What with the excellent news that Craig Biggio has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame (and that euphoria slightly dampened by Bagwell's non-election), it's time that you had someone tell you what's what regarding Hall of Fame Weekend 2015.
Why me? I was employed by the Baseball Hall of Fame from 2006-2009, and loved every minute of it. Why did I leave? It was too cold, too far from family back in Texas. Summer in Cooperstown is beautiful; it's the other 49 weeks out of the year that are brutal.
So, allow me to help you plan your weekend.
If you are planning on flying to Cooperstown and don't have a private jet, you'll need to book your flight through either Albany or Syracuse. The Albany airport is about 80 minutes from Cooperstown once you pick up your car. Syracuse is about two hours from Cooperstown. Be careful getting on the Thruway, their version of the EZ-Tag makes you drive through the scanner at 5mph. How do I know this? My wife was the recipient of two tickets 21 minutes apart as she sped through at 70mph on the way to and from the airport.
So yeah, if you're flying, you'll need to rent a car.
If you're driving, you'll naturally have a car. On Thursday, July 23 it would be possible for you to see the Orioles play at Yankee Stadium at 1:05pm and the Dodgers play at CitiField or whatever it's called at 7:10pm. And since you crap gold coins, you'll need a hotel in NYC because Cooperstown is about five hours northwest of the city, and Hall of Fame Weekend starts that Friday morning.
There are a couple of hotels south of Cooperstown, but you should have booked them a while ago. From what The Batguy tells me, hotels are booked all the way to Oneonta - about a half-hour's drive from Cooperstown. You can check hotels in Utica/New Hartford, which is about 45 minutes away (here's a Holiday Inn Express for $192/night in Utica), or there's a lovely little Holiday Inn Express in Schoharie, between Cooperstown and Albany.
If you're Doing It Up Right, you can stay at one of the many bed & breakfasts in Cooperstown, but time is of the essence. With Pedro and Smoltz getting in, Red Sox and Braves fans are going to be everywhere, trying to out-neckbeard each other. I would recommend you have some friends who live in Cooperstown, and stay with them for free.
You need to understand that Cooperstown is small. Really small. There's one traffic light. When you arrive at your lodgings in Cooperstown, park your car and don't plan on moving it. You won't really need to. Also going on this summer is Dreams Park, in which eleventy-billion little league teams descend weekly on a baseball complex south of town, all of them with Kanye-sized entourages of grandmothers, high-maintenance moms, and dads who are either there to (a) live vicariously through their sons or (b) pound as much beer as they possibly can. You will be fighting them for lodging and restaurant space.
There are a number of great little places to eat, and it's been a few years since I've been back. Here are my main points of interest for eating in Cooperstown:
*Stagecoach Coffee on Pioneer Street. Equally great for coffee, breakfast and lunch, I recommend The Unusual (tomato, avocado, and cream cheese on a bagel - something I still make for breakfast at least once a week) and the Tanzania Peaberry coffee (the only coffee I have ever ordered online).
*Cooley's Stone House Tavern, also on Pioneer but across Main Street. Right around the corner from the Hall of Fame. Beer on tap and good wings/burgers. I saw a Yankees fan get dropped like 4th Period French with one punch by an A's fan after mouthing off about Dick Williams in Cooley's.
*Alex & Ika. This is where you'll want to take your significant other at some point during the weekend for dinner as repayment for dragging them around a town built on baseball myth. Be prepared to drop some cash (but it's worth it). I sang Radiohead's "Creep" at the top of my dadgum lungs here on New Year's Eve 2008.
*Cooperstown Diner, Main Street. One of the smallest diners you'll ever come across, great for breakfast.
*Doubleday Cafe. Beers on tap, and the home of my favorite wings in Cooperstown.
Hall of Fame Weekend
I went through three inductions, and I only ever saw an Inductee just walking around once - Cal Ripken, Jr - who was predictably mobbed by kids and autograph-hounds. So don't plan on having beers with Biggio while you're there.
That said, a number of Hall of Famers will be happy to sit along Main Street and charge you money for the pleasure of their signature. One time, my friend Matt was walking into Stagecoach on Induction Weekend and I yelled "Hey that's Red Sox prospect Matt (surname)!" and just sat back and enjoyed watching 20 people ask him for his autograph on a baseball.
There are free events all weekend long. Some are cool, some are a good opportunity to sit down in some air-conditioning on the off-chance it passes for "hot" that weekend. The main thing to remember is that the Induction Ceremony itself (Sunday, July 26, 1:30pm Eastern) is free to the public. With the cast of players earning induction that day, I would expect Biggio to be first - because they'll either take it alphabetically, or by "importance." Also note that the Induction Ceremony is at the Clark Sports Center - not the Hall of Fame. They'll be running shuttles but, trust me, just walk.
Stay for Monday. They haven't released a schedule yet, but there's typically a HOFer roundtable on Monday, so you'll get to hear Biggio talk a little bit.
Tuesday evening, July 28, Tri-City (the Astros' NYPL short-season affiliate) will play West Virginia at The Joe in Troy, NY. If you fly in/out of Albany, it's not far from where you can stay close to the airport.
Is it worth it?
It really is. Cooperstown is a bucket-list experience, and we can all hang out and watch Biggio get enshrined in baseball immortality. It might be the best day for Astros fans in the last ten years, and who knows when we'll get to do it all over again for Bagwell.