Of Baseball, Beer, Bats and Caves

Well, I just got back from another successful excursion to Upstate New York for some much-needed rest & relaxation, and I even got some writing done while up there, too.  The weather was perfect – sunny with patchy clouds and blue skies, a cool breeze and mid-60 degree temperatures – and the water was high and gently rushing down the mountains from the recent thaw.  The roads and hills were once again open for the taking.

Some highlights from this time around included:

  • Randomly being in the right place at the right time to see Hall of Fame Pitcher/Broadcaster Bert Blyleven have a chat with fans.  The guy was amiable, funny and brutally honest.  I especially enjoyed his diatribe on the “wussification” of current pitchers.  Blyleven hates the idea of holding them to pitch counts and thinks that lifting weights and not pitching nearly enough innings prevents them from developing the necessary elasticity to weather arm strain and fatigue.  If anyone should know, it’s a guy who pitched successfully for over 20 years.  Blyleven praised guys like Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee (go Phillies!) for bucking this trend and starting every game with the desire to finish it.  He was also a great storyteller by weaving in tales of his Dutch parents coming to America through Canada, finally settling in Southern California and of his childhood sneaking onto the field at Angels’ stadium after the lights went out.  Blyleven will be part of the new class of Hall of Famers inducted this July.
  • A visit to Howe Caverns.  Located about half-way between Albany and Cooperstown, Howe Caverns is a great place to check out if you are looking to kill a few hours.  It’s a bit touristy and I’m not sure that the corporation that currently owns it has done the best job at keeping it pristine, but you still can’t beat the natural wonders on display as you walk the equivalent of twelve city blocks while being hundreds of feet underground in an elaborate limestone cave system.  Our tour guide was especially knowledgable, friendly, and frank – detailing the cave’s history and revealing at one point that the caverns are “unadvertised” as being ground zero for the recent “White-Nose” epidemic that has ravaged the bat populations between the Mississippi and the Atlantic.  All in all, if you’re like me and want the cave experience in a controlled, safe environment without all the crawling, spelunking and diving…Howe Caverns is the place to go.

Below you will find pictures taken inside Howe Caverns – the best ones being those I captured while looking up and walking through the narrow “Winding Way.”  Cooperstown served as my home base while venturing out further into the hills and surrounding areas – including a dreadfully beautiful afternoon drive out to the quaint Vernon Downs racetrack and casino.  I’ve probably photographed Cooperstown to death over the years, so with the few photos I took this time around, I tried to capture new details or highlight familiar spots in new ways – i.e. twilight shots of Lake Otsego and Sleeping Lion Mountain.

As always, if you plan to vacation in Cooperstown or just pass through on the way to somewhere else, the nicely appointed Tunnicliff Inn (on Main & Pioneer) can’t be beat for prime location (you can literally toss a baseball to the Hall of Fame) and old-tymey charms (complete with slanted and creaking floors) while local watering holes like Cooley’s Tavern (on Pioneer Street) or The Doubleday Cafe (on Main Street) are the perfect spots even in the off-season to enjoy a burger, down some locally brewed Ommegang Beer, watch a game and chat it up with out-of-towners and townies alike – including the classic “Bearded Conspiracy-Theorist Guy” and “Ironic Local Who Hates Baseball.”

Written and Photographed by David H. Schleicher



  1. Ah, this brings back memories! Thanks for writing about your trip. I remember a school field trip to Howe’s Caverns when I was in junior high, long before it got really touristy. I found it an eerie experience. Glad to see the Glimmerglass as beautiful as ever. Cooperstown is worth a visit whether or not you’re a baseball fan. We frequently visited during the summer, and made one trip in December for Christmas shopping in the shops. It’s nice to hear someone really enjoy that area of the world.

    Cinda – I envy your childhood in such wonderful environs. –DHS

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