Cooperstown, NY – Otesego Lake, Baseball Hall of Fame – The Last of the Mohicans.
There will always be a special feeling in Janice’s heart for Cooperstown. Most of us think of it as the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame and James Fenimore Cooper’s book, The Last of the Mohicans. Janice’s family spent their summers there from the time she was 10 until 17. Every summer they would take the boat up from their home in New Jersey for the summer to a small camp on the lake and they all went water skiing and fishing with her dad. She is full of many memories of the town, such as watching a baseball game at Doubleday Field sitting high in the trees next to the outfield, enjoying ice cream at Thayers, a couyntry store on the lake at the time and playing golf with her father at the nine-hole course, Otsego Golf Club at the north end of Lake Otsego.
Cooperstown visit with Steve Mahlum and his wife Ellen Morris
We planned to spend a night, visit the town and play the old golf course, one of the oldest in the United States, founded in 1895. John had an old family friend from Long Island, Steve Mahlum who lives with his wife Ellen Morris in Cooperstown. John had not seen Steve in 30 years, looked up his number to see if we could catch up.
Steve called back and said yes. He and Ellen bought Cooperstown to life for us. Both of them spent their youth in Cooperstown except for a few years when both their families moved to Long Island. After a few years of marriage, they moved back to Cooperstown and have lived a block from Main Street in the center of the village for the last 30 years in a beautiful old 3 story home.
We pulled up in front of the house and they were waiting for us on the front steps. Steve helped Janice move the RV around to the alley and backed the rig into the backyard. Parking is next to impossible in downtown Cooperstown.
Steve and Ellen took us for lunch at The Blue Mingo Grill where we enjoyed a wonderful lunch outside on the deck above Otsego Lake. We had a chance to catch up on family and old times. Steve attended Locust Valley High School with John’s brother Will and sister Carol.
We were taken on a tour of the town and got a historical overview of Cooperstown. The town was originally founded in 1786 as the Village of Otsego by William Cooper, James Fenimore Cooper’s father. In 1812 it was renamed Village of Cooperstown. The current full-time population is around 2,000.
Cooperstown’s Clark Family – Singer Sewing Machines
Steve told us about Edward Cabot Clark. Clark was a patent attorney that worked with Issac Merritt Singer in founding the Singer Sewing Machine Company in 1851. Issac Singer made important improvements in the design of the sewing machine, however many others had patented sewing machines before Singer. Clark determined that the best way to market was not to worry about the patent, but “selling” the practicality of his machine, the ease with which it could be adapted to home use. In 1856 Clark developed the first “installment purchase plan”. For $1.00 down and $1 00 per month you could buy a Singer Sewing Machine. This allowed someone to cover their equipment expense out of revenues on a monthly basis. This was marketing genius and the rest is history!
Clark development of Cooperstown and New York real estate
Clark built his Fernleigh home in Cooperstown in 1869, acquiring over 10,000 areas in and around Cooperstown. He and Singer were large investors in New York City real estate. Clark had The Dakota designed and built overlooking Central Park. He died before it was completed in 1884 but bequeath it to his grandson Edward Severin Clark. The Dakota is the apartment building John Lennon of the Beatles lived in and was murdered outside.
The Clark family’s holdings include interests assembled over a century and a half, which are now held through trusts and foundations.
Baseball Hall of Fame
Now, this is a fun story as Steve tells it. We have grown up believing that Abner Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown. Many believe it is a myth. Research has found the word “baseball”, was used even in a Jane Austin (1775-1817) novel, dating well before Abner Doubleday. Games using balls and sticks even go back to ancient Egyptian times. So much for that tiny history!
The historic story of baseball’s founding
Albert Goodwill Spalding, who argued that baseball was invented in the United States, and English-born Henry Chadwick, the baseball journalist who originated baseball’s modern scoring system, who claimed that the sport evolved from the English game of rounders. Spaulding established a commission in 1905, headed by former National League President Abraham G. Mills to study the origins of baseball.
