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Financial Planning & the Baseball Hall of Fame

Investment Insights

Derek Jeter, Marvin Miller, Ted Simmons and Larry Walker were supposed to get all of the pomp and circumstance this weekend that goes along with being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

However, COVID-19 has moved the day of their speeches until next year when they will descend on Cooperstown, New York with thousands of fans. While it was talent and drive that got them honored in Cooperstown, it was a financial planner that actually got them to this quaint New York village on the shores of Otsego Lake.

Don’t know this story? It’s a good one so keep reading.

It all starts in the mid-1800s when a man named Isaac Singer created a sewing machine so revolutionary that it would soon make all others obsolete. Now, Singer was an actor at heart, but every so often he would invent something, patent it and then sell it – keeping the profits to keep on acting. But he knew this sewing machine was different. Partly because he was quickly embroiled in lawsuits (long story!) and people were trying to buy him out cheaply. He tried to hire a famed patent attorney named Ambrose Jordan, who passed him off to a junior partner/son-in-law named Edward Cabot Clark.  It was Clark who coined the phrase sewing machine, and helped Singer form what became the Singer Sewing Machine.

The men made serious bank in the 1850 and 1860s, but soon went their separate ways.  Singer lived large; moved to England; built a 110-room mansion and then left $14 million to his 20 children when he died in 1875.

Clark was a little more prudent. He started investing his money into real estate and other stocks. His most famous investment may have been the construction of a massive structure that mixed French and German architectural styles at Center Park West in Manhattan in the 1800s, which would become The Dakota, the famously posh address where numerous celebrities lived over the decades including music legend John Lennon. And yes, that is where he was fatally shot in 1980.

But where’s the baseball?

Well, Clark loved the tiny town of Cooperstown. He bought numerous pieces of property there over the years, including a house where his grandson Stephen Carlton Clark was born in 1882. Like his grandfather, this Clark also invested heavily in Cooperstown, building a hotel on the lakefront. However, the Cooperstown region’s main source of income was hops and barley farming – two key ingredients in beer that suddenly was illegal in 1920 because of Prohibition.  Cooperstown residents were struggling even before the Great Depression hit in 1929.

To help save the town he loved so much, Clark formed a foundation in 1931 to help put money into things such as hospitals, libraries and museums. What kind of museums? Well, there was a farmer’s museum, an art museum, and curiously, his crew struck upon the idea of a baseball museum in 1924 based on the story/legend that Cooperstown was the birthplace of America’s pastime.

It just so happens that big cheeses at Major League Baseball also were looking for ways to honor its greats of yesteryear at the same time. Like, the same week.  Ford Frick, who as president of the National League was one of the most important men in baseball, had visited the National Hall of Fame at NYU one day in the Spring of 1934, and wondered what it would take for baseball to get something like that. A few days, later a man named Alexander Cleland, who worked for the Clark Foundation, came to Frick with the idea of a baseball museum in Cooperstown. Rubber meet road and the Baseball Hall of Fame was born.

Baseball can thank the smarts of the Clark family for good financial investing in giving it a Hall of Fame. We at PP&W can’t promise you will make enough to build your own museum one day, but it’s a great goal to have. Give us a call for your financial planning and wealth management needs.