Cooperstown is worth a trip, even during the off-season


Cooperstown, as the Chamber of Commerce folks like to say, is more than baseball.

I’ve been to the National Baseball Hall of Fame several times, most recently four years ago.  I enjoy riding the wave of nostalgia that carries me through the exhibitions, particularly the gallery that houses the famous plaques of the inductees. I remember doing that as a kid wearing my JC Penney plain pockets jeans (my mom thought Levi’s were outlandishly expensive) and striped polo shirt, pointing out certain players with my dad and brother.

Fenimore Art Museum

This past visit to Cooperstown, a couple of Sundays ago, was with Friend G. We visited the Fenimore Art Museum this time around, leaving thoughts of baseball for next spring, and ate lunch in the village afterward.

The museum is a treasure along the shore of Otsego Lake. The golf course of the grand Otesaga Resort Hotel runs up to the museum grounds, and across the street is The Farmers’ Museum.

We visited the art museum because of a special exhibition of portraits by John Singer Sargent, the acclaimed American painter who lived most of his life abroad.  The 20 or so portraits of women show Sargent employing his full powers as he fills the canvas with lustrous shimmering colors of the women’s fine dreses while capturing the character of his subjects, at least the character that the subject wanted to show.

Madame Errazuriz

I especially was taken with a portrait of Madam Errazuriz, a beautiful woman with intelligent eyes and a friendly expression who appears ready to ease out of her seat to greet a visitor (me?).

A couple of early drawings of Madame X, the portrait that was  Sargent’s  favorite but one that almost derailed his career because it was viewed as too provocative, also are on display.

After touring the rest of the exhibitions, including seeing two Ralph Fasanella paintings that I really enjoyed, we walked outside along the short path that skirts the water, and thought of places to eat lunch. 

Some Internet research had turned up the Blue Mingo Grill restaurant, which is attached to a boatyard just up the road on Route 80. Closed for the season, said the woman at the gift shop.  I had heard good things about Nicoletta’s Italian Cafe , but we were too early for that restaurant located  in the heart of the village. 

So we did what any blue-blooded football fan would do during NFL season: We found a bar, ate sandwiches, drank beer, and watched a game.

Friend G had visited Cooley’s Stone House Tavern before, so we did it again. It is just off the main drag, on Pioneer Street. A sign at the top of the outside door says circa 1839, but everything is up-to-date inside. It’s a casual bar/restaurant with a decent selection of sandwiches and beers.

Cooley's

I enjoyed my crispy chicken sandwich drenched in hot sauce, and Friend G had no troubles with his reuben sandwich.

It was a good atmosphere inside, with the bar staff serving a lot of chicken wings to others at the bar, and a couple of families also in the dining area enjoying their meals.

We had a couple of beers served by the bartender wearing a Buffalo Bills cap, poor sod, though he was kind enough to turn off the NASCAR race and turn one of the TVs to the Jets game.

I had much worse luck later on trying to find an establishment where I could watch the final quarter of the Jets game as Gang Green tortured me by letting the Texans back in the contest. I stopped at West Winfield Tavern on Route 20, which had its two TVs both turned to NASCAR, and then Patty’s Pub in Sangerfield, just before the intersection with Route 8. Same story there,  no football to seen, not even the lowly Bills, and no interest in watching football from the NASCAR fans in attendance. 

I guess it was some silly championship race going on, but c’mon. Left turn, left turn, left turn vs. the rough and tumble of the NFL?? So with no radio reception in my car, I had to follow the Jets pull off a stunning victory in the final seconds by  monitoring ESPN on my smartphone while stopped in the parking lot of Quack’s Diner. 

Turns out, luckily,  it was a winning day all around.

Otsego Lake from the grounds of the Fenimore Art Museum

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