Rob Piersall: My Trip to Cooperstown, New York

We spend a majority of our lives trying to find the happiness we felt when we were kids.

For a lot (if not all) of us here at MetsMerized, most of that joy stems from baseball. For me, some of the happiest moments of my life were driving down to Flushing with my old man from our house about a half hour away in Yonkers.

Guys like Edgardo Alfonzo, Mike Piazza and Al Leiter were my heroes and I’ll never forget the butterflies I felt in my stomach walking up to Shea and seeing the bright lights from the neon player silhouettes that stood on the facing of the building.

Me and my dad always kicked around the idea of taking the trip four and a half hours to central New York to see the Smithsonian of Major League Baseball, but it’s just something that never came to fruition.

Nevertheless, it was on my bucket list.

So I go to school at SUNY New Paltz, about two hours outside of New York City. There, I am the managing editor for our weekly newspaper, The Oracle.

Prior to that, I was a copy editor for two semesters in the sports section. This is where I met one of my closest friends Matt, and though he’s a Yankees fan, it’s nice to have someone that’s as passionate about baseball as me to chat with all the time.

Last semester, I brought up to him that we should take the trip to Cooperstown over winter break. It’s only just over two hours from New Paltz, so why not?

Well, life happened and work happened and we didn’t get to do it over winter break, so I put the idea of the trip in my back pocket.

A couple weeks ago with our spring break approaching, Matt brought the idea back up to me and we decided to do it. We booked a hotel right then and there and boom, our trip was set. I was finally going to visit the Hall.

Our other friend John joined in on the trip, and on Wednesday, March 21 after a big breakfast, we took off for Cooperstown.

New York City and the surrounding areas got clobbered by a Nor’Easter, but the baseball gods were on our side. We didn’t even see a single flake of snow on our entire car ride and Cooperstown didn’t get any at all.

The way Google Maps took us to Cooperstown was pretty comical. On the way up there, we passed through many small, rural towns and a lot of the time, we were the only car on the road.

As we got closer and closer and the GPS told us we were just about 10 minutes outside of Cooperstown, I was in disbelief. I couldn’t believe that just 10 minutes from these farms was where players from all over the world dreamed of being enshrined.

But there it was. We made a couple turns and we were in Cooperstown. The Hall-of-Fame hits you in the face as soon as you enter the area, and each storefront seems to be baseball themed, whether they sell memorabilia or not. It’s a baseball fans paradise.

We parked our car at Doubleday Field down the road and headed into the Hall.

Please enjoy these pictures I was able to snap in my five hours of admiration.

On the first floor, they have glass cases commemorating the most recent inductees into the Hall-of-Fame. While this years wasn’t yet updated, I got to enjoy seeing the likes of Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez who were inducted in 2017.

When you go down the hall, however, they have a room dedicated to “The Art of Baseball.” Here you can find many paintings, or sculptures like this.

This sculpture of Casey Stengel was created by artist Rhoda Sherbell.

“In 1965, New York Mets owner Joan Payson gave her box seats to Rhoda Sherbell so the artist could better capture the spirit of manager Casey Stengel,” the info read. “Sherbell then talked Stengel into lending her his uniform and shoes which allowed her to make the sculpture even more realistic.”

On the second floor, each team has their own locker with game used equipment from significant milestones in their history.

Most of the items are contemporary, so I imagine these lockers get updated every few years or so. It was so awesome getting to read about each teams recent history and feats and jogging your memory about things you may have forgotten about.

This is the Mets locker, highlighted by jerseys worn by Curtis Granderson and Daniel Murphy, the latter of which was worn by the slugger in the 2015 postseason.

The hat between the two was worn by Brian Gorman in Shea Stadium’s final game. Gorman’s father had umpired the first game at the stadium in 1964, so everything came full circle.

Other cool items in the locker were game worn batting gloves from Jose Reyes from their 20 inning game against the St. Louis Cardinals in 2010, Steven Matz‘s cap from his Major League debut, a ball from Tom Glavine‘s 300th win, and a ball from Johan Santana‘s no-hitter.

The second floor of the Hall-of-Fame feels like it goes on forever, and I say that in the best way possible. After the lockers for each time, they have exhibits highlighting baseball from its earliest inception all the way to present day.

