COOPERSTOWN – Two weeks before his baseball buddy Richard Faust died, Steve Murfin and his pal were at the annual Baltimore Orioles “Dream Week” in Florida.
“I was talking to my mother on the phone, and I handed the phone to him,” said Murfin. “He told her jokes and made her laugh for 10 minutes, and when she handed the phone back, she said, ‘I love that guy. He’ll never change and that’s great’.”
Faust, 70, who ran the annual Cooperstown tournament for members of the Orioles fantasy camp, died suddenly this past Feb. 27 in Washington D.C.
“He loved Doubleday Field,” said Murfin. “He always wanted his ashes spread here, and although we can’t do that, we’ll have a ceremony for him,” he said. “We loved him, and he loved us.”
COOPERSTOWN – Where some people saw scraps, Jeff Katz and Quinton Hasak saw a fundraising opportunity.
“When the demolition of the third-base bleachers started, the question arose about what we were going to do with them,” said former mayor Jeff Katz, now president of the Friends of Doubleday. “They’re not the original bleachers, but they’re still a thing from the field.”
Someone offered to buy the entire pile for $1,000. “It wasn’t ours to sell, but even so, not for that little,” said Katz. “It’s worth more than fill.”
COOPERSTOWN – A lifelong love for everything baseball.
That’s why a small group of men started the Friends of Doubleday in the early 1990s, according to John Rudy, a retired lawyer and now Cooperstown Baseball B&B proprietor, who was present at the creation.
The story of the Friends’ founding began in the summer of 1985 when Rudy, still practicing law in New York City, and 30 other men from all over the country enrolled in a fantasy baseball camp in Cooperstown. This was long before companies like DraftKings came to be, where you could get your fantasy baseball fix from the comfort of your own home. Fantasy baseball camp gave players that exhilarating rush of playing that magnificent old ball game.
“We got our own teams and uniforms. We stayed at The Otesaga. And we all got to play on teams with these former Major League players for three days on Doubleday Field,” he said. “It was incredible.”
Rudy didn’t go to the 1986 camp, but he enrolled in the 1987 one with 50 other guys. That summer, though, things went awry.
COOPERSTOWN – If you’ve ever dreamed of setting foot on historic Doubleday Field, Jeff Katz and the Friends of Doubleday can make that happen.
“People always want to get on the field,” he said. “There’s lots of signage telling people the story of Doubleday, but it doesn’t get them out there.”
The Friends of Doubleday – Katz is president – have begun offering tours 8-9 a.m. every Wednesday and Thursday to take fans through the grandstand, into the dugout and onto the historic field, where they can take pictures or take a run around the bases.
COOPERSTOWN – Future brides, if you dreamed of taking your vows overlooking Doubleday Field and dancing in air-conditioned comfort until the sun comes up, set those dreams aside.
A picnic might be more like it, Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch suggested this evening at a public hearing on $5.8 million in improvements to Doubleday scheduled to begin this spring.
Plans for a two-story building on the third-base line have been scaled back from a venue for weddings and celebrations to a more modest pavilion that echoes the architecture of the historic 1939 grandstand, the mayor told 30 attendees at the second of two public hearings in the Village Hall Ballroom.
The original plan, with its elegant glassed in reception area, was set aside in the back and forth between the village and the state Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, the mayor said. “We’re really excited about it,” she added.
Granted, from the time the first grant for the project was announced on May 21, 2018, the mayor had predicted the final design would be much different, and it is.