Cooperstown VIPs savor Museum Experience

Fans who love the National Pastime and are looking for a unique way to experience the game’s long and varied history now have that opportunity thanks to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s VIP Experience.

On select dates throughout the spring and fall, this special two-day program – which is partnered with Cooperstown-area accommodations - allows visitors special behind-the-scenes opportunities at the Cooperstown institution. Among the highlights of this unique package, which is bookended by Thursday evening exclusive after-hours access and a Friday afternoon private reception, are a library archive tour and a Museum collections artifact presentation.

History in Cooperstown

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During a mid-October VIP Experience this fall, a group of approximately 60 guests, sporting special credentials around their necks and oftentimes wearing caps and shirts of their favorite team, could be seen awestruck and wide-eyed as they tried to soak in as much as possible.

“It’s been exciting,” said John King, a Stafford, Va., resident who received his VIP Experience as a 65th birthday gift from his wife. “Being almost 65 I don’t get out and play baseball anymore but I love the game so much. When I come here, I take the time to go back to the earlier periods when you start filling in all the pieces of how it came to be.

“I really enjoyed this experience,” he added. “It’s interesting how history has really paralleled America’s pastime.”

King, a retired civil servant from the Pentagon who survived the terrorist acts of 9/11, recalled that horrendous day and its Hall of Fame connection: “After watching on television from my boss’ office the second plane hit the building, I told the staff at the time that the Pentagon was going to go on high alert and we were probably the next target. And about 20 minutes later, the plane hit the building, went right underneath us. At the time I had my picture of Mickey Mantle and me shaking hands on my desk. Mickey was always my favorite baseball player.”

Seeing the artifacts

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On this particular October day, the Hall of Fame Library archive tour, presented by white-gloved Librarian Jim Gates, showcased such items as a promissory note between New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox as partial payment for Babe Ruth, the 1859 by-laws of the Harlem Base Ball Club, a gold record of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello’s famous “Who’s On First” routine, New York Giants announcer Russ Hodges’ scorecard of the final 1951 National League regular-season playoff between Brooklyn and New York, and the 1867 book “Base Ball As Viewed By a Muffin.”

“I was telling my travel companion that just being on the Library tour and hearing the stories, gosh, I could sit there all day long and never be bored,” said Matt Takaki from San Jose, Calif. “Literally, as long as he wanted to talk about things and people were interacting with questions, I’d sit there all day long.”

I’m just blown away. I certainly got more out of it than just doing the typical tourist thing and just walking through the Museum.

Matt Takaki on his VIP Experience

Takaki, a Bay Area baseball fan of both the A’s and Giants, was visiting Cooperstown in the midst of San Francisco’s improbable run to the World Series title.

“I wanted to take a trip up here so I was just looking for a time to fit it on the calendar. I’ve been a baseball fan my whole life and I’ve wanted to come here my whole life, so it only took, as far as I can remember, probably 45 years to get here,” Takaki added. “I’m just blown away. I certainly got more out of it than just doing the typical tourist thing and just walking through the Museum. I think you get quite a bit more background and different angles of baseball in general and the history. A lot of time I really didn’t think about the history so much, and this has certainly puts a lot of things in context.”

The Museum collections artifact presentation, led by Manager of Digital and Outreach Learning Bruce Markusen in the Bullpen Theater, told the stories of a cowbell belonging to longtime Brooklyn Dodgers fan Hilda Chester, a jersey worn by Braves pitcher Warren Spahn for his 305th career victory, Hall of Fame pitcher Rube Waddell’s shillelagh, a cowboy hat given to Oakland outfielder Joe Rudi by A’s manager Charlie Finley in 1972, and a bat used by Lou Gehrig in the 1937 All-Star Game.

“This has been fantastic,” said Ron Klingsick, who, along with wife Shirley, made the trip to Cooperstown from Arp, Texas. “I’m a longtime baseball fan, more knowledgeable than most anybody I know about baseball, and I did not know some of the things I learned about during this trip.”

“The artifact visit and the library were very interesting,” added Shirley Klingsick.

A gift to remember

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According to Ron Klingsick, a pastor at a Baptist church, the couple’s VIP Experience was gift from his congregation as recognition for 20 years of good service.

“We’re longtime baseball fans,” said Ron Klingsick. “We’ve gone to a stadium of every franchise. Our girls all knew that what we do for vacations in the summertime is go to ballgames. And we said all along we wanted to come to Cooperstown. Luckily, I’ve got a longtime administrative assistant that called our daughter and our daughter said this is one thing mom and dad really want to do.”

“And we would come back in a minute, and probably will sometime. It’s wonderful,” Shirley Klingsick added. “And our girls will want to come when Derek Jeter gets elected.”

Book yours today

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The special VIP Experience package, which also includes a Hall of Fame Sustaining Membership ($100 value), is only available through participating Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce accommodations on select dates. The 2015 VIP Experience schedule dates include Feb. 19-20, March 19-20, April 23-24, and May 7-8. Select accommodations are August Lodge, The Cooper Inn, Cooperstown Bed and Breakfast, Doubleday Campground, The Inn at Cooperstown, Landmark Inn, Holiday Inn Oneonta, Owl's Landing Bed and Breakfast, Otesaga Resort Hotel, The Rose and Thistle Bed and Breakfast, and The White House Inn.

For more information, please contact the Museum's Membership Department at 607-547-0397.

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