Hall of Fame Weekend Preview

COOPERSTOWN, NY – The big weekend for this year’s Hall of Fame Induction has arrived. The quaint hamlet of Cooperstown, New York again swells to a “weekend” population of some 40-50,000, as this year they welcome six new entrants, the largest contingent of former major leaguers since 1971.

Welcome to Cooperstown – Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, and Jim Thome (who will also be beaming with parental pride as his daughter, Lila, was selected to sing the National Anthem at the ceremony).

This six-pack was one short of that group in ‘71, when Satchel Paige, Dave Bancroft, Jake Beckley, Chick Hafey, Harry Hooper, Joe Kelley, and Rube Marquard received their forever fame. The last year at least six living players were inducted during the same ceremony was in 1955, when Joe DiMaggio, Frank Baker, Gabby Hartnett, Ted Lyons, Ray Schalk, and Dazzy Vance were elected.

A record 58 (including the six newbies) of the 76 living Hall of Famers are expected to be on hand for both the Saturday and Sunday Ceremonies. Among the most notable and with New York connections include: Hank Aaron, Roberto Alomar, Johnny Bench, Craig Biggio, Wade Boggs, Bobby Cox, Tom Glavine, Goose Gossage, Ken Griffey, Jr., Rickey Henderson, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Eddie Murray, Phil Niekro, Gaylord Perry, Tim Raines, Cal Ripken, Jr., Ivan Rodriguez, Joe Torre, and Dave Winfield.

Among those who were unable to attend include: Whitey Ford, Willie Mays, Tom Seaver, Mike Piazza, and Tommy Lasorda, who is now the Hall’s oldest living member.

Other notable former ballplayers and baseball personnel planning to attend include: Jim Beattie, Bret Boone, Kirk Gibson, Bobby Grich, Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., Tony Gwynn, Jr., Roberto Hernandez, Willie Horton, Jim Kaat, Paul Konerko, Mark Langston, Charlie Manuel, Xavier Nady, Lance Parrish, Tim Salmon, Richie Sexson, Bill Stoneman, and Lou Whitaker.

For those planning to attend, here’s what you can expect:

While the weather for Saturday might bring possible showers – that’s only might – those who arrive early in the morning can catch many of the Hall of Famers challenging each other in the annual golf tournament which is held on the course that runs up along the western side of Lake Otsego on the edge of town. Hundreds of fans line the fence and stone walls that border the course for a glimpse of their favorite Hall of Famers and the remote chance that they can convince some of them to sign autographs. In fact, some of them do as they travel from hole to hole on their golf carts.

At 4:30 in Doubleday Field – the mythic birthplace of baseball in 1839 (not factual, but for the moment let’s go with the myth for the sake of history) the 2018 Awards presentation will take place. Hosted by Greg Amsinger of the MLB Network – who will broadcast highlights of the event on Sunday morning – the ceremony will present Bob Costas with the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting, and Sheldon Ocker with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.

The event is free and all are welcome.

After the ceremony, all of the Hall of Famers – who patiently sit behind the award winners as they give their speeches – then ride in the backs of pick up trucks and parade down Main Street, to the delight of the thousands of fans who line the street for the chance to see them up close.

On Saturday night, a sports memorabilia auction is held in one of the buildings across from the Cooperstown store adjacent to the Hall.

On Sunday, fans gather to the field that extends from the Clark Sports Center on the Southern edge of town. The large grassy field holds thousands of fans with their blankets and folding chairs as they can view the ceremony from even a football field away, as large screens are also erected to project the proceedings.

Hosted by MLB network maven Bryan Kenny, and broadcast live from 1:30-4:30 on the network, it is also a free event, and all are welcome, essentially a baseball Woodstock, if you will.

The weather is expected to be sunny and in the 70s for the event.

With the induction of its newest members, the Hall of Fame will now display 323 plaques in the Great Hall – 226 are former major leaguers, 30 are former executives, 35 are heralded from the Negro Leagues, 22 are former managers, and 10 are umpires. The BBWAA have elected 128 players. The various Veterans Committees have elected 169, and 17 members were selected via a special Negro League Committee in 2006.

If you can’t make it to the ceremony this year, you might want to make plans for next year and the ensuing years. Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitite are among those first eligible in 2019, and that guy running the Marlins, Derek Jeter, will be first eligible in 2020.

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