A few days before everything shut down, we went to dinner at the Doubleday Cafe to remember my father on his birthday. It had been his favorite restaurant.
My son’s girlfriend works with a tourism group in Cooperstown. She told us that night, “They said if the Dreams Park closes, it will kill Cooperstown.” The Dreams Park hosts over 100 Little League teams every week over the summer for tournaments and a Cooperstown experience.
Two days after our dinner, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced they were closing until further notice due to the pandemic.
The next week, Governor Cuomo put the state on “pause.” All non-essential businesses closed.
A week later, the Dreams Park announced that they were closing for the summer of 2020.
Last week the Baseball Hall of Fame announced that the Induction Ceremony for Derek Jeter would be postponed until 2021.
On the day before the announcement, USA Today ran this headline:
Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony expected to be postponed, as Cooperstown weeps
Without downplaying the economic hardship — and it IS a HUGE economic hardship on the community — can I show you what Cooperstown is REALLY doing? It isn’t weeping.
1. Cooperstown is working. More than baseball, the backbone of this community is medicine. Bassett Medical Center is a teaching hospital that has received national recognition for its care to rural communities. What started in a fieldstone building in Cooperstown is now the Bassett Healthcare Network: six hospitals and a large number of smaller clinics covering eight counties. The people at Bassett worked hard to prepare for this pandemic and have worked hard throughout.
2. Cooperstown is showing appreciation. Signs like this one started showing up in yards around the village.
The flip side thanks our first responders.
And people haven’t stopped there. People have made their own signs. They leave their front porch lights on during the night as a thank-you to all the essential workers who haven’t “paused” but have been working harder than ever.
3. Cooperstown is maintaining a sense of humor. Andrew Solomon in his book about depression said, “A sense of humor is the best indicator that you will recover.” I know this isn’t depression, but a sense of humor has a way of steadying the boat in any storm.
The other evening I was feeling a little grumpy and irritable. Mary asked about going for a walk and I reluctantly agreed to “just a short one.”
Two blocks in and we were at Lakefront Park where I saw this:
I burst out laughing. “Let’s go see if James Fenimore Cooper is wearing one, too,” I said, and we raced to Cooper Park.
There he was, wearing a mask and holding a bottle of hand sanitizer on his lap.
“Let’s go check The Sandlot Kid,” Mary said, and we hurried up Main Street to Doubleday parking lot.
He, too, was protected — as was the WWI Doughboy statue:
My short walk turned out to be longer than intended, but my spirits were so much lighter having seen Cooperstown lean into the new face mask mandate.
4. Cooperstown is mourning. I first noticed the flag at half-staff at the empty high school one cold rainy morning when I dropped off school work for my daughter.
The flag on Main Street is at half-staff as well. Cooperstown recognizes the deep sadness and loss that people are experiencing.
While Cooperstown itself has not suffered many deaths from coronavirus (4 according to the Johns Hopkins map today 5/6/2020), the entire population of Cooperstown has been lost at least twelve times over in the state. The number of deaths in the country couldn’t fit into Yankee Stadium. It’s a sobering thought. I think that’s why it was a unanimous decision at the Hall of Fame to postpone the induction ceremony this year. In addition to all the safety concerns, Derek Jeter played for the New York Yankees. His fans have lost family, neighbors, co-workers, and friends to this terrible pandemic. It’s no time for celebration. Today we mourn. Next year we will celebrate.
5. Cooperstown is pulling together. “Support local business!” is the rallying cry. I know I’m not alone. As a family we have chosen to spend our stimulus check at local businesses. We “dine out” — aka take-out — from local restaurants once a week. The waiting area at the restaurant we ordered from last night was hopping — spread out, of course, but hopping.
At Easter, I called the local chocolatier and arranged to purchase homemade fudge from her for our Easter baskets. It was a luxury, I know, but if my buying fudge can help one woman stay in business until business-as-usual returns, I’ll buy fudge.
Some businesses have signs in their windows offering video-shopping. Other businesses have simply chosen not to reopen this summer.
It’s going to be a tough year.
But I’m confident we’ll get through.
The other signs that have sprung up around town are these:
Cooperstown will pull together for them, too. Whether it’s a graduation parade in cars down Main Street or some other way to honor and recognize them, we’ll do it.
Safely, of course.
All these closures, cancellations, and postponements won’t kill Cooperstown.
In the wake of the Great Depression, the idea for a baseball museum in Cooperstown was born. At the time no one could imagine where that would take this little village.
It makes me curious as to what could be around the next corner.