The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum sits in the middle of Cooperstown, a cozy town in the middle of New York State. Being so far removed from civilization (sorry, upstate New Yorkers) could hurt the viability and appeal of any landmark or sacred ground. But the Hall is different.
On the outside, the building doesn't look very special. While it occupies a good deal of property on Main Street, upon first inspection the exterior of the building looked a little underwhelming.
The charm of Cooperstown, I suppose, is that it is a bit sleepy. If you're constantly looking for something to do, this may not be the trip for you. But, if you want to take a break from the usual fast-pace life and take in some beautiful sights, I recommend you plan a trip to Cooperstown. Upstate New York is beautiful this time of year, with the leaves changing color, but Cooperstown thrives on tourists. Without them, it feels like there is something missing during your stay. Therefore, it might be best to visit in the spring or summer. You'll have to deal with bigger crowds and less parking, on the other hand.
One of the first things you see after purchasing your ticket and entering the Hall is a life-sized bronze statue of Negro League great and former Major League Baseball manager Buck O'Neil. Behind him is a beautiful display of pictures and quotes referring to O'Neil's character and leadership skills. While he isn't the most famous player in the Hall, this display might be one of the most memorable you will see during your visit.
Obviously, the big attraction are the many plaques in honor of those enshrined by the Hall. These are sorted by year, and a directory near the entrance guides fans towards the player they are looking for.
The spacious, marble-covered architecture of the wing can leave you breathless upon entering. As a younger fan, I don't know many of these names, but I can appreciate what they accomplished during their time. These players all helped shape the game of baseball for today's players, and that alone should demand respect.
While studying the plaques, I overheard an older man describing some of the players and memories they invoked to what looked to be his adult daughter. As a reflex, I felt like making fun of the man (in my head, of course); however, I soon realized that dialogues similar to the one he had with his daughter were probably typical for many visitors to the Hall. As someone who enjoys listening to his grandfather describe the players and teams of his era, it would have been hypocritical to scoff at this man.
Younger visitors or more casual baseball fans may not feel a strong attachment to the older exhibits, so many of them will want to spend much of their time in the "Today's Game" exhibit, located on the second floor.
Each major league team is represented with lockers displaying various historical elements from each team's games over the past ten years. This part is slightly underwhelming, however the more interesting displays commemorating various league-wide milestones are located across from this section. You will be able to pick out plenty of today's stars, along with a good share of players that will leave you wondering what happened to them.
The Grandstand Theater, also located on the second floor, is host to a short feature called "The Baseball Experience," a video presentation about baseball. The film uses clips from games, as well as from famous baseball movies, to convey the all-around power and beauty of baseball. The theater is outfitted with replica ballpark seating, and is painted and designed to replicate an old-time ballpark.
No matter where you are in the building, you're constantly looking at something historical. Each item or display has a plate or card describing the origin or significance of the item. Other exhibits, such as the Negro Leagues display, or the section dedicated to Babe Ruth (the only player to have his own section), are literally covered in history, with detailed history surrounding the subject. They are all well worth reading.
While this may come with a touch of arrogance, I do think that one cannot be a baseball fan until they visit the Hall of Fame. Many fans my age enjoy a unique closeness to today's game of baseball, thanks to increasing media access and the added glamor of the sport and its players, but the sights and sounds of the National Baseball Hall of Fame bring younger fans closer to a more innocent and fan-friendlier era of baseball.
No matter where you are coming from, it is worth the visit. You will leave with an increased knowledge and respect of the game.