Spaulding claimed the proof was based on letter to the editor penned by an elderly mining engineer from Colorado. In the letter published in the Akron Beacon Journal on April 4, 1905, 71-year-old Abner Graves recalled with remarkably detailed precision that as a 5-year-old boy growing up in Cooperstown he was present when 20-year-old Abner Doubleday took a walking stick to trace a diamond on a cow pasture owned by Elihu Phinney, concocted a set of rules and called his game “baseball.” In spite of his propensity for telling tall tales—he claimed to have been a Pony Express rider in 1852, although the mail service did not begin until 1860—Graves became the Mills Commission’s star witness. Although Doubleday was enrolled at West Point at the time and never mentioned any role in inventing baseball to Mills, who happened to have been his friend and arranged for his burial at Arlington National Cemetery, the Mills Commission after three years of study built its final conclusion upon Graves’s flimsy foundation by declaring: “The first scheme for playing baseball, according to the best evidence available to date, was devised by Abner Doubleday at Cooperstown, N.Y. in 1839.” Christopher Klein “Baseball’s Cooperstown Myth”
The Clark Family and the founding of the Baseball Hall of Fame
Cooperstown doubled down on the myth during The Depression and in 1935 Stephen C. Clark, of the Clark Family above, purchased an old worn leather ball for five dollars that a farmer said
he found in an old trunk left by Abner Graves when he left New York for the Gold Rush in 1848. With no proof of its origin, Clark decreed it to be the ball used by Abner Doubleday when he invented baseball.
Seeing baseball as the economic stimulus Cooperstown needed to survive the Great Depression, not to mention fill the rooms at his Otesaga Resort Hotel, Clark successfully pitched the idea to build a baseball museum in Cooperstown. The “Doubleday Ball” became the first artifact donated to the new baseball shrine, and when the Hall of Fame opened in 1939, it marked the ultimate fulfillment of Spalding’s misguided history. What is interesting in the years since the founding of the Hall of Fame, Doubleday has never been admitted as a member!
Jane Forbes Clark is the current head of the Clark Trusts and Foundations in Cooperstown. There are 30 Major League Baseball (MLB) teams and Jane is considered the 31st owner with her influence on MLB and as the Chairman of the Hall of Fame.
Hops for Beer and Cooperstown
Steve and Ellen drove us by some fields were hops was being grown and told us that the Busch family were active in Cooperstown, as 80% of hops for beer production were grown in the Cooperstown area and considered some of the finest hops in the world. A “blight” started wiping out the hops crops around 1909 and through the years until prohibition basically put an end to the hops growth. Since the 1990’s there has been a resurgence, using new methods of farming and hops are being grown for the craft beer industry.
Enjoying Ellen’s Parents, Ellen and Dave Morris
We drove around and saw all the major attractions in Cooperstown and ended up at Ellen’s parents home, Ellen and Dave Morris.
We were greeted on the front porch by her parents and the cat named Hobo. Hobo showed up one day on their porch hence the name Hobo. We had a wonderful conversation with them as they regaled us with other wonderful stories about their years in Cooperstown. The night before we arrived they were hit with what must have been a tiny tornado, fortunately, other than fallen trees, they were fine.
We bid our farewell to Steve and Ellen after enjoying a nice glass of wine at their home and stayed at a local campsite for the evening. We parked next to a group of families parked at their camping spots. Notice the vehicle is Utica Fire Department.
John talked to one of the men and they were there with family and friends and 3 of the children were their foster children. This is the heart and soul of the people of America.
Golf at Otsego Golf Club
Janice had so many wonderful memories of playing golf at Otsego Golf Club with her brother, Mom and Dad. She tells great stories of the fun they had on many weekends when her father would drove up from New Jersey for each weekend and two weeks of vacation time for water skiing and golf, lots of fun.
First thing in the morning we headed on over and played the 9 hole course and it was a joy to play.
It was a fitting end to a wonderful two days in Cooperstown and such a fun “interpretive tour” by Ellen and Steve. We are in hopes they will join us this sometime in Flagler Beach.
Saratoga, New York
We drove the few hours over to Saratoga. Janice had played some tournament golf at the New York State Park golf course Saratoga Spa which we had a tee time for the next morning. With the forecast of rain for the next two days, we decided to try and get out on the course that afternoon. They had an opening and we went out to play. The course was lovely and we finished well before the rain started.
We drove around Saratoga then headed up to the place we were staying for the evening. The race season was to start the next week so things were pretty calm. The place we stayed at was also the Fire Department. America at its best!
We tried to pick other stops then realized best to head directly to Janice’s sisters’ house in New Hampshire, our next stop and it was a good choice as the rain started.