Waller: Ceremony Was Spectacular

Letter from Bill Waller

Ceremony Was Spectacular

I was fortunate to be invited by a member of the Cooperstown Board of Trustees to the Commissioning Ceremony for the USS Cooperstown. We drove to New York City Friday in order to attend the early-morning breakfast hosted by the New York Council of the Navy League.

The breakfast was attended by a wide variety of people: various boatbuilding officials, elected officials, New York Navy League members, family members of crew and numerous white-uniformed Navy personnel. Admirals and aides with cords festooned on their shoulders were available to anyone that wanted to talk.

I was fortunate to speak with Carlos Del Toro, secretary of the Navy, Fred Stefarry III, assistant secretary of the Navy for ships, Commander Daxton Moore, commanding officer, USS Cooperstown, Commander Patrick Earls, executive officer of the Cooperstown, Vice Admiral John Mustin, and other officers and personnel. They were all enthusiastic about the Cooperstown and many had visited with their families on baseball trips.

The Commissioning Ceremony was conducted on a beautiful sunny day at Pier 88 with the brand new USS Cooperstown tied up in front of us. The Navy Band played and there were many NAVY ROTC students lined up as honor guards. A number of Naval Academy and Merchant Marine cadets were in attendance.

Speeches were short. Governor Kathy Hochul spoke about how proud New York was. Secretary Del Toro spoke of his New York City heritage, Joe Torre about his team and teamwork, and our Jane Clark talked about the heritage and stories of the 70 baseball greats that paused or gave up their careers to join up. Players like Ted Williams, Yogi Berra, recipient of two Purple Hearts, and Bob Feller, giving up his high-paid contract to become a Chief Petty Officer, signing up only two days after Pearl Harbor.

At the reception following the ceremony, I was able to talk with the grandson of Yogi and many family members of the officers and crews. Many Cooperstown locals were there representing the village, members of the Board of Trustees and the mayor. I was so proud to live in the village that shares the name of this great ship and her crew.

I even had a personal tour of the ship, seeing the Bob Feller Act of Valor award mounted on the bridge and his uniform and bat displayed in a glass case right outside the captain’s office. It is an impressive ship with a top speed of almost 50 miles per hour.

The ship and the people were wonderful, but I would be remiss to not thank Jane Clark. She was instrumental in convincing the former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to honor those 70 Hall of Famers who left baseball to serve. These years later we have a ship named the USS Cooperstown in honor of those 70 and it is greatly due to her efforts. Thank you Jane Clark for all that you have done.

Bill Waller

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