June 12th, 1939: The Baseball Hall of Fame Opens in Cooperstown

Baseball Hall of Fame 1

Most people say that baseball is America’s sport. Not football, not soccer. Nope, it’s baseball. Kids are raised on baseball, playing Little League and watching the MLB. What most people don’t know, however, is that the origin of the game remained unclear for many years. It took quite a lot of research and verification to determine that we have a guy named Abner Doubleday to thank for its creation. First of all — what a name. Abner Doubleday. He was a Union Army officer. In fact, he was the very officer whose command signaled the first shots of the Civil War at Fort Sumter. Modern baseball, on the other hand — the baseball we know and love today — saw its beginning in 1839 in Cooperstown, New York, which we know thanks to a major leaguer A.G. Spalding, who led a researching body on the subject.

What started as a small-town tradition blossomed quickly into a major national pastime and soon enough, Major League Baseball was born. It would not only become a defining aspect of our country, but it would also go on to rescue the town of its genesis in the years to follow. Looks like baseball is Cooperstown, New York’s saving grace.

Not many people have heard of Cooperstown, New York unless it’s thanks to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The small town is situated between the Catskills and the Adirondacks, and, like many places in America, was hit hard during the Great Depression. The local economy was falling apart. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, as the entire nation began to struggle under the weight of economic failure. Families who had called Cooperstown home for generations were leaving in droves, hoping to find a better life in bigger cities and other parts of the country.

What better way to end a story about the Great Depression than with a local hero? Cooperstown, New York has Stephen C. Clark to thank for its revival. It was his overwhelming desire to restore economic growth in his hometown paired with his initiative to protect the national pride in the game of baseball. Clark petitioned Ford C. Frick, the president of the National League, to establish a baseball hall of fame in Cooperstown. Spoiler alert: Frick gave is approval and the Hall of Fame was successfully established in 1936. The first induction ceremony took place in the same year — even before the foundation for the building was laid — and they welcomed baseball’s greats, including Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, as its inaugural inductees. And, after three years of construction, the building that is still the home of the Hall of Fame officially opened its doors to the public. Just like that, history was born.

Perhaps its the history behind the Baseball Hall of Fame and the game in general that makes it America’s sport. It was born on this soil and, in some ways, it saved this soil. If it hadn’t been for baseball and the nationalism of Stephen C. Clark, Cooperstown, New York would have kept struggling through the Great Depression. And to this day, the Baseball Hall of Fame draws visitors from all around the globe. It stands as a symbol not only for one of America’s greatest traditions but also for the strength of America’s people.