Opinion: Greats of Coopertown

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

Two weeks ago my wife Tammy and I took our pilgrimage to the Baseball Hall of Fame in upstate Cooperstown.

As devoted fans of the game, we periodically renew our affection for the history of America’s great pastime by visiting the museum where the greatest of the great are enshrined for generations to see. Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, Koufax, Mays, Seaver, Griffey, Piazza and scores of others. Immortals of baseball for sure.

Cooperstown is also a wonderful and quaint village, smaller than Stuyvesant Town. Nestled along Glimmerglass Lake, it is bucolic and it is politically conservative as is much of upstate New York. The Hall of Fame Museum is about a 15-minute stroll from our hotel. As we left for our walk, I was as psyched as a Little Leaguer, anticipating seeing all the new exhibits and to relive baseball memories from years gone by.

But like life itself, our plans were interrupted by the unexpected.

Up ahead we heard a commotion, faint sounds of chanting and long blocks of people carrying placards, too distant to read.

Of course being a native New York City fellow, I am used to spontaneous demonstrations on our Manhattan streets. But sleepy Cooperstown where the residents keep to themselves and quietly welcome their visitors with a smile? Rural New York is no hotbed of political activism.

As we neared the marchers we could finally hear the words and read the signs: “Love not hate makes America great” and “Immigrants are welcome here.” Several hundred Cooperstown residents had joined the tens of thousands from around the country that day protesting the president’s policies that demonizes immigrants and separated children, even babies, from their parents with no clear plan as to how to reunite them.

Wow! If such outrage is felt in Cooperstown then it’s not just a liberal or downstate issue. So we joined the line of demonstrators to support the Cooperstown faithful. Along the route we were greeted by spectators who gave us the thumbs up and not the middle finger as I might have expected in this conservative enclave.

About 20 minutes later, we continued our way to the Hall of Fame museum. Inside I celebrated at the images of baseball greats and their historic feats. I thrilled once again watching Reggie Jackson hit three home runs in a row to clinch the 1977 World Series for the Yankees. I marveled at Cal Ripkin doing the impossible by eclipsing the record of 2130 consecutive games played, and Henry Aaron belting home run number 715 to break Babe Ruth’s revered career milestone.

Yes, the Hall of Fame was terrific. But what gave us goose bumps was the compassion and humanity shown by the great folks of Cooperstown. They rose up to embrace desperate families seeking safety in our country. They demonstrated American generosity and values, insisting that our nation be better than this White House. That is what I will remember most of all. It was our best day ever in Cooperstown.

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