Museums are an important part of American society, preserving history and culture. Some museums, like the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., or the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, enjoy international reputations and are visited by hundreds of thousands every year. Others are small and local in focus but still vitally important in keeping alive our heritage. Baseball museums are part of this cultural treasure that enriches young and old alike.
Baseball fans, cultural historians, scholars of the world of sport, and casual sight-seers spend many profitable and enjoyable hours at such places as The Babe Ruth Birthplace and Orioles Museum in Baltimore, the Louisville Slugger Museum in Louisville, and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. As good as these establishments are, the ultimate repository of baseball’s past is the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York.
Cooperstown was chosen as the site for the Hall of Fame and Museum partly because of the erroneous conclusion of the Mills Commission, established by Albert Spalding and chaired by former National League president Abraham Mills. The commission, seeking to determine the origins of baseball, declared at the end of 1907 that Abner Doubleday had created the rules for baseball at Cooperstown in 1839. Before long, the people of Cooperstown were pushing to celebrate the supposed one-hundredth anniversary of baseball. Naturally, they believed that the celebration should be held at Cooperstown. Stephen C. Clark, president of the Otsego County Historical Society, came up with the idea of creating a baseball museum. Then National League president Ford Frick suggested adding a hall of fame.
Almost everyone today agrees that baseball actually evolved from the British game of rounders and that Doubleday had nothing to do with the game’s invention (in fact, he was at West Point preparing to become a Civil War hero in 1839). Yet that does not detract from the beautiful setting that is Cooperstown, named after the father of novelist James Fenimore Cooper. Early versions of baseball were played in the small towns of America, and the value of Cooperstown,