After a brief rain shower Monday, Sept. 6, the sky cleared so the village of Cooperstown could celebrate the 101st birthday of Doubleday Field.
The village had planned to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the field last year, but the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the celebration to this year.
The ceremony started a little late, as a tie baseball game between two teams that had rented the field until 1 p.m. had to be finished. The delay allowed the village to celebrate the field’s anniversary and the $6 million upgrades to the entrance and grandstands that were completed last year, Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh said.
It also allowed some Cooperstown High School sophomores to celebrate their contribution to history.
In discussing the process to make baseball New York’s official sport, state Sen. Peter Oberbacker, R-Schenevus, told former students in Anne Reis’ fourth grade class: “The wheels of government sometimes move slowly.”
In 2016, the class wrote a letter to state Sen. James Seward, Oberacker’s predecessor now retired, suggesting baseball as the state’s official sport, as reported in a June 9 story that year. He agreed, and introduced legislation every year beginning in 2017.
“He never gave up,” Oberbacker said of Seward. “I felt like I was hitting cleanup in the bottom of the ninth inning behind a run. It was the first bill I sponsored that was passed in the Senate and the first bill signed into law. Thank you for all of your research and all you did to get this bill passed.”
Oberbacker gave Reis an envelope with citations — one for each student, one for her and one for the school’s librarian — commemorating their accomplishment.
He also gave Tillapaugh a proclamation declaring Sept. 6, 2021, as Doubleday Field Day in the 51st Senate District.
“This field looks amazing,” Oberbacker said. “I played many games on this field in high school and they were all good memories.”
Tillapaugh said the village allows the Cooperstown School District to play all 16 of their home games on Doubleday Field free of charge.
“The away teams always want to play here; they never want it to be postponed by rain,” she said.
Doubleday Field hosted its first game Sept. 6, 1920, after community members cleaned, leveled and upgraded a farmer’s cow pasture into a baseball diamond, Tillapaugh said. The village bought the baseball field in 1923 after taxpayers approved the purchase, she said. The grandstand was added in 1939 with funds from the Works Progress Administration, and it coincided with the opening of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, she said.
“This is a national treasure,” Tillapaugh said. “It has hosted major and minor league baseball teams and concerts including Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and the Beach Boys.”
Incoming Hall of Fame President Josh Rawitch congratulated the village on the “special day.” Rawitch was previously employed by the Arizona Diamondbacks and said he first came to Cooperstown with his dad in 2001 and was impressed by the field.
“Whenever players would come back to Arizona, they would rave about Cooperstown and the feeling they got here,” he said.
Rawitch said he couldn’t imagine all of the greats who have played on the field, whether it was during the Hall of Fame games or the Hall of Fame classics held throughout the years.
“As soon as the induction ceremony was over, there was a game here and Babe Ruth came out and pinch-hit during the game,” he said of the 1939 induction ceremony.
He said the HOF plans to resume the Hall of Fame Classic during Memorial Day Weekend next year after its pandemic hiatus.
Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_VickyK on Twitter.