I’ve never been a big believer in coincidences. While something may seem accidental or random, I’ve always enjoyed the idea that there may be a little bit of magic behind it. Most of us have many interests and pursuits and lives, so to speak, and it can be helpful to keep them neatly wrapped in their own boxes. In the morning, I go to the library and enjoy my work life. Then, I go home and enjoy my personal life. Every once in a while, two pieces of yourself collide and the result is, well, magical.
A couple of months ago, I had the privilege of being part of a book launch for Constance Escher, author of She Calls Herself Betsey Stockton: The Illustrated Odyssey of a Princeton Slave. I have known Connie for years and consider her a dear friend who was able to wonderfully illustrate the life of another great woman. During the Q&A portion of the event, another one of Princeton’s great women, Shirley Satterfield, told a story about a visit she took to Betsey Stockton’s place of burial, a “place called Cooperstown.”
Cooperstown is a small village nestled on Lake Otsego in New York and is the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Growing up, baseball was a huge part of my life and it still is today. It was enjoyable to watch and play, became a way to bond with my father and has elicited so much emotion over the years. After Connie’s program, I went home and looked up Betsey Stockton’s grave. She is buried in Lakewood Cemetery in Cooperstown. Also buried in Lakewood Cemetery is James Fenimore Cooper, noted author, and Emmett Ashord. Ashford, nicknamed “Ash,” while unknown to many, was the first African American umpire in Major League Baseball. And just like that, my life as a Princeton librarian and my life as a sports fan converged.
Librarians are curious by nature. We like to help people research topics and find the information they need because investigating further and delving deeper into stories and problems is what we do. Is it a coincidence that Betsey Stockton, James Fenimore Cooper and Emmett Ashford are buried in the same cemetery in Cooperstown? Or maybe that I was in the room the day Connie and Shirley shared their stories? Some may say so. I prefer to believe that these great women helped me learn something new about history, a piece that is a little bit magical.