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U.S. Navy commissions USS Cooperstown, first ship named after Baseball Hall of Famers who served in the military

On May 8th, 2023, the U.S. Navy commissioned its newest Freedom-variant littoral combat ship, the USS Cooperstown (LCS 23), in New York City, New York.[0] The ship is named after the village of Cooperstown, New York, which is home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.[1] The USS Cooperstown is the first naval ship to be named after the village and honors the 70 Hall of Famers who served the United States during wartime in a range of conflicts spanning the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War.[2]

Staterooms on the 351-foot-long ship are named after Hall of Fame members who served in the military, with a replica of their Cooperstown plaques on their doors. Replicas of the Hall of Fame plaques representing its Navy veterans adorn the doors of each of the USS Cooperstown’s staterooms. Within the ship, visitors can observe murals and informative signs that highlight the military service and sacrifices made by the Hall of Famers. Additionally, a display case containing baseball and United States Navy artifacts is available for viewing.[3]

The USS Cooperstown’s motto is “America’s Away Team,” and it joins the active fleet of Freedom-variant littoral combat ships.[1] According to the Department of Defense, LCS ships are “fast, optimally-manned, mission-tailored surface combatants that operate in near-shore and open-ocean environments.”

The event featured an all-star lineup of speakers, including Joe Torre, a Major League Baseball executive.[1] Sharing their thoughts on the ship's significance, New York Governor Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams also graced the stage.[4] In attendance were Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro and Chief of Navy Reserve Vice Admiral John Mustin, both of whom spoke to the audience.[2]

Paying homage to the 70 military veterans who are also members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, the USS Cooperstown holds a distinct honor as the first ship to be named after the quaint village in New York. The ship will move to its new home in Mayport, Florida, following the commissioning ceremony.[4]

Although Cooperstown is the first naval ship to bear its name, it is not the first ship influenced by baseball.[2] The Hall of Famers lent their names to several ships including the Liberty Ship SS Lou Gehrig.[3] In the late 1800s, baseball was introduced to the Navy as a means of “rational recreation” to prevent sailors from getting into trouble.[4] In the coming years, it evolved into a sensation as numerous American sailors, including several prominent athletes, assisted in its global dissemination.[4] The sport spread across the world as sailors traveled, and navy ships began competing against local teams as early as the 1870s.[4] They introduced the sport to Japan, the Caribbean, Hawaii, China, Nicaragua, and the Philippines over the years.[4]

Amidst the restrictions of organized sports by certain military branches in World War II, several professional baseball players enlisted in the Navy.[3] Notable names include Bob Feller (a chief petty officer and gun captain), Ted Williams (a Marine aviator in both World War II and the Korean War), Yogi Berra (a gunner’s mate and participant in the D-Day landings), and Phil Rizzuto (gun captain).[3] More than 500 players from the major league and around 4,000 players from the minor league have been served.[3] Following the Vietnam War, Major League Baseball paid tribute to numerous American POWs by awarding them a “Golden Ticket,” that provided them and a companion unrestricted entry to any baseball game for the rest of their lives.[4] The exclusive pass served as a means for prisoners of war to reunite with their loved ones and experience their liberty once again, all while relishing in America's beloved pastime.[4]

The USS Cooperstown serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by the Baseball Hall of Fame members who served in the military, and their contributions to our nation. The ship’s commissioning serves as a tribute to all military veterans, and their dedication to serving and protecting the United States.

0. “Freedom LCS commissioning continues despite USN eyeing the exit” Naval Technology, 5 May. 2023, https://www.naval-technology.com/news/freedom-lcs-commissioning-continues-despite-usn-eyeing-the-exit/

1. “Navy christens USS Cooperstown in honor of baseball Hall of Fame veterans” Fox News, 6 May. 2023, https://www.foxnews.com/sports/navy-christens-uss-cooperstown-in-honor-of-baseball-hall-of-famers

2. “USS Cooperstown (LCS 23) Commissions in New York” DVIDS, 6 May. 2023, https://www.dvidshub.net/news/444170/uss-cooperstown-lcs-23-commissions-new-york

3. “USS Cooperstown to be commissioned Saturday | News | thedailystar.com” Oneonta Daily Star, 4 May. 2023, https://www.thedailystar.com/news/uss-cooperstown-to-be-commissioned-saturday/article_e2754026-eaad-11ed-b1ec-e35716d53e12.html

4. “Cannons Over Hell's Kitchen — USS Cooperstown Commissioned” W42ST magazine, 6 May. 2023, https://w42st.com/post/cannons-hells-kitchen-uss-cooperstown-commissioned-pier-88

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