No ball ground anywhere captures the aesthetic of baseball as powerfully as Cooperstown’s Doubleday Field at dawn on a flawless summer day.
Ringed with homes of 19th and 20th century vintage, flanked by church spires and stately trees under a dome of blue sky, the mowed and manicured grass of the outfield sparkles as sunbeams play off the remaining drops of water from an early morning shower.
Against the background of a slant-roofed 1930s grandstand, an arc of carefully raked dirt encloses a green spike-pocked infield, broken only by the hump of a pitcher’s mound and chalk baselines leading to white base sacks. This is Doubleday Field – the legendary Cooperstown ballpark and cradle of the national pastime.
Doubleday Field was first conceived and named as a memorial to Major General Abner Doubleday, the man who was though to have invented baseball in Cooperstown in 1839. And while future research showed that baseball evolved rather than “was invented,” the home of baseball remains Cooperstown – with its perfect ballpark.
The site where Doubleday Field stands was a pasture – Phinney Lot – in the latter half of the second decade of the 20th Century when it began regularly hosting ballgames. By 1920, Doubleday Field had become Cooperstown fixture for games – though no grandstand existed.
In preparation for the numerous events it would be hosting following the establishment of the Hall of Fame in 1936, Doubleday Field, thanks to a Works Progress Administration grant, underwent a facelift beginning in 1938. Improvements included building a steel and concrete grandstand, installing new wooden bleachers, seeding the field, laying a drainage system, setting out a new board fence for the outfield and constructing stone masonry for the rest of the facility – which included the third base stands. This work would give the field a seating capacity of nearly 10,000.
In 1959, the first base section of the stands was donated by Thomas Yawkey, owner of the Boston Red Sox. Doubleday Field has seen other changes over the last 60 years, including new sections having replaced the old uncovered stands, and only the grandstand remains from when the refurbished park opened in 1939.
Today, the fabled 9,791-seat ball field, situated between Susquehanna, Pioneer, Elm and Main streets, surrounded in its idyllic setting with quaint houses and majestic trees, is not only home to the Baseball Hall of Fame Classic, it is a destination for baseball fans and baseball teams from around the country.