A Monument to America's Game
Whether you're a player or a spectator, a Little Leaguer or an old-timer, a casual enthusiast or a stats-spouting zealot, a Red Sox fan or a Yankees fan, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in the picturesque Victorian village of Cooperstown, New York, will deepen your passion for America's game. Even non-fans will be fascinated by the Hall of Fame's wide range of exhibits commemorating everything from women in baseball to ballpark anthems. And if you've already been to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, consider another trip to Cooperstown. A two-year, $20 million renovation of the museum completed in 2005 makes a visit to the Hall of Fame an inspiring and interactive adventure.
Before you go, or if you can't get to Cooperstown, enjoy this photo tour from my visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in September of 2005. On our tour, you'll see the world's most valuable baseball card, Lou Gehrig's locker, Curt Schilling's bloody sock and much more. I'll also share tips for making the most of your visit to this one-of-a-kind sports shrine, which has been a destination for baseball fans since it opened its doors on June 12, 1939.
The Baseball Experience
When you visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, head first to the Grandstand Theater on the second floor, where "The Baseball Experience," a 13-minute multimedia presentation, will immediately immerse you in the sights and sounds of America's pastime. The presentation elicits an emotional response even from non-fans. Baseball in America has always been a unique blend of story and sport, and you'll find yourself celebrating with victors, agonizing with losers, cheering for extraordinary feats and recalling your own baseball moments. There are few Americans who can say they've never donned a cap, sat in the bleachers, or swung a bat and hoped for the best.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame is located in Cooperstown, New York, largely because a commission appointed in 1905 concluded that the game was invented by Abner Doubleday in 1839 while he was a student in Cooperstown. While this conclusion has since been disputed, there's no arguing that Cooperstown is now the epicenter of all things baseball.
Women in Baseball
While the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum certainly pays homage to elite Major League players, it also honors unsung heroes of the game. While you're on the second floor, you can walk through exhibits that depict the evolution of the game from 1900 through today, including a display dedicated to the roles women have played throughout baseball's history.
When you reach the first floor, you'll also want to visit the exhibit dedicated to Baseball at the Movies, where you can view costumes worn by some of the stars of the 1992 film, A League of Their Own, which was based on the story of the first women's professional baseball league.
Lou Gehrig's Locker
Yankees' first baseman Lou Gehrig is remembered not only for his accomplishments on the field but for his grace and dignity after a rare degenerative disease, which now bears his name, ended his playing career. Gehrig was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.
Lou Gehrig's locker is one of the many artifacts at the Baseball Hall of Fame that both evokes nostalgia for baseball fans who remember the game's early stars and teaches young fans that baseball is about more than win-loss records and batting averages.
The World's Most Valuable Baseball Card
Honus Wagner, who played shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates, was one of the five original inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Wagner batted over .300 in 17 consecutive seasons and was the National League batting champion eight times.
Why is the 1909 Honus Wagner baseball card so valuable? The earliest baseball cards were produced and distributed by tobacco companies, and according to legend, the Honus Wagner card was pulled from the American Tobacco Company's 1909 set due to Wagner's objection to the use of his image for the promotion of tobacco products. It is estimated that only 50 to 100 of these cards exist today, and one was sold in 2007 for a record $2.8 million.
You'll see a Honus Wagner card among the baseball cards exhibited on the second floor of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
There are plenty of opportunities to see some baseball bling while you're at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. The museum's collection includes everything from Gold Gloves and Cy Young Awards to the rings granted to World Series champions over the years.
The Ball That Started It All
The sign beside this weathered baseball reads: "Ball thrown by Boston pitcher Bill Dinneen to strike out Honus Wagner, ending the 1903 World Series, and making Boston the first modern World Champions." A program from that first World Series is displayed above the ball.
Boston topped the league four more times in the next 15 years, but it took 86 years, from 1918 until 2004, for New England's baseball team to win another World Series.
Baseball's Most Famous Sock
If you don't know the significance of this sock, you're not a Red Sox fan.
But even if you didn't jump on the Boston bandwagon in 2004, you have to admit that the 2004 World Series was one of the most dramatic in recent history. It took true grit and determination for the Red Sox to finally overcome the "curse of the Bambino," the alleged curse that befell the team after Boston traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920.
Nothing symbolizes the team's impressive struggle better than pitcher Curt Schilling's bloody sock, which he loaned to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. It was later sold at auction. Schilling pitched Game 2 of the 2004 World Series just days after he had surgery to repair a ruptured tendon sheath on his right ankle. As TV cameras zoomed in on the blood seeping through his sock, Schilling earned Boston a victory and himself a place in baseball history.
The Greats of the Game
You'll definitely want to spend some time in the Hall of Fame Gallery on the National Baseball Hall of Fame's first floor, where plaques honor all of the great players, managers, umpires and executives who have been inducted since 1936. There were 260 Hall of Famers as of 2005 when I visited Cooperstown. As of 2019, there are 323 inductees.
The Baseball Writers' Association of America votes each year on new members, and induction is an honor bestowed only on an elite few. Although you may not have any say in who gets inducted into the Baseball Hall, you're welcome to attend the annual induction ceremony during Hall of Fame Weekend free of charge. Pack a blanket or lawn chairs, head to Cooperstown, and witness sports history. The 2020 induction ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, July 26 at 1:30 p.m. on the grounds of the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown. Although 2020 inductees have not yet been selected, all bets are on Derek Jeter being inducted in 2020 during his first year of eligibility.
Plan Your Trip to Cooperstown
Feeling inspired to plan your own pilgrimage to Cooperstown? The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is open daily year-round with the exception of Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with extended hours until 9 p.m. from Memorial Day Weekend through the Sunday before Labor Day.
Directions to the Hall of Fame, located at 25 Main Street, are available at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Web site, where you can also find information on admission prices and special events.
Allow at least two hours to tour the Hall of Fame. Serious baseball fans will want to spend more time. Other attractions in Cooperstown that are worth a visit include The Farmers' Museum and the Fenimore Art Museum.
During our 2005 visit, we stayed 40 minutes from Cooperstown in a charming old inn, The Horned Dorset, in Leonardsville, New York (315-855-7898). The Cooperstown Chamber lists many lodging properties right in the village of Cooperstown, or compare rates and reviews for Cooperstown hotels at TripAdvisor.
To order a free Cooperstown Community Guide, call 607-547-9983. A $3 fee for postage requested. For more information about the Hall of Fame, call toll free, 888-HALL-OF-FAME.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary admission for the purpose of reviewing this attraction. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy