Some eight decades ago, before there was a National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, folks in and around the game were hoping to somehow honor the national pastime with a centennial celebration at what was thought to be the birthplace of the sport.
Thanks to some recently processed papers discovered at the Cooperstown museum’s library, one can contrast the worldwide attention the Hall of Fame enjoys today with an idea then only in its embryonic stages.
The collection of eight letters, donated years ago by the National League office, were all composed in the summer of 1934. The correspondence — involving a pair of sporting goods executives, a Cooperstown businessman and the National League president – all revolve around the theme of honoring Cooperstown on what was then considered the upcoming 100th anniversary of the birth of baseball in 1939.
Cooperstown had been deemed the “Birthplace of Baseball” in 1907 as the result of findings by the Mills Commission, which was appointed to determine the game’s origin two years earlier. The Commission stated specifically that “the first scheme for playing baseball, according to the best evidence available to date, was devised by Abner Doubleday at Cooperstown, N.Y. in 1839.”
The exchange of letters begins with a missive, dated July 25, 1934, in which Cooperstown resident W.T. Sampson “Sam” Smith, owner of the aircraft firm Mohawk Giro, asks a favor of his friend, A.G. Spalding & Bros. Vice President William Thayer Brown.
“When you come up, I want to show you and tell you about a certain project,” Smith typed, “which if successfully developed, will be a great thing for Cooperstown and also the institution of baseball.
“It is my feeling, as it is also with many others, that professional baseball would be very anxious to establish here a sort of shrine to baseball, if they only appreciated the circumstances.