Cooperstown's heart beats on Main St.
Hall of Fame weekend transforms tiny hamlet
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- This small town in upstate New York is home to 2,000 people throughout the rest of the year. Beginning Friday and through the remainder of Hall of Fame Weekend, the quiet hamlet will steadily become home to nearly 60,000.
On Sunday, an expected record crowd will bear witness to the Hall of Fame enshrinement of Orioles iron man Cal Ripken and Padres hit man Tony Gwynn on the pastoral grounds of Clark Sports Center.
Many of those thousands of fans have arrived a couple of days before the big event. Cars sporting license plates from all over the country line small side roads that neighbor the epicenter of it all, Main Street.
Red flowered plants hanging from ornate lampposts and trees in full bloom frame the street, accompanied by stately buildings and the understated Baseball Hall of Fame. The outside of the Hall is awash in black and orange, Orioles fans eager to get inside the historic museum.
"My favorite part of Main Street," says Brian Bahn of York, Penn., in regard to the National Shrine.
Walking along the street, most caps visible, not surprisingly, are either Orioles or Padres. Once in a while however, a Yankees or Mets jersey flits into sight.
Local restaurants, such as Danny's Market and Nicoletta's, aiming to meet the demand of so many people, have temporarily set up outdoor food stands and veered away from their usual menus of specialty sandwiches and Italian cuisine, allowing the smell of hot dogs, hamburgers and bratwurst to waft over the crowds.
Baseball shops moved merchandise outside as well, setting up tables with baseball cards and rows upon rows of baseball caps and other essentials. Mickey's Place and Rivalries Baseball have large, colorful ads displayed on their windows, letting all passersby know of upcoming Hall of Famer autograph signings.
Lines upon lines through the streets during the day as fans waited on one side of the street seeking autographs from Phillies greats Steve Carlton and Robin Roberts.
Main Street is only so long, and the crowds stay in the true center of it, stretching from the Hall to Doubleday Field, to the baseball shops and varying establishments just farther up like Muskrat Hill and the Metro clothing store, both packed and busy with fans and locals alike.
And then, at the single stop light in town, right across from the town bakery, the crowds clear. For now, that is.
The town is buzzing, but it is evident that the excitement has not reached fever pitch: Main Street is still drivable.
Come Saturday, come Sunday, that will change. The Padres' brown and gold from Gwynn's days and the Orioles' orange and black filtering through the streets will increase greatly. The hope of catching sight of a Hall of Famer walking down Main Street will be real. The dream of being part of history will happen.
This is it. This is Cooperstown, its Main Street, where the celebration begins. "This is a beautiful town," said Dave Kunde, who made the 3,000 mile journey from San Diego along with friends Garrett Kovar and Tom Horn. "We don't have towns like this in San Diego, with this much history."
This is where a small, quiet town in upstate New York welcomes fans from all over, from Maryland to California, Massachusetts to Georgia, New Hampshire to Iowa. This is Hall of Fame weekend, the beginning, soon to be a part of baseball's history.
Even with threatening storm clouds looming over Main St. and an afternoon downpour, those who made the pilgrimage to baseball's symbolic birthplace refuse to have their spirits dampened.
"If you're a true baseball fan, it doesn't matter if it's snowing or raining, this is the best time of the year," said Scott Riehle of New Hampshire, who has been coming to Cooperstown every Hall of Fame weekend for over 20 years.
Molly Streck is a lifelong Cooperstown resident and a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.