Who says Cooperstown is a 19th century village that is out of touch with modern day trends? Well, no more. The village experienced its first “flash mob” on Saturday, one of the surprising highlights of the third day of Hall of Fame Weekend.
At noon, about 40 local residents, all dressed in red, took part in an unannounced Zumba routine on Main Street, dancing to the music of John Fogerty’s “Centerfield.” The flash mob, which stopped traffic for about four minutes, drew a rousing ovation from the fans lining the street—but a less generous response from the local police department. The Cooperstown police, showing little sense of humor during the town’s most festive weekend, ticketed the flash mobbers for “creating a disturbance,” or some such legal transgression.
To be honest, I didn’t even know what a flash mob was until AT&T started running that commercial showing a lone flash mobber in Grand Central Station doing an odd dance ritual until he realizes that no one has joined in on the routine. Now the folks in Cooperstown have seen a flash mob up close and personal.
Saturday also marked the first Hall of Fame awards ceremony, in which Dave Van Horne received the Frick Award for broadcasting, Bill Conlin the Spink Award for writing, and