In this episode of Ballparks around the world, we pay attention to one of those little gems that you will only find in the USA: Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, NY, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
According to the legend, Abner Doubleday invented the game of baseball and played the first game at the location where Doubleday Field is standing today. And even though we know by now that story about Abner Doubleday is not correct, Doubleday Field still plays a vital role in baseball today. In Cooperstown, it has remained, hallowed ground for almost a century.
The land that was once seen as the birthplace of baseball, was bought in 1917 to build a hospital on it. As the Cooperstowners didn’t like that, the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce’s Playground Committee secured a lease from Alexander Phinney, the current owner of the lot, for the use of the grounds for two years with the option to buy it for the sum of $5,000. Eventually, after a revamp of the swampy area, the first official game was played on the diamond that is now called Doubleday Field. On September 6, 1920, a game between Cooperstown and Milford.
But as the Cooperstown taxpayers voted against the acquisition of the lot in 1920 with 205 votes vs 151. But with the lease set to expire, there was a fundraising effort by a local dentist who even managed to persuade the New York State Governor, who wanted to remain anonymous, to spend money.
Eventually, it took the fundraising committee until 1923 to acquire the piece of land with the help of the Cooperstown taxpayers, who voted authorized the purchase of the field.
In 1924, a wooden grandstand was added and in 1926 and 1927 several purchases were made to enlarge to the lot in favor of an entrance. It took until 1938 before the ballpark got its current look. A new grandstand with a brick facade was erected.
For almost seven decades (1940 – 2008) Doubleday Field hosted the Hall of Fame Game. Originally a contest between “old-timers” teams, it later became an exhibition game between two major league squads. The initiator of these Hall of Fame Games was an All-Star Game that was played in 1939 on June 12, after the first Hall of Fame induction ceremony, that featured ballplayers from every big league team. This appeared to be such a success as it led to the Hall of Fame Games for the next 68 years.
Through the years, the ballpark has seen several changes. In 1959, the first base section of the stands was donated by Tom Yawkey, the owner of the Boston Red Sox. Doubleday Field has seen other changes, including new sections having replaced the old uncovered stands. Only the grandstand that was erected in 1938-1939 remains the untouched part of the ballpark.
As the ballpark has a capacity of 9,791, it could easily house a AAA team. Through the years
Doubleday Field has never been home to a professional club but the New York-Penn League has used the ballpark for an annual game between two of its teams. As the Oneonta Yankees were nearby, they always were the home team. After Oneonta switched affiliations to the Tigers, the Oneonta Tigers was the home team, even after the club moved to Connecticut in 2010. Nowadays, the ballpark is mainly used for legion baseball.
Next year, the hallowed ground will celebrate its 100th anniversary. For the occasion, the village of Cooperstown received a grant of $3 million to upgrade the ballpark. The $3 million will only be a part of a $6 million project to upgrade the ballpark. Parts of the upgrades will be a new third base line building with new bathrooms and a renovation of the historic grandstand.
Here are some impressions of the ballpark (most photos courtesy of Digitial Ballparks):
As you can see on the aerial shot below, Doubleday Field is completely surrounded by urban buildings.