Cooperstown for Cubs fans
When Andre Dawson becomes the latest in the Chicago Cubs' lineage of legends enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Cub fans may want to explore beyond the hall in picturesque Cooperstown.
The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. (MILO STEWART JR, HANDOUT / May 17, 2010)
This picturesque village seemingly lost in time is resplendent in Americana reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting. The centerpiece of the one-traffic-light town is sparkling Lake Otsego, its "Glimmerglass" nickname derived from the fiction of James Fenimore Cooper. The author's epic Leatherstocking Tales ("The Deerslayer" and "Last of the Mohicans") are set in Cooperstown.
The town is named for the writer's father, William Cooper, a land surveyor and speculator who acquired more than 35,000 acres west of the lake. There he created and formed the village in 1786. Multiple generations of the family are buried in a compelling church cemetery just behind the Hall of Fame.
Perhaps one the best locales from which to enjoy the lake's splendor is the Bayside Inn & Marina (607-547-2371, baysidecooperstown.com), on a lush lakefront hillside seven miles north of Cooperstown on state Route 80.
It's a personal favorite among a dozen hotels along a beautiful, winding country road lined with trees. Two docks extend from the inn's private beach, which also has two gazebos and a pair of barbecue grills. In addition to its 30 motel rooms, the Bayside Inn has 10 waterfront cottages of various sizes. Rowboats, canoes and kayaks are available free to hotel guests.
The busiest bar in town, Cooley's Stone House Tavern (49 Pioneer St., 607-544-1311, cooleystavern.com) is a popular hangout for locals, tourists and the occasional Hall of Famer. Recent inductee Goose Gossage has been known to frequent the place and even take a turn as guest bartender.
Whatever soup cook Glen is making usually is great, as are the grilled wings with Cooley's own sauce. Ask the afternoon bartender, Woody, to tell you the story of the day he played nine holes with actor Bill Murray.
Still among the best-kept secrets is Villa Isidoro Bed and Breakfast Inn & Restaurant, off the beaten path in the neighboring town of Richfield Springs (3941 U.S. Highway 20, 315-858-3500, villaisidoro.com). The stone mansion/farmhouse doubles as a charming five-room inn and Italian restaurant. The hand-tossed wood-oven pizzas are light and crusty. Seasonal and regional house specials are offered nightly in an Old World tavern setting.
As Mardi Gras is to New Orleans, Induction Weekend is to the Hall of Fame and its museum, which is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of the year, closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.
Admission is $16.50 for adults, $11 for seniors, and $6 for children (7-12).
Visitors should allow at least three to four hours for perusing the museum's three floors of exhibits.
Some items that might be of particular interest to Cubs fans:
The recently installed Buck O'Neil life-size bronze statue, next to the museum entrance. The Cubs made O'Neil, a legend in the Negro Leagues and mentor to many Cubs greats, the first black coach in the majors. The statue was placed in honor of the award presented every three years by the Hall "to honor an individual whose extraordinary efforts enhanced baseball's positive impact on society, broadened the game's appeal, and whose character, integrity and dignity are comparable to the qualities exhibited by O'Neil."
A Tinker-Evers-Chance Cubs Dynasty Case contains catcher Johnny Kling's 1909 jersey, pitcher Three-Finger Brown's spikes, rare T206 baseball cards, Evers' glove, bat and button, and Tinker's 1907 World Champions watch fob.
A cap worn by longtime Cubs clubhouse manager Yosh Kawano in the team's "Today's Game" locker. Tim Wiles, the hall's director of research and a die-hard Cubs fan, says it's his favorite Cubs artifact in the museum "because it's kind of new and he's the heart and soul of the Cubs. And because his longtime devotion to the team mirrors that of the fans, and it's the only clubhouse manager's hat in the Hall of Fame."