame resort/hotel that also boasts the Leather Stocking Golf Course combines contemporary amenities with all the grace and splendour associated with a bygone era. Closed for the winter except for special events and meeting groups, this member of the Historic Hotels of America is open to tourists from mid-April through Thanksgiving weekend.


Call Cooperstown Tourism at 1-800-843-3394 or at and .