My Hall of Fame Halloween

by Lisa Dinsmore
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HOFViewMy husband and I are not fans of Halloween. I hate dressing up - clearly I lack a sense of whimsy and the need to pretend to be something I am not. Or maybe I'm just content with who I am. You can be the judge. His birthday is three days before and his childhood parties were always black and orange-themed and required a costume. You'd think all the free candy would balance the drag of dressing up, but as the years went by his hatred only grew. Since we don’t have children avoiding this holiday is pretty simple…just turn the lights off and stay away from the front door.

Or go to visit relatives. We usually visit our families back East once a year and had the great luck, unbeknownst to us, to find ourselves in the quaint hamlet of Cooperstown, NY on Halloween in 2006. We honestly didn't even think about it. We were on vacation so the days just ran together. It was just the day we happened to be there. We didn't even realize it WAS Halloween until we entered the Baseball Hall of Fame.

We are big fans of America's past time and we were determined on this trip to actually take some time to see something new for once. If you've never been to the Birthplace of Baseball, well, you are really missing out. Walking around Cooperstown is like stepping back in time. It's small town America at its' best. No chains, no fast food, no big hotels. Just mom & pop small businesses - most with a baseball theme - centuries old stately homes and a fancy restaurant or two that have been providing fare since before our grandparents were born.

HOFTreatsThe Hall of Fame is the clear draw, but Lake Otsego gives it some competition for beauty and grandeur. It's not like the town was overly decorated for the holiday - there's nothing garish allowed here - so we were a bit taken aback when we entered the Hall after lunch and everyone was in costume...and not old-time baseball uniforms. It took us a minute, but then we had a good laugh. It was a weekday, so we were practically the only people in the building. We were on a mission to see the memorabilia from the 2004 World Series where our beloved Red Sox finally broke the curse. (Yep that’s Schilling’s bloody sock). Then 3pm hit and we were no longer alone…and the trick or treating began.

Kids in costume are allowed to come into the Hall for FREE (with their parents of course) and are sent around the museum to collect candy. We were in the main Gallery, when the festivities kicked off. The costumed staff members (we knew there must have been a point) gave out candy in front of the plaques of various Hall of Fame players that corresponded to their nicknames. Some were pretty obvious - Baby Ruth for The Babe, O Henry's for Hank Aaron, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups for Pee Wee Reese - but other's had to be explained to me. They gave Three Musketeers bars out near the plaques of three Cubs players from 1908-1912 - Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance - who played the infield together and were the best double-play combination of their time, as well as the subject of a famous poem called “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon.” There’s nothing like a little history with your candy.

After the kids drain the Hall dry of candy they wander around the town and trick or treat at all of the other small business along Main Street. We tried to escape the craziness by grabbing a bite and a beer (our first Yuengling!) in the Pit, the basement bar in the Tunnicliff Inn, but that was not to be. In comes the costumed youngsters, strolling up to the bar to get their equivalent of an evening high. It’s not behavior most parents would generally encourage, but all the staff and patrons clearly knew one another. The bartender had set up a smoky cauldron with a hand that popped out when you tried to reach in to get your piece of candy. I think he may have traumatized some of those kids for life…though we were highly amused. Trick AND treat…touché Mr. Bartender.

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Once it got good and dark everyone headed outside to watch the “parade” which was really just a few floats (clearly decorated and populated by high school students) led by the local firetruck. It began in front of the Hall of Fame and ended about a half mile later, but everyone was welcome to be part of the show and parade through the center of town showing off their scary/cool duds.

We got a few bemused looks as we meandered through the crowd. Costume-less and childless we definitely stuck out. I think we were the only tourists in town. It certainly appeared that way and yet, we actually felt the magic engendered by the traditions of this holiday. It was celebrated with such uninhibited joy by this close-knit community, it was hard not to get swept up in the fun. If you’re anywhere near Cooperstown on Halloween, it’s a must stop, especially if you have young children. You don’t have to love baseball to fall in love with this place.


- The Baseball Hall of Fame Halloween Celebration is from 3-4:30pm. / 25 Main Street, Cooperstown, NY 13326

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