By LIBBY CUDMORE & JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – As many as 90,000 fans were anticipated in Cooperstown for this year’s July 26 Induction of Yankees’ superstar Derek Jeter.
But instead of a potential record-breaking crowd, USA Today revealed this week, the Clark Sports Center field may be empty.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic raging across the country – with 292,000 cases in New York – there is little choice but to push it back a year and combine the two Hall of Fame classes,” baseball columnist Bob Nightengale posted Tuesday, April 28, on usatoday.com.
“If that is the case, postponing is probably the best-case scenario,” said Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch. “I had a hard time envisioning that there would be any mass gathering prior to antibody testing or a vaccine.”
Though Jon Shestakofsky, Hall vice president/communications & education, said Nightengale’s piece is “not entirely accurate,” he did say the Hall of Fame board of directors will be meeting this week, and “at some point this week we should have a decision to share.”
County board Chairman, Dave Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, said despite challenges to the column’s accuracy, “we’re curious to see what they actually come out with. Obviously, it would be a disappointment for everyone if it doesn’t happen, but it’s not surprising given the current circumstances.”
“I’m not surprised,” said Vinnie Russo, owner of Mickey’s Place and dean of the Main Street merchants. “At a minimum I thought it would be delayed until the fall.”
With 600 hotel rooms in Greater Cooperstown and another 1,000 rooms in Oneonta getting a four-day premium of perhaps $1,000 each, he estimated that lost revenue alone as heading toward $2 million.
Mickey’s Place, which sells premium baseball caps, is open year ’round, but “if your business opens your door on Memorial Day and closes Labor Day, it’s substantially greater than that.”
County Rep. Andrew Marietta, Cooperstown/Town of Otsego, the senior Democrat on the county board, said he wasn’t surprised either and, with the COVID-19 budget crunch, the county board was otherwise occupied.
“From the county’s perspective,” he added, “I didn’t hear any talk about there not being an Induction. I don’t even think it’s been on the table. The county is focused on preparing for (reductions) in funding.”
According to Nightengale, the Hall dismissed the idea of a “virtual” ceremony early on.
“Half of the feeling of Induction is just being there,” said Tillapaugh. Still, perhaps merchants could use the summer without baseball to “re-imagine” their businesses.
“Many businesses have an online component that may tide them over,” she said. “We can use this as a regrouping year, and have a safe induction