Once the field at the Clark Sports Center was cleared and the 53,000 or so folding chairs were put away after Sunday’s induction ceremonies, this tiny village started the process of closing the books on another fantastic Hall of Fame weekend.
Fifty-three thousand is the Hall of Fame’s estimate of this weekend’s crowd to see six players added to the ranks of baseball immortals. Locals still talk about the largest crowd ever, the 82,000 who jammed into baseball’s mythical birthplace in 2007 to see the inductions of Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn.
Something tells us Cooperstown ain’t seen nothing yet. Next year, Mariano Rivera should make the Hall.
In 2020: Derek Jeter.
“I’m scared of 2020,” said Tim Haney, owner of Cooperstown Bat Company on picturesque Main Street, just a short pop fly from the Hall.
This weekend, fans of the Braves turned out to see Chipper Jones get in. Indians fans were here to honor Jim Thome. Tigers fans got a two-fer with Jack Morris and Alan Trammell making it. Expos fans came to see Vladimir Guerrero’s induction and complained in French and English that he went in wearing an Angels cap on his plaque (a bad cap call, it says here, because Guerrero’s best and most memorable work was done north of the border).
There even was a sizable contingent from San Diego to honor Trevor Hoffman, who was baseball’s all-time saves leader before Rivera shattered that record in 2011.
Rivera is the biggest first-timer on the ballot for 2019. He most likely will be joined on the stage by Edgar Martinez, who should make it over the finish line in his 10th and final year of eligibility on the writers’ ballot after getting 70.4 percent of the vote in 2018 (75 percent is needed for enshrinement).
Other first-timers on the ballot include Andy Pettitte and the late Roy Halladay. Only Rivera is a lock among the rookies.
Here are Rivera’s numbers in the postseason: 96 appearances, 8-1 record, 0.70 ERA, 42 saves. Five rings. Game over.
“Do you think relievers belong in the Hall of Fame?” a fan asked me the other day.
The question not only seemed from another time, but from another planet.
If Rivera isn’t a Hall of Famer, then there’s no reason to have the place.
Another lock? That Yankees fans will turn out in droves next July 21 to see the closer get in. The crowd for Jeter 2020 will be absolutely bonkers and will stretch the resources of this town of 1,800 like never before.
“It’ll definitely handle it and it’ll do a great job doing it,” said Haney, who has owned the bat business here since 1993. “But Ripken, we were parking cars in farmers’ fields like way outside of town. I mean like way outside of town. It was unbelievable.”
Again, about the Jeter year: If you look at the list of other possible first-timers (Paul Konerko? Jason Giambi? Marco Scutaro?) and the expected holdovers, it’s possible that Jeter will stand alone on the stage in 2020.
Something tells us he would like that.
No player, not even Babe Ruth, has ever gotten 100 percent of the vote, which is ridiculous and a stain on the writers’ part in this Hall of Fame election process. Jeter probably won’t either, but it will be a topic leading into that vote.
As will the expected crowds for the next two years. Cooperstown residents already are bracing for two of the biggest parties this town has seen since Abner Doubleday invented the game here in 1839. (He didn’t, but that’s OK. It’s a nice story.)
Some residents no doubt will flee and rent out their houses to the Yankees’ fan horde. Seems like a pretty good, and lucrative, idea.
“Not everybody from Cooperstown is a baseball fan, unfortunately,” Haney said. “They all deal with it. But this is glorious for me. I love baseball and I love the fact that all these people are here.”
Good. Get ready for a lot more.