By Greg Klein • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN — More than 100 people celebrated baseball and paid tribute to the longtime caretaker of Doubleday Field on Monday, Sept. 6, in a special anniversary celebration and memorial dedication.
Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh made note of the “Doubleday myth,” which claimed the first game of baseball was played on a cow pasture in Cooperstown.
“We now know that is a myth created by the Mills Commission,” she said, “but what we’re here to celebrate today is the creation of Doubleday Field and there is no myth about that.”
The village also dedicated a bench outside the stadium to Joe Harris, the former Doubleday Field supervisor and town of Middlefield supervisor, who died May 25. Harris worked for the village from 1979 to 2021, taking care of Doubleday for most of that time.
“He took great pride in his work, not just in the appearance and maintenance of this field, but also in his professional interaction with teams and the Hall of Fame,” Tillapaugh said.
State Sen. Peter Oberacker, R-Schenevus, gave the village a proclamation from the Senate and also made a special presentation to Cooperstown Central School teacher Anne Reis. In 2015, Reis’s then fourth-grade class successfully petitioned Oberacker’s predecessor, James Seward, to sponsor a bill to make baseball the official sport of New York. It took six years and a new state Senator, but the law finally passed this year and was signed into law a month ago.
“You are all now part of New York state history, believe it or not,” he said.
It was the first bill Oberacker sponsored as a Senator and the he sponsored first to be passed, so he brought individual proclamations for Reis, her 17 students and then librarian Sita Fey. Oberacker told them they had gotten a glimpse into the legislative process, since they are entering 10th grade this week.
“The wheels of government do turn slowly at times, but you can’t keep a good idea down forever,” he said.
Incoming Hall of Fame President Josh Rawitch spoke about the history of the field. Rawitch mentioned the baseball legends who had played at Doubleday, including Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle, as well as more recent legends, such as Frank Thomas and Dave Winfield.
“This is a very, very, very special day here in the community and to be a part of history, 101 years, it is hard to put into words,” Rawitch said. “Under normal circumstances, I’d say we’d probably have a whole lineup or people here from the Hall of Fame, but we have a little thing going on Wednesday that has been taking up some of our time.”
Although the Hall of Fame Classic game and Induction Award Presentation at Doubleday were canceled the past two years because of the coronavirus pandemic, Rawitch said he expects to see Hall activities return to Doubleday in 2022.