Another Hawaii Link To Cooperstown

Jon Arakaki grew up appreciating the sport of baseball. He played ball in the tradition-rich Pearl City Little League, followed the baseball exploits of his beloved University of Hawaii Rainbows and became a distant fan of the New York Yankees. When his family visited the Mainland, he made sure he took in Major League games at Candlestick Park or Anaheim Stadium or even Fenway Park.

“I’ve always been a fan,” he says. “I remember my dad taking me to a game to see Willie Mays when he was with the New York Mets.” (His parents still live in Pearl City in the same home where Arakaki grew up.)

Now, 48, Arakaki lives and works in upstate New York as an assistant professor of mass communication at State University of New York College at Oneonta. He never lost his passion for baseball. It turned out his full-time job was only 17 miles from the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

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Jon Arakaki at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Photo from Jon Arakaki

“Just the name is magical,” he says. “Every ballplayer wants to end up in Cooperstown.”

Arakaki began visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame there often and eventually volunteered as a library research assistant. He answers questions or does research about statistics and other baseball facts for people like ESPN, the Chicago Cubs network and many others.

One day a few years back, while perusing the official magazine of the Baseball Hall of Fame, he came upon an interesting article that seemed to link Honolulu to the very site where the Hall is located. Hawaii baseball historians all know the tie-in between Alexander Joy Cartwright, Honolulu Fire Department’s first chief engineer, and his role as the “Father of Modern Baseball,” but this Honolulu link was different.

The first artifacts donated to the Hall of Fame Museum included a 1938 photo of the Honolulu Conservatory of Music. The building that housed the music conservatory on Cooperstown’s Main Street was demolished to make room for the Hall of Fame Museum. Arakaki was fascinated by the connection.

“Being that I was from Hawaii, I wondered how a Honolulu conservatory ended up in Cooperstown,” he says. He set off on a journey of historical discovery to find that the conservatory actually didn’t have its roots in Hawaii, but rather from a musical craze that had swept the nation. He found out that two brothers established the Oahu Publishing Company/Honolulu Conservatory of Music in Michigan in the 1920s and eventually opened as many as 1,200 studios.

“I didn’t know there was such a craze for Hawaiian music at that time,” he says. “I was hoping for a connection between Honolulu and Cooperstown, but there wasn’t. Still, I learned that the Hawaiian music craze then had a big impact on the beginnings of country music, for example, including the use of the steel guitar. I learned a lot, even though there are still some unanswered questions.”

One of those unanswered questions is what ever happened to the Honolulu Conservatory in Cooperstown after the 1938 photo? Arakaki knows that the building site eventually became the Hall of Fame Museum, but can find no records of it after that.

That part may remain a mystery, but Arakaki’s passion for baseball and history will continue on in baseball’s magical place.

“For baseball people who come here,” he says, “it’s like Disneyland.”

Pearl City’s Jon Arakaki has become Hawaii’s latest link to Cooperstown.