Baseball recognized as NY’s official sport but basketball fans cry foul

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo swung for the fences Friday, signing into law a measure making baseball New York’s official sport — but Big Apple sports fans say he really missed a layup.

The governor went to bat for the national pastime over other more popular and accessible city sports like basketball, noting that New York state is home to the baseball Hall of Fame in upstate Cooperstown.

In doing so he also staked the Empire State’s claim to have been the birthplace of baseball — making that official, too — and picked a fight in the process with neighboring Hoboken, NJ, which has long maintained its ballfields hosted the first games.

Cuomo noted the legislation was proposed by a Cooperstown Elementary School fourth-grade class.

“Growing up a Queens boy, a love of baseball was instilled at an early age. From the ’69 and ’86 Amazin’ Mets to 27 world championships by the Yankees and even having been the home of the Dodgers with Jackie Robinson and the Giants, New York is steeped in an expansive and diverse past with our great national pastime,” Cuomo said.

“The fervor of the sport is as reflective of our great state as a sport can be, bringing together diverse crowds for the love of the game. New York is the birthplace of baseball and I’m proud to finally make it our official state sport.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo claimed “New York is the birthplace of baseball.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo claimed “New York is the birthplace of baseball.”
Darren McGee/Office of the Governor

Cuomo’s release boasted that New York is “home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown where Abner Doubleday is said to have created the sport.”

Some New Yorkers on Friday said basketball is way more popular than baseball in New York.

“I feel like there’s so many kids that come out of New York that go to the NBA. If you go on social media right now, all you see is, `basketball, basketball, basketball.’ You got kids coming out of New York that’s putting on for New York City,” said hoopster Justin Owens, 20, at the famed West 4th Street courts in Greenwich Village.

“I think that New York could be the best basketball state. You don’t really hear of so many baseball players coming out of New York. You hear more about basketball players coming out.”

Smush Parker, a former Los Angeles Lakers basketball player who officiates hoops games at West 4th, said basketball definitely rules in New York City. But he said baseball may be the top sport outside the Big Apple.

“People in New York believe that basketball is the number one sport in New York City, and that is the truth in New York City, but New York state is a big open area and New York City is just a small dot. Outside of New York City, I can see how baseball might be the number one sport,” Parker said.

Niko Triantafillou, a native New Yorker and Chelsea resident, likes baseball but doesn’t think it should be the sport of New York because it “just doesn’t really match with New Yorkers’ personality.”

Former Los Angeles Lakers player Smush Parker Former Los Angeles Lakers player Smush Parker argues basketball is the most popular sport in the Big Apple, but not New York state.
James Messerschmidt

“As a native New Yorker, it should not be the official sport of the state, because New Yorkers are fast and like to get things done, and baseball is slow. It’s God slow. They pick up the rosin bag, the guy’s waiting, and then they got to change the pitcher. And the catcher wants an inspection of the glove. If you go with your family it’s like four hours, right?”

“It’s the national pastime, but it is a little out of character for New York State, because New Yorkers like to get things done in a fast manner.”

The language in the law itself does not claim New York as the birthplace of baseball.

The entrance to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York.
The entrance to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York.
Barrie Fanton/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

But lawmakers who pushed the bill — Sen. Peter Oberacker (R-Schenevus), who represents Cooperstown, and Assemblyman Michael Benedetoo (D-Bronx) — said in the bill memo, “Baseball was, it is believed, founded in Cooperstown by Abner Doubleday, and New York offers a `Birthplace of Baseball license plate.’”

A Hoboken historian accused Cuomo of throwing a wild pitch by claiming New York as the birthplace of baseball.

“That’s a crock,” Bob Foster, director of the Hoboken Historical Museum, told The Post.

“The Cooperstown Hall of Fame is a great place. But to say that Abner Doubleday started baseball earlier in New York is fictitious,” Foster said.

Meanwhile, Hoboken Mayor Ravinder Bhalla tweeted, “@NYGovCuomo thrilled to see NY following Hoboken’s lead once again! Hoboken is the proud birthplace of baseball and we’d be glad to give a few pointers and treat you to the best bagels and pizza in the world next time you’re in@NJGov. Play ball! Baseball.”

State Sen. Peter Oberacker and Assemblyman Michael Benedetoo argue Cooperstown was founded by Abner Doubleday.
State Sen. Peter Oberacker and Assemblyman Michael Benedetoo argue Cooperstown was founded by Abner Doubleday.
Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Hoboken has long claimed that teams from New York and Brooklyn — then a separate city — first played the new sport at the city’s Elysian Fields in 1845.

Other documents claim baseball was first played in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1791.

Other New Yorkers said many city residents are passionate baseball fans, and that America’s pastime should be the state’s official sport.

“Yankees and Mets fans are very, what would say, rabid. They’re real dedicated, I’d say, more so than Knicks and Nets [fans],” said Jocelyn, a 64-year-old Upper West Side resident.

As the state’s official sport, baseball joins a list of other New York State symbols which includes milk as the state beverage, apple as the state fruit, the snapping turtle as the state reptile and yogurt as the state snack.

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