Shalom, Cooperstown! Jewish Mayor Welcomes World to Baseball Hall of Fame

Jeff Katz Works With Museum Director Jeff Idelson

courtesy of jeff katz

By Hillel Kuttler

Published July 25, 2014.

(JTA) — For Jeff Idelson, the director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., induction weekend is all about teamwork.

“When you get to signature events [and] you’re in a small community, all the pieces have to come together effectively for it to be a grand slam,” Idelson said recently from his office in the central New York village of 1,852.

The team includes Mayor Jeff Katz, like Idelson a passionate baseball fan, and they’ll be overseeing this weekend’s festivities as the unofficial welcoming committee for the game’s elite and the tens of thousands of fans who come to pay them homage.

Jeff Idelson
baseball hall of fame
Jeff Idelson

Former players Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, and ex-managers Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox will be inducted Sunday.

Calling Cooperstown home is heavenly for the two officials.

“To be the mayor of a place like Cooperstown is a special thing,” Katz said, sitting in Idelson’s office filled with shelves of bobbleheads representing baseball and pop-culture figures as well as Idelson’s Little League bat — a Mike Schmidt model – on the side.

The men have been friends ever since Katz, his wife and their three sons moved to Cooperstown more than a decade ago. The families gather for Passover seders, and Aaron Idelson and Joey Katz were classmates who graduated Cooperstown High School in June.

The two Jeffs work together occasionally – and always when induction weekend rolls around.

“The village has always been there to work with hand in hand, whether it’s parking issues [or] dealing with crowds,” said Idelson, 50. “That’s enhanced now because we have a mayor who really loves baseball.” He adds quickly that previous mayors “have all been great,” too.

On induction weekend, the eyes of the American sports world turn annually to the one-square-mile, one stoplight village that has been revered as baseball’s birthplace ever since the myth arose of Abner Doubleday inventing the game there in 1839.

Besides the large induction class of 2014, this midsummer’s gathering is notable for falling near the museum’s 75th anniversary and the centennial of the major league debut of slugging icon Babe Ruth, a member of the Hall of Fame’s inaugural class.

The weekend also follows on the heels of another spectacle: President Obama becoming the first chief executive to tour the Hall of Fame when he visited Cooperstown on May 22 to deliver a speech promoting tourism.

Idelson guided Obama and Hall of Famer Andre Dawson through some exhibits. Obama even grasped the baseball used by William Howard Taft when in 1910, he became the first president to throw a ceremonial first pitch at a game.

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