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February 14, 2013

Village to 'shine light on forgotten hero'

Doubleday Field entrance to be named after ballplayer

Former Cooperstown resident Bud Fowler, a 19th-century baseball player regarded by baseball historians as the first African-American player in professional baseball, will be honored by the village on April 20.

The entrance to Doubleday Field will be named “Bud Fowler Way” and a plaque in his honor will be placed in the bricks of the stadium on the first-base side. In addition, Mayor Jeff Katz has designated April 20 as “Bud Fowler Day.” 

Katz said that he is a baseball fan and historian and had been aware of Fowler’s story and local roots, but it wasn’t until he started talking with Baseball Hall of Fame senior curator Tom Schieber, that the idea to honor Fowler in Cooperstown began to form. 

“He came up with the idea of renaming a street in Fowler’s honor, but I thought it would be a tough sled to say, rename Beaver Street to Fowler Way. Then we were talking about the idea with trustee Cyndy Falk, and she found out that the entrance to Doubleday Field, which we had all just assumed was a driveway, was actually an official street on the map.

“So now we had, not only an unnamed street, but one that was in a perfect location to honor him,” he said. “From there, everything fell into place nicely.”

Katz said he hopes the event will get national attention from sports outlets such as ESPN and the Major League Baseball Network. 

“The possibility exists that we can make this a big deal,” he said. “I believe the story will galvanize national attention. From our perspective, there is nothing better than shining a light on a forgotten hero who is also a native of our village.”

Fowler, born John W. Jackson in Fort Plain, grew up in Cooperstown, where his father worked as a barber on Main Street. 

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