My Comic-Con Weekend… In Cooperstown

This past week I travelled to the far corner of the country to join thousands of my fellow fans in an annual pilgrimage. It was a trip to the holy land, and a chance to take part in a rite of passage for the "true" fan. It was a magical week of people meeting and mingling with their heroes and idols. A week of autographs and seeking rare collectibles. The streets of the surrounding city were filled with hundreds of people dressed in the colorful costumes of legendary icons.

I am not talking about San Diego's Comic-Con International.

No, these four days of my life were spent (for the most part) in the small village of Cooperstown, NY. Cooperstown is literally in the middle of nowhere, tucked away in the Adirondack mountains of upstate New York. It is also the home of the Major League Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame. You're probably asking yourself why you're reading something about baseball on a comic book website. The two may appear to be on opposite ends of the spectrum, but for me they couldn't be more connected. Baseball and comic books are joined at the hip in the history and culture of the United States. They are both uniquely American innovations, and both have walked in-step with the country for well over a century. Both hobbies/passions may have lost some of their overwhelming popularity in the last few decades, but there is no denying their place in our cultural conscienceness. Spider-Man, Batman and Captain America are as important to our national identity as Babe Ruth and Mom's apple pie.

If you take a closer look, you'll find that baseball fans and comics fans are two sides of the same coin. They love the sport or the medium in general, but after that the great divisions begin. Wolverine or Batman, Dodgers or Giants, Marvel or DC, Cardinals or Cubs? The way you answer those questions or questions like them will define what kind of fan you are and where your allegiances are. The loyalties of fandom and everything that entails are a huge part of both baseball and comicdom. The only arguments to rival those of Yankees and Red Sox fans may be those of DC and Marvel fanatics. At the end of the day, however, being a baseball fan or a comics fan is about loving the game and the art. The sword of rivalry is set aside, and the true love of what we hold ideal is there for the rest of the world to see.

Baseball and comics fans are equally obsessed with history and continuity. Names, numbers and minutia are the lifeblood of our fanaticism. The names of alter egos, sidekicks, HQs and the numbers of key issues are as easy to recall for comics fans as naming the starting lineups of treasured teams, landmark statistical records and the years of championships are for baseball fans. There is also the very obvious (to me anyway) affinity of rooting for men in costume as they perform amazing feats of strength and agility. We are the same. And the longer I'm around comics fans, the more I discover that many of us have an equal love for America's Pastime.

For me, it all started around 1983. That was about the time I fell in love with my great trinity of childhood icons. A dazzling "Wizard" of a Shortstop in Ozzie Smith, an eccentric time traveler in The Doctor, and a short Canadian with Adamantium claws named Wolverine. As a ten year old, my days and nights were spent in a wonderful world where adventures on the baseball diamond mingled with those in the pages of Marvel's Mighty Mutants. Reading comics and loving baseball was never really a conscious choice; it just happened. I grew up at the tail end of a generation where pretty much every kid played baseball and, even if they didn't collect them, had at least owned and read a few comics. l will however admit that being a Doctor Who fan was a little nerdy.

Baseball and comics are an ingrained part of who I am. As a kid I cherished the late night games on the west coast when the St. Louis Cardinals would play the Dodgers, Giants or Padres. Those were the nights I would "softly" listen to games on the radio and read comics by flashlight. Some twenty five years later as an adult that hasn't changed. My wife knows that a west coast trip on the schedule is almost always accomponied by a large stack of comics and several late nights in a row. I still keep the volume down, and she knows that I'd use a flashlight if I had to. Baseball and comics were the chocolate and peanut butter of my youth, and I suppose they still are to this day. If I'm not working or spending time with my wife and dogs, there's about a 99% chance I'm watching a baseball game or reading comics. Or both.

As a baseball fan, going to the Baseball Hall of Fame was guaranteed to fill me with nostalgia and a sense of longing for what I think of as a simpler time. As I walked the halls of that amazing building with my dad, I couldn't help but remember little slices of my youth. It's funny how the snapshots in my memory are littered with comics and baseball. Both fitting perfectly together. I'll never have the same innocent fascination for baseball I did as a kid, and I'll never experience comics that way again either. The game and the comics have changed too much, and I figure I have as well. But for one long weekend in July I was able to recapture a little of that 10 year old. Will the same happen next year if I decide to make the pilgrimage to San Diego for a visit to my other holy land? I truly hope so. 


Chris Neseman is the former host of Around Comics, the current co-host of 11 O'Clock Comics, regular contributor to iFanboy's Don't Miss podcast, and a lifelong fan of comics, baseball and Mom's Apple Pie.


  1. This was great. I too am a fan of both the art and the sport and never thought of it in this way. Great article, I really need to go up to Cooperstown.

  2. Jealous!

  3. My two favorite subjects! If my wife ever gives me an ultimatum of baseball or comics, I’d probably have to go with baseball. San Diego looks like a wild time for sure, wandering Cooperstown is at the top of my "To Do" list. I could probably spend many days there and still want more.

  4. Knowing that Chris is a fan of good craft beer, I hope he had a chance to take the tour at the nearby Ommegang Brewery when he visited Cooperstown.  If not, start planning your return visit now.

  5. I’ve been twice. It’s a great place!

  6. I love both of these. I am however Scottish and the internet is my only connection to talk about these subjects, so thanks for this aarticle Chris.

  7. @chrisneesman:  I appreciated all the praise you had for Comerica Park on a recent episode of 11 O’clock comics.  I grew up going to Tiger’s Stadium (Briggs) and was sad to see it go but love Comerica.  Like you, I love to go to other parks to watch ball games. They all have a wonderful life of their own.

  8. Really nice piece, Chris.

  9. What a great article. I completely agree with you. Fanboys are fanboys. The only difference is the /characters players.

    Cooperstown is one of my favorite places in this country. I’ve only been there once…when i was about 12 years old. i can’t remember another place like it. Nostalgia made tangible, a town kept safe from the rest of the world’s problems. Grown men turn into giddy little kids seeing all the memories of their childhood heroes….and the gift shop!!!! =)  I hope that when i go back as an adult it still has all that charm.


  10. Chris–did you go to the Farmer’s museum to see "The Giant"?

  11. Terrific article.  Probably my two favorite things in the world as well.  I will recommend, if you enjoyed Cooperstown, you should check out the Negro League Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.  I’ve been to several comic conventions (never San Diego) but none of them can rival Cooperstown.

  12. I like big softy Chris better than crazy oldman Chris but not as much as sleepy Chris

  13. I was there this last Tuesday, which is sort of bizarre. Awesome place. Went into the bookstore down the road and found a solitary longbox containing some awful Namor comics and some stuff from Wildstorm.

  14. Great article!  We are of the same mind Mr. Neseman.

  15. Brilliant correlation!  I loved your comparison between baseball and comic nerds, and your nostalgia surrounding your trip to Cooperstown was tangible.  You even gave a shout out to Doctor Who, which just tickles me.  I’m glad to see you are still in contact with your inner 10-year-old; I believe we all need to be (to a certain extent) to fully appreciate, well, everything.  Great column, Chris!