Hot Stove heats up Cooperstown winter

Bill Francis

The group Friends of Doubleday Field held its first Hot Stove Weekend in Cooperstown from Friday, Feb. 7 to Sunday, Feb. 9. From left are the event's guest speakers, Friends of Doubleday President Jeff Katz, MLB network anchor Brian Kenny, National Baseball Hall of Fame Senior Curator Tom Shieber and writers Todd Radom, David Roth and Jay Jaffe. 

COOPERSTOWN — The hot stove beat out the cold weather for Friends of Doubleday Field this weekend. 

About 40 people attended the inaugural Hot Stove Weekend, Friday, Feb. 7 through Sunday, Feb. 9, which was sponsored by the friends group as a fundraiser for the village of Cooperstown's historic baseball field.

"It was a great weekend," Friends of Doubleday Field President Jeff Katz said after the event ended Sunday. "The feedback from everyone there was phenomenal. It could not have worked out better."

About 75 percent of the attendees were from out of town, Katz said, including visitors from Albany, Atlanta, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. Many of them arrived Friday despite the snowstorm, with a few more making the drive Saturday instead. 

The event featured a meet and greet Friday, a full day of presentations about baseball on Saturday and a brunch and book signing Sunday. MLB Network anchor Brian Kenny, writers Jay Jaffe, Todd Radom and David Roth and National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Senior Curator Tom Shieber were the feature guests, with all of them giving talks about various aspects of baseball. 

Saturday in the Village Hall Ballroom at 22 Main St., Radom and Shieber led off with a talk about MLB apparel, pointing out little known facts about uniforms, including the Brooklyn Dodgers once wearing green uniforms. The famous Dodger blue was not used until 1938, they said. The duo also showed the changes in the New York Yankees famous interlocking NY, the evolution of the Houston Astros so-bad-they-are good "rainbow" uniforms and the consternation that often appeared in newspapers when teams had bad uniform designs or went on losing streaks while wearing new clothes. 

The interlocking NY came from a police medal of valor, which was originally given out in 1877, Radom said. 

"New York cribbed the logo from Louis Tiffany," Radom said. "Yes, that Tiffany."

Jay Jaffe talked about the sign-stealing scandal that is consuming baseball, noting that cheating in baseball also dated back to the 1800s. There were scandals with buzzers, super balls, pine tar and other sticky substances long before there were Apple watches and center field cameras, he said. However, cheating in baseball has only been "acceptable when done passively," he said. 

He said his family is filled with Los Angeles Dodgers fans — the Dodgers lost the World Series to Houston in 2017 and Boston in 2018, and both championship teams have been accused of cheating to win — and he understands their anger. 

"You can see how the balance of the World Series could have easily been titled," he said, "especially between two teams over seven games and where only a few runs separate the two teams."

Later Saturday, Kenny talked about his picks for the top hitters of the live-ball era, and Katz and Roth talked about their love for baseball cards. 

The group had dinner together Saturday and brunch together Sunday, followed by a book signing.

Katz said the event raised several thousand dollars for Friends of Doubleday Field, which is helping raise money to renovate the 100-year-old field. The village has received about $5 million for the renovation from state grants, but still has to pay a balance of about $800,000 to complete the work. The renovations are expected to be done in time for the 2020 Hall of Fame Induction Weekend in July.    

"I think for year one, the feedback was, it was tremendous," Katz said. "We definitely learned a lot for year two, which we will definitely do." 

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