Your Guide to Baseball Hall of Fame Weekend in Cooperstown

The Baseball Hall of Fame will induct five new members on Sunday, July 30th, 2017 in Cooperstown, New York. The festivities are set to begin on July 28th and run through the 31st. Like the All-Star game and the World Series, Hall of Fame Induction Weekend is something every baseball fan looks forward to each year. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are planning on attending the festivities.

Finding Parking Is Tough

Parking is going to be tough. Cooperstown has a population of about 2,500 people. LastBaseball Hall year about 45-50,000 people came to see Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. get inducted. You do the math. So if you are planning on coming it’s best to get into town early enough to find a spot. By early I mean 6am if you want to get a good spot. The later you are the farther you’ll have to walk from where you parked. We’re talking miles.

Finding A Hotel Is Even Tougher

Hotel and accommodations. If you didn’t book a reservation the week after last year’s induction weekend ended then you’re not going to find anything close to town. I booked a room seven miles outside of town the week after last year. Two months later they cancelled on me. By that time I had to look elsewhere and the best I could find was something 45 minutes away. That was in August. That’s how fast it fills up.

But Baseball Hall of Fame Weekend Is Worth It!

If you venture to Cooperstown for the weekend you won’t regret it. Every year there’s about three dozen or so Hall of Famers who do autograph shows throughout town. Prices vary but they’re not too expensive, depending on who you want. Dennis Eckersley, Pete Rose, and Goose Gossage will run you about $40-60 for a signed ball. Others like Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson demand up to $300 for a single autograph. If you Google “autograph signings Cooperstown 2017” you’ll find a list of companies sponsoring these signings. They list their prices and sell tickets in advance. I’ve already purchased about eight so I won’t have to stand in line as long. I suggest you do the same.

Non-Baseball Hall of Famers Are The Highlight

Last year as I walked down Main Street I met former Negro Leaguers, old ladies who played in the All-American Girls Professional League in the 1940s, and former MLBers who didn’t quite have the numbers to get inducted. THESE people are the ones you want to stop and talk to. In addition to charging very little (if at all) for their autograph (maybe $10 at the most), they tell the best stories. The original Frank Thomas, who played for the Mets in their first year in 1962, loves chatting with fans. Pedro Sierra, who played in the Negro Leagues in the early 1950s, signed a ball for me in the most beautiful handwriting I’ve ever seen on a baseball. George Foster, the NL MVP in 1977, has a great sense of humor. These are the people you want to seek out and talk to. They’ll chat with you all day!

In addition to the Baseball Hall of Fame itself, check out the many stores open all weekend. You’ll see a lot of junk but you’ll also see a lot of neat things. Yastrzemski Sports in the center of town has a treasure trove of baseball cards old and new. Across the street is Mickey’s, another great spot if you need a good baseball cap. And don’t forget the great places to eat up and down Main Street.

See you there! (Don’t forget sunscreen!)

Induction Weekend Drew Over 50K to Cooperstown

The National Baseball Hall of Fame induction weekend drew over 50,000 fans this year. Fans from Seattle, Cincinnati, and New York City came to the small upstate New York town to see Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. receive their induction plaques. Despite high-priced hotel rooms and even higher temperatures, it was one of his largest turnouts ever for an induction.

Cooperstown has a population of only about 2400 people. There are many hotels in theinduction weekend drew area, but they command a starting price of $1000 for three nights during HoF weekend. Even with that kind of money it is hard to get a reservation within 20 miles of the town. Once you’re there though, it becomes clear that the effort is worth it. I arrived Friday morning after leaving Boston at 6am. After finding parking, I spent the entire three days in town. I met dozens of Hall of Famers, and browsed all the stores. I bought books, a few jerseys, and a lot of hot dogs.

I paid good money to meet former players and get their autographs. While their signatures are expensive, for many, the money goes to charity. For example, Fergie Jenkins, a one-time Red Sox pitcher, charges only $30 for his signature. According his website, the money goes to humanitarian needs. Last year saw Pedro Martinez, a Red Sox favorite, got inducted. He charges $169 for his autograph so I skipped him. Martinez’s induction last year attracted thousands of Red Sox fans to Cooperstown. It was great to see so many people wearing number 45.

While this year’s induction weekend drew over 50,000 fans to Cooperstown, I can tell you that almost every one of them felt singled out by Piazza and Griffey’s speeches when they talked about the fans. Between the large crowd, and the two amazing inductees, this induction weekend turned out to be one of the best ever.

Induction Weekend Drew Many Non-Hall of Famers Too

There were many non-Hall of Famers there too. Even though induction weekend drew tens of thousands, I found myself alone in the Cooperstown Bat Store on Main Street Friday Sunday. It’s there I got to talk to George Foster for a while, a very nice and funny man. The former Cincinnati Reds outfielder caught Carlton Fisk’s ball off the foul pole in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Foster kept the baseball in his garage for almost 25 years before giving it up for auction. It sold for $113,000 in 1999. I asked him how he felt when he grabbed the ball.

“Were you like, ‘Damnit!’ or what?” I asked.

“I don’t use that kind of language.”

“Oh sorry. Were you like, ‘Darn it!’?”

“I was like, ‘Darn it, I’m hungry! We just played 12 straight!'” Jokes aside, Foster suggested that the team knew there was likely going to be a seventh game because Boston played so hard.