It was a relatively quiet first day of Hall of Fame Weekend, as the first large wave of Hall of Famers and baseball celebrities made its way into Cooperstown on Thursday. With mid-90s heat in full throttle, a few afternoon signings took place, featuring Yogi Berra, Rich Gossage, Fergie Jenkins, Gaylord Perry, Pete Rose and Art Shamsky and providing a small hint of the frenzied activity to come on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
A few additional signings have been added to the schedule. Future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux (who is expected to ride into Cooperstown with more than 90 per cent of the vote in 2014, his first year on the ballot) will be signing at T.J.’s Place on Friday (1:30 pm) and Saturday afternoons (1 pm). Former center field defensive whiz Elliott Maddox (who was practically the equal of Paul Blair before hurting his knee at Shea Stadium) will also be appearing at T.J.’s, but on Sunday morning, just before the induction. And there will even be a boxer in town to do some autographing. Tommy “The Duke” Morrison will be signing at Seventh Inning Stretch on Saturday morning.
Other activities are planned for the weekend. The Hall of Fame’s web site (http://www.baseball hall.org) has a complete rundown of Hall sponsored activities, but I’ll highlight some of my Friday and Saturday favorites in this space.
On Friday at 11 am, collector and historian Andy Strasburg will present “My Roger Maris Story” at the Museum. Strasburg, who has one of the greatest collections of Maris memorabilia in the world, will discuss his friendship with the late Yankees home run king. I’ve never seen Strasburg’s presentation, but have heard that it is solid and informational, with lots of insight into Maris’ personality and character.
At 2 pm on Friday, noted author and general good guy Curt Smith will discuss his new book, “A Talk in the Park: Nine Decades of Tales from the Broadcast Booth.” Of the many authors I’ve heard, Smith is the best public speaker of the bunch, an articulate and nuanced wordsmith. After his talk, Smith will sign copies of his new book in the Hall of Fame Library.
Saturday will mark a major change from past ceremonies. For the first time, the Frick and Spink awards will take place on a separate day from the induction, with historic Doubleday Field providing the backdrop. Longtime Expos broadcaster Dave Van Horne will receive the Frick, Philadelphia sportswriter Bill Conlin will take home the Spink, and longtime general manager Roland Hemond will receive the second installation of the Buck O’Neil Award. The Saturday awards ceremony will begin at 4:30 pm, and like the Sunday induction, it will be free.
Before the awards ceremony, the Hall of Fame has put together an intriguing series of interactive Spotlight Series panels about the finer points of the game. They will start at Doubleday Field at 11 am, and will feature Gaylord Perry, Tom Seaver and Don Sutton discussing the “Art of Pitching,” Paul Molitor on “The Batter’s Eye,” and Van Horne and Peter Gammons discussing “Scribes and Mikemen.” The speakers will answer questions from the fans, providing some much-needed face time between the celebrities and the public.
After the awards ceremony, beginning at 6 p.m., the Hall of Fame will feature its Parade of Legends, with most of the 48 Hall of Famers riding in antique cars along Main Street. The parade, which was introduced last year, was a major hit, and served as a perfect transition to the popular Red Carpet Arrivals on the front steps of the museum. Of all the weekend events, the Red Carpet Arrivals has traditionally been one of the strongest, a “can’t miss” for those who want to find the true spirit of Induction Weekend.