Cooperstown village officials have announced the schedule and speakers for Bud Fowler Day on April 20.
The street sign Fowler Way will be unveiled at the entrance to Doubleday Field at 4 p.m. The procession will then move to the field itself for the presentation of a permanent plaque in the brick wall along the first base bleachers. In addition, an exhibit will be on display in the field kiosk. The exhibit is being prepared by graduate students in the Cooperstown Graduate Program, and will focus on Fowler’s life in Cooperstown and his career in baseball.
Speakers at the event will include Congressman Chris Gibson, Major League Baseball historian John Thorn and Cooperstown Mayor Jeff Katz. More speakers are expected to be announced.
On Sunday, April 21, there will be a program about Fowler at the National Baseball Hall of Fame at 10 a.m. The graduate students will present their research and answer questions about Fowler. Additional speakers will also be announced for this program.
Fowler, born John W. Jackson in Fort Plain, grew up in Cooperstown, where his father worked as a barber on Main Street.
According to the Society for American Baseball Research, Fowler played amateur baseball for several years and began to play professionally in 1878, when he pitched for a team in Chelsea, Mass. Later that month, he pitched for an all-star team against the National League team from Boston, known as the Red Stockings.
Fowler continued to play professional baseball through 1895, and played many of those years on integrated teams, but by 1896, he was prevented from playing on integrated teams. He spent much of the next decade organizing teams and leagues for African-American players.
The ceremony will be held in honor of the 100-year anniversary of his death. He was born March 16, 1858, and died Feb. 26, 1913, in Frankfort. The ceremony is also being held in conjunction with the 2013 Frederick Ivor-Campbell 19th Century Baseball Conference sponsored by the SABR, which will take place April 19 and 20 in Cooperstown.
“It would be great if we could have honored him on the actual anniversary of his death, but it was just too soon to make it all come together,” Katz said. “Then when we learned that the SABR people would be here in April, it made perfect sense to honor him then. In addition to being statisticians, SABR-metrics and so forth, they are historians. So they are the perfect people to help us present this baseball history in a new light.”
Katz credits Katz Baseball Hall of Fame senior curator Tom Schieber with the idea to honor Fowler in Cooperstown.
“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 Cindy 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.”