"Cooperstown is a baseball town without a team."
On a professional and semi-professional baseball level, that is true, and it has been the case in the village dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when merchants sponsored town teams.
Barring any last-minute glitches, professional baseball will return to Cooperstown in 2010 with a team in the New York Collegiate Baseball League. This comes from the efforts of two northern Otsego County men, Tom Hickey and Kevin McCarthy. The quote at the beginning was made by Hickey's son, Michael, earlier this year.
Since the end of World War II, there have been no less than three efforts to bring a professional team to Cooperstown, but none were successful. Some of the stumbling blocks were common.
In late July 1949, Albert Houghton, then president of the Canadian-American League, told The Oneonta Star that Cooperstown had been under consideration for nearly a year as a possible site for a club. Two clubs, in Quebec and Three Rivers, were considering relocating to the U.S. at the time.
The idea never got far. There were concerns that a village of 2,500 couldn't support a team. Permanent lighting and a new fence would have to be provided at Doubleday Field.
Fiscal problems were mounting for many teams, and attendance was declining. Even if Cooperstown had entered, it would've been a brief stay, as the Canadian American League, which had teams in nearby Oneonta and Gloversville, folded at the end of the 1952 season.
In 1983, Cooperstown went well beyond a "considered" status. Writer Roger Kahn came to Cooperstown in January to announce that the New York-Penn League had awarded two new franchises during the winter meetings to Cooperstown and Gloversville. Kahn, who had written about the 1950s Brooklyn Dodgers in the "Boys of Summer," said he wanted to bring a farm club of the New York Mets to Cooperstown.
Kahn wasn't alone that year in attempting to get a team here. Louis Busch Hager, a longtime resident who spent summers nearby, had offered to bring a St. Louis Cardinals farm team to Doubleday Field. The Mets club gained favor, although Hager alleged that politics played a role in stonewalling his offer.
For a team to be in Cooperstown, a clubhouse had to be built in time for a June league opener, and lights had to be installed by the 1984 season. In addition to Kahn and two partners, local financial support was needed.
Time wasn't on Cooperstown's side that year. It was reported on Feb. 9 that the franchise had been withdrawn by mutual consent of the NY-Penn League and village backers.
"We didn't have enough time to get it together," said Mayor Harold Hollis of the effort that had begun only four weeks earlier. Their aim was for 1984, but a review of the region's newspapers later in time had nothing to report.
Finally, in 1995, the year-old Northern Professional Baseball League called on Cooperstown in September to place a team featuring up-and-coming college ball players the next season.
At first, the league got a warm reception from village trustees. Then the trustees considered the positive revenue source from organizations already renting Doubleday Field. What the league offered for the field was less, so this and residents' concerns about noise and trespassing prompted the trustees to vote, 6-0, against hosting a team.
So far, it appears Hickey and McCarthy have addressed past mistakes in their endeavors and have gotten approval by village trustees to bring a professional team to Cooperstown in 2010.
This weekend: Margaretville becomes a setting for an action movie.
City Historian Mark Simonson's column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com.