54° Good Afternoon
54° Good Afternoon

A most memorable weekend in Cooperstown

Hall of Famers (L-R) Whitey Ford and Yogi

Hall of Famers (L-R) Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra have a laugh at Clark Sports Center during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown. (July 24, 2011) Photo Credit: Getty Images

Apologies for the lack of the usual Sunday round-up post. I was busy up in Cooperstown, where I very much enjoyed my one-time shot as an insider to the Hall of Fame festivities.

As president of the BBWAA, serving a one-year term, part of the gig is participating in the induction ceremonies. For the first time this year, the Hall broke up the awards into two days. On Saturday, the recipients of the Spink Award, Frick Award and O'Neil Award enjoyed their day in the sun (quite literally - boy, was it it hot, both Saturday and Sunday).

My responsibility was to introduce Bill Conlin, the Spink Award winner. I spoke for about 15 seconds, tops. And yesterday, during the inductions of Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven and Pat Gillick, I stood from my seat and waved to the crowd when Hall chairman Jane Forbes Clark acknowledge me. That was another five seconds.

For those 20 seconds of work, I received entree into this unique world.

Imagine going to breakfast and seeing Robin Yount dining with Rollie Fingers at one table, then Phil Niekro at another table, then Yogi Berra at a third table. Jim Rice, Juan Marichal, Whitey Ford, and on and on and on. Tom Seaver  in the hotel gift shop. Carlton Fisk at the golf pro shop.

There were multiple parties and several opportunities to schmooze, not only with the Hall of Famers but also many executives who came into town because they were close with one or more of the inductees, and many were particularly friendly to my 7-year-old son, who caught up quickly on his baseball history.

My favorite part occurred on Saturday, as I convened in a meeting room with many of the Hall of Famers; we all were being shuttled over to the podium at Doubleday Field for the first round of inductions. I sat at a table with Whitey Herzog, Ralph Kiner and Red Schoendienst, and I listened to them swap tales of their big-league debuts, which 1940s pitchers threw the best curveballs and Schoendienst's story of a particularly vengeful pitcher who threw behind a batter's head three times in one plate appearance.

And all of the early arriving Hall members (some didn't appear until Sunday) couldn't stop talking about Wade Boggs, who won the golf tournament by shooting a 73 - after claiming an 18 handicap.

Boggs claimed that he plays just once a year - at the Hall, during induction weekend - and that's why his handicap is so high. The other guys didn't want to hear it. More than one said, in effect, "That's impossible." You could still see the intense competitors, even though many of them haven't played ball professionally in 20, 30, 40 or, in Kiner's case, more than 50 years.

Making the Hall is a huge deal for these guys - image-wise and financially. And my sense is, for most of these guys, they enjoy it even more than they anticipated once they find out what life is like in the club.

--OK, enough romance. We'll spend the rest of the week here talking trade deadline. Updates coming later.


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