1) The Baseball Hall of Fame as it appeared when it opened in 1939. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)
2) The first addition was added after World War II, opening in 1950. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)
3) After the most recent additions, today’s Hall of Fame, as seen in 2011. (Mark Simonson)
4) Doubleday Field under construction in early 1939, which opened at the same time as the new Hall of Fame building on June 12, 1939. (New York State Historical Association Research Library)
“In 1934, an old baseball was discovered in a dust-covered attic in Fly Creek that supported the Mills Commission’s findings that baseball was indeed invented in Cooperstown.”
“If predicted attendance comes to pass, the Hall of Fame could have its 16 millionth visitor later this year.”
Why is Cooperstown the home of baseball?
In 1908, the Mills Commission report on the origins of baseball made the claim that Abner Doubleday invented the game of baseball in Cooperstown in 1839. Protests and debate soon began – led by Hoboken, N.J., and numerous other communities who claimed the origin of the game happened on their local ball field.
Nevertheless, there it was in writing -- Cooperstown was called the home of baseball. Local leaders had something to work with, and started to capitalize on the opportunity to promote baseball as America’s pastime, with Cooperstown right at the center.
Not much was done with the bragging rights until 1919, when the Playgrounds Committee of the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce went searching for a new site to play ball in the village, as the new Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital was being built on the old ball grounds. The committee found a new place on the Phinney lot, a former cow pasture, where Doubleday Field is today.
At the same time, local residents suggested that the grounds be made into a national baseball park, with an annual game between National and American League teams.
The first game was played here on Labor Day weekend 1920, with people from the Major Leagues on hand. By 1934 the field had seen significant improvements. That same year an old baseball was discovered in a dust-covered attic in Fly Creek that supported the Mills Commission’s findings.
Stephen C. Clark purchased that baseball for $5, and had the idea of displaying the historic ball, along with other museum objects, in a room of the Village Club (today’s village offices and library). The one-room exhibition attracted great public interest. Support was sought and subsequently achieved for the establishment of a National Baseball Museum.
The growth of interest in this museum and improvements to Doubleday Field continued, and by mid-February 1939, work began on new bleachers and a grandstand to mark the 100th anniversary of the game.
On Monday, June 12, 1939, there was an overflow crowd on hand to see the first game on this new field between Major League stars. But just down the street from the field was another major event before the game, the grand opening of the newly built National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
Cooperstown had successfully cleared its first major hurdle in becoming the proclaimed home of baseball in 1939. Another hurdle was ahead, namely survival.
After World War II broke out, attendance dropped dramatically because of gasoline rationing. After the war, attendance picked up again and the number of acquired baseball artifacts expanded greatly, as did the number of inductees into the Hall of Fame.
Stephen Clark, a strong supporter of the Hall, saw a need for expansion of the facilities and broke ground for an addition in June 1949. By 1956 the Hall admitted its one-millionth visitor. Various expansion projects followed, including a freestanding library in 1968, a gift shop area, and the Stadium Theatre (which was once a swimming pool).
By 2011, the total number of visitors had surpassed the 15,000,000 milestone.
Craig Muder, Director of Communications at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum said that if predicted attendance comes to pass, given the ambitious schedule of events in 2014, the 16,000,000 mark should be reached later this year.
Plan your visit now for the 75th anniversary celebration of the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Thursday, June 12.
Join the 75th Anniversary Birthday Celebration!
The Museum will celebrate its 75th birthday on Thursday, June 12, reflecting on the historic events of that day in 1939 as the Hall of Fame was formally commemorated. Special guests and programs will fill the day on Thursday, June 12; and on Friday and Saturday, the Museum will pay special recognition to participants of its Membership program who have helped support the organization throughout the years.
Pick up a Special 75th Anniversary Commemorative Gift!
The Hall of Fame is offering two commemorative keepsakes to mark the occasion: a Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin, to be produced by the U.S. Mint; and “The Hall: A Celebration of Baseball’s Greats,” the official book of the 75th anniversary of the Museum, featuring 10 original essays from Hall of Fame legends, and information on all 300 Hall of Fame members. Proceeds benefit the Museum’s educational activities.
Don’t miss the Hall of Fame Weekend -- July 25-28
It’s baseball's most exciting weekend: The Hall of Fame Class of 2014 will be inducted at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 27 at the Clark Sports Center. The Class of 2014 features Bobby Cox, Tom Glavine, Tony La Russa, Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and Joe Torre. In addition, more than four dozen Hall of Famers are expected to return to honor the Class of 2014.
Book now for the 75th Anniversary Concert featuring Paul Simon -- August 2
Twelve-time GRAMMY Award winner and longtime baseball fan Paul Simon headlines the 75th Anniversary Celebration Concert. The show will also feature the Boston
Pops Esplanade Orchestra and former big leaguer turned singer/songwriter Bernie Williams. Vin Scully, the beloved voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, will record the introduction.
Visit www.baseballhall.org for additional events throughout the summer.