Cooperstown Confidential: Hall of Fame Weekend

As the 90-degree heat and humidity let up ever so slightly, the crowds began to build on Friday, as we moved one day closer to Sunday’s induction ceremony. Main Street was filled with large blocks of crowds, many of whom tried to position themselves to buy autographs and various pieces of memorabilia.

In additions to the dozens of Hall of Famers and ex-standouts, we can add at least one more name to the list of signers. Ron Blomberg, the self-proclaimed “Designated Hebrew,” is back for another weekend, sure to make Yankee fans in their 40s and 50s very happy. It’s hard to find a more effervescent personality than the one boasted by “Boomer.”

While Main Street buzzed, the Hall of Fame’s Bullpen Theater overflowed with its own activities. Capacity crowds filled the theater to watch Andy Strasburg’s talk on Roger Maris and Curt Smith’s presentation on his new book, “A Talk in the Park: Nine Decades of Tales From the Broadcast Booth.” Smith, who interviewed 116 broadcasters for the exhaustive book, told stories of announcers ranging fromKen Harrelson to Steve Blass to Joe Garagiola to the late Dave Niehaus. Among those in attendance for Smith’s talk was longtime Blue Jays broadcaster Jerry Howarth, who shared a few amusing stories of his own about his broadcasting brethren.

Smith has now visited the Hall of Fame more than 75 times. A resident of Rochester, N.Y., Smith works as a newspaper columnist and a college professor, and formerly served as one of President George H.W. Bush’s speechwriters in the 1980s and early ’90s. As usual, the well-inflected Smith captivated the crowd in the Bullpen Theater.

I was fortunate to run into Vera Clemente, the widow of the great Roberto, and her son, Luis. It’s difficult to find two nicer or more cordial people in the baseball world than the Clementes. Luis does diligent work in running the Roberto Clemente Sports City in Puerto Rico, where the staff has had to overcome a brutal spring and summer filled with torrential rain and oppressive heat. Mrs. Clemente looks terrific, which is especially nice to see given some recent health problems. Later in the day, I gave her and Luis copies of the recent Sports Illustrated article detailing the 40th anniversary reunion of the 1971 Pirates.

Next up on Saturday: a visit to Doubleday Field to hear some of the Hall of Famers talk about the game’s finer points, and a stop at CVS to acquire the autograph of the underrated Jim Perry. And if I run into Tito Fuentes on Main Street, all the better.

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