The Hoffarth HOF tour of Cooperstown I: Getting there

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“Standing proudly along Main Street in the quaint and attractive village of Cooperstown, New York, is an imposing red brick Colonial-era structure that is as American as the game of baseball. The building, however, is more than just a landmark. For this is the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. To the millions who have visited it, it is a source of enchantment and sentiment; the history and memories it houses are as permanent as its bricks and mortar.”

– Bert Sugar, opening his 2009 book, “Bert Sugar’s Baseball Hall of Fame, A Living History of America’s Greatest Game.”

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“The perfect tribute to the game’s history is located in the perfect setting for it. (Cooperstown) may not, in fact, be the place where the game magically emerged from the primordial soup of the other bat-and-ball games that preceded it, it plays the part of baseball’s Garden of Eden perfectly … Unlike (Disneyland), which may find over-hyped, over-crowded and over-commercialized, the museum in sleepy little Cooperstown always delivers a satisfying, enriching and altogether mesmerizing experience.”

– Josh Pahigian, from his 2008 book, “101 Baseball Places To See Before You Strike Out.” Cooperstown is listed at No. 1.

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“How much time you spend at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum depends on the depth of your interest in baseball history. Two hours is the minimum, though you could just as easily spend two days. Plan your trip accordingly.”

– Robert Santelli in “The Baseball Fan’s Bucket List: 162 Things You Must See, Do, Get & Experience Before You Die,” published in 2010. Cooperstown is No. 2 on the book’s list, after “Taking A Baseball Road Trip.”

It’s been on our bucket list for years, but without the incentive to truly make it happen.

Father’s Day, 2010, was good enough. The second annual Classic Game, featuring Hall of Famers Bob Feller, Ozzie Smith, Harmon Killebrew, Goose Gossage, Phil Niekro, Rollie Fingers and Gary Carter participating in a seven-inning exhibition game that included former big leaguers Bill Madlock, Jeff Kent (wearing his Giants uniform), Bert Campaneris, Tim Leary (in his Dodgers uniform) and many others whose names weren’t all that well known but somehow have MLB experience.

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The chance to celebrate a college graduation was another good excuse. And a good friend who just moved to the actual place — population about 2,000 — made for a better accommodations than any of the bed-and-breakfast places on or around Lake Ostego.

There’s magic, definitely. We hope to just capture some of it with our camera, words and experiences to coax you into finally deciding that it’s worth mapping out, despite its not-so-easy MapQuest directions in finding it.

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How to get to Cooperstown? Practice, of course.

But for us mere mortals looking for the essence of a game that has grown beyond Abner Doubleday’s wildest dreams — whether or not he actually gave birth to the sport is part of its charm — simplifying everything makes it easier to understand its lure.

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We picked a flight from LAX to JFK in New York City (a red eye) so that the second flight to Syracuse was early enough to get the rental car and drive the extra hour back East on Interstate 90 and a half past Utica, over the Erie Canal and south on the 80/28 until you hit Nirvana. Many also go from NYC to Albany and head West, which seems a bit more natural. The true road-trippers fly into Boston, go West nearly two hours to Springfield for the National Basketball Hall of Fame, then another two-plus hours to Cooperstown.

More to come from our recent three-plus day visit … on Dodgers and Angels items on exhibit, on what kind of signs you need to navigate through the city, and an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the archives.

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Bird’s Eye View of Cooperstown, 1890, by L.R. Burleigh. From HistoryCooperative.org (linked here)

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