Bo Duke comes to Cooperstown
By Bill Francis
Was that really Bo Duke?
John Schneider, who famously portrayed Bo Duke on the television series “The Dukes of Hazzard” from 1979-85, could be found on Cooperstown’s Main Street in front of the KeyBank building signing autographs on Friday.
“My brother Bob lives in Cooperstown right around the corner, and he teaches people how to paint beautiful landscapes right up here at the top of the bank building,” said Schneider between posing for pictures and signing photos for fans. “I was doing a movie in Florida and Bob said, ‘Hey, you’re on the East Coast. Come through Cooperstown on your way. It’s Induction Weekend.’ I wish my 17-year-old son was here.”
Besides “The Dukes of Hazzard,” Schneider has had starring roles on such series as “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” and “Smallville.” He’s even portrayed a few baseball players over the years.
“I played several baseball players, mostly knuckleball players, on television,” Schneider said. “On a show called “Grand Slam” (1990) I played a guy named Dennis Bakelenekoff and another one for Aaron Spelling I played a dead guy who was a knuckleball pitcher called “Heaven Help Us” (1994), and that didn’t last very long either.”
While he played a knuckleball pitcher, he couldn’t master the elusive pitch. But he did get to meet one of the pitch’s masters today.
“Here’s the thrill of a lifetime. It’s when somebody says, ‘I’d like to shake your hand,’ and I turn and it’s (Hall of Famer) Phil Niekro,” Schneider said. “What a nice man and what an honor to have Phil Niekro want to meet me. He’s a hero. So my weekend was made right there.”
Though he was a baseball fan while growing up in Mt. Kisco, N.Y., Schneider has been away from the game for a little while.
“I played Little League as a kid. I was a first baseman and they called me Stretch. But I’ve been so busy I haven’t been following it a lot,” Schneider said. “I grew up a Tom Seaver fan, an Amazing Mets fan. We’re talking about ’69. One of the first Super 8 movies I had on my Kodak projector was called “The Amazing Mets.” In those days Gil Hodges and the gang were my favorites.”
Today, Schneider’s 17-year-old son is a big fan.
“I went to the Baseball Hall of Fame with my son a couple years ago and Chasen read every word on every plaque in that building. It was the greatest thing,” Schneider said. “We use to call him Stats because at 14 he could tell you everything about anybody.”
Schneider can be found outside the KeyBank building in Cooperstown for the rest of Induction Weekend.
Bill Francis is a library associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.