They have the sections divided from its early days up until 1970 and then 1970 until now.

The latter was really interesting, especially because this is where you can find a lot of Mets stuff. However, what I really loved about the Hall in general was all the quirky items they possess.

I learned so many interesting tidbits about the game and little anecdotes about players I never did, and to me that was really cool.

You can love a game your whole life, but still are able to learn new stuff about it!

The jersey above was worn by Dwight Gooden in 1984 when he set a National League rookie record with 276 strikeouts and went on to win Rookie of the Year honors.

The hat above the jersey was worn by his battery mate, Gary Carter, in 1986 during the World Series. Most famously, he was wearing it when he embraced Jesse Orosco after the team won their second ever championship.

The Hall-of-Fame is even transparent about PED use in baseball. In fact, they have a whole section dedicated to the use throughout the game and the history of it.

Anyway, I found this issue of the Post after Jenrry Mejia was banned from baseball. It was too good not to include.

Seriously, when you visit Cooperstown next, make sure you spend ample time on the second floor. It has too many great nuggets that you don’t want to miss.

As you can see, this is Mets great Tom Seaver, painted by one of the world’s most renowned artists, Andy Warhol.

Warhol painted this in 1977, and it was part of his Athletes series which includes 10 total murals.

After spending about three hours admiring all the second floor had to offer, I couldn’t even believe there was still more to absorb.

The third floor is just as awesome and focuses a lot on the ballparks, individual players and the most recent World Series champion and runner-up.

This is where I found this awesome photo of Tug McGraw from 1973.

That year, the Mets bought into the mantra “You Gotta Believe,” and jumped from last place to first place to ultimately clinch the NL pennant in October.

Last but not least, we had to check out the plaques, which also sit on the first floor. Being in this room felt surreal. This is where it all comes to fruition. Players dream of being enshrined here and this is what made me realize that the Hall really is the best-of the best.

That sounds silly to say, but since baseball has been around, it really is an exclusive crew of players that have earned forever being immortalized into this gallery.

The first player to ever go into the Hall wearing a Mets cap.

Seaver was inducted into the Hall-of-Fame in 1992 and was the only Met to wear a cap in his picture until Mike Piazza over two decades later.

And here is Piazza.

This one was especially important to me because this man brought many moments of joy to me as a kid and is still my all-time favorite player.

From his post 9/11 home run to his final game in blue and orange, I was hooked on Piazza from the moment I knew I liked baseball.

I hope one day the Mets erect statues of the both Seaver and Piazza outside of Citi Field. It would really put a cherry atop their storied Mets careers.

***

After leaving the Hall, which closes at 5 p.m. in the offseason (believe me, I could have stayed there for 10 more hours), we checked into our hotel two blocks away, The Lake Front, which sits right on Lake Ostego and I imagine is delightful to swim in during the summer months.

We dropped our stuff off and went into town where we grabbed some dinner.

I highly recommend Cooley’s, an Irish bar/restaurant with reasonably priced drinks and quality dinner. I got a grilled cheese panini with smoked gouda, jalapeno peppers and roasted red peppers with a side of French fries and yes, it was as delicious as it sounds.

The next day, we got brunch at Doubleday Cafe on Main Street, which is a cozy little bistro-type place with good breakfast and lunch and a full bar in the evening.

We then visited a bunch of the memorabilia shops on Main Street and there are many. I had to refrain from blowing my entire paycheck on cards and Mets merchandise. When I go back in the summer, I fully plan to comeback home with bags full of stuff. 🙂

Anyway, thanks for reading!

If you haven’t had the chance to go to Cooperstown, do it. As a baseball fan, you will be more than happy you did.

About Rob Piersall 1174 Articles
Rob Piersall is a fourth-year student at SUNY New Paltz, studying journalism with a minor in communications. He is also the managing editor for his school's newspaper, The Oracle. A Mets fan since the age of six in 2001, Rob is senior editor here at MMO. His favorite thing is reporting breaking Mets news and transactions as well as writing columns. He is also ready to see what Mickey Callaway brings to the table in 2018. LGM! Follow Rob on Twitter: @RobPiersall.