Where better to spend Father’s Day Weekend other than Cooperstown? The weather was questionable at best, but it couldn’t dampen the spirits for the those attending the Inaugural Hall of Fame Classic weekend. Unfortunately, the final Hall of Fame Game was rained out last year. At times it looked that the same fate was in store for the Inaugural Hall of Fame Classic. In the end, some of the best weather of the weekend was saved for the game.
My sons, Bobby and Dan, and I headed up to Cooperstown on Friday. We started off the weekend by attending opening night for the Oneonta Tigers of the New York-Penn League at historic Damaschke Field. It was a beautiful night for a game and we saw a very well pitched game that resulted in a 2-0 Tigers win over the Tri-City Valley Cats. In a pre-game ceremony, former owners Sam Nader and Sid Levine (of five decades) were honored. Bill Monbouquette, former major league pitcher and former Oneonta pitching coach was on hand as well. It was a great way to start the weekend.
Saturday morning was overcast and threatening. We strolled Main Street, checking out the many stores until it was time for us to head to Doubleday Field for our chance to participate in the Family Catch. There we met my Friend Vin Polito and his sons, Nick and Steve who had just arrived. Through a few raindrops, we had out 20 minute catch in the outfield. The event was popular and well organized. Although my reflexes may not be quite a quick as they used to (right Bob and Dan) we had a great time. Nothing that a little bruise or two would lessen. Playing catch with my two grown sons on Doubleday Field on Father’s Day Weekend was a wonderful gift. There’s only one other game of catch that I can think of that was more memorable. That was the game of catch that the boys and I had with my wife, Cathy on the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, IA.
After the catch, the Ratzenbergers and Politos went to the visit the Hall where we spent the entire afternoon. There’s always something new to see as well as things you look forward to seeing again and again. I can always find something to spend time checking out. I have to admit that this is my favorite museum – big surprise. Of course there are the mandatory stops, Tom Seaver’s plaque and the Mets Locker. Although, the visit to the Mets’ locker provided the only negative of the entire weekend – Tom Glavine’s jersey hanging in the Mets’ locker. Tom Glavine, really? There wasn’t any other Met jersey that they could have hanging in there? To me Glavine’s career with the Mets was highlighted by his 2007 season finale that he mailed in. It kind of reminded me of the Mets tributes as Citi Field. Well, enough about that. I want to focus on all of the positives.
In the evening, we attended a Legends of the Game event in the Grandstand Theater. This event was a question and answer session with Hall of Famers Bob Feller, Brooks Robinson, Phil Niekro and Paul Molitor. Ferguson Jenkins was originally scheduled to appear but was unable to attend. It was a fast moving hour that provided both insight and humor. This is the 3rd such event that I have attended and I would recommend that any baseball fan that has the opportunity to attend one should not pass it up. You won’t regret it.
Sunday morning it was back to Main Street for the parade. We arrived early and spent a couple of hours scouring the many shops lining the street. I never understood the idea of window shopping until I came here. I could look for hours and even if I don’t purchase anything, it’s still an enjoyable time. As 12:00 approached, we strategically positioned ourselves to watch the parade. Although the crowd seemed smaller than last year and the parade appeared to be a little scaled back, it was still a lot of fun. The best way to describe it is a small town parade with a little panache. The parade closes with two trolleys carrying the players to the stadium.
Prior to the game was a hitting contest which was, not surprisingly won by youngster Jeff Kent. He beat out Steve Finley in the finals. It was also nice to see George Foster knock one out of Doubleday Field.
The game itself was a blast. Where else could you see Paul Molitor lead off against 90 year-old Bob Feller or Brooks Robinson lead-off against Phil Niekro? In a little huddle before the 1st pitch, Molitor apparently agreed not to bunt or hit one up the middle while Feller agreed not to throw him any chin music. Molitor did however, get the best of the at bat with a single and later scored the 1st run. After his outing, Feller said that he was “throwing as hard as he ever did, but the ball just wasn’t going as fast”.
The game had a sandlot feel to it and delivered a little bit of everything.
- Bobby Grich tried the old hidden ball trick to try to pick off Steve Lyons, but to no avail.
- After hitting a ground ball, Jon Warden called timeout halfway to 1st base. It didn’t keep him from being called out though. Phil Niekro tried the same trick a little later in the game and it didn’t work for him either.
- Warden was the designated clown as he brought a water pistol to the player introductions, donned a clown wig, used 5 or 6 bats to loosen up and tried a called shot (but didn’t deliver).
- Steve Lyons recruited help from the stands, bringing 11 year-old Zach D’Errico out to shortstop with him. D’Errico then proceeded in starting a 6-4-3 double play.
- Bill “Spaceman” Lee was impressive in the outfield, at the plate, on the base paths and on the mound.
Molitor and Teams Collins jumped out to a 4-0 lead but with 1 in the 5th and 4 in the 6th, Brooks Robinson and Team Wagner came back to win the inaugural Hall of Fame Classic. Can’t wait until next year!
Pictures from the events can be found at my website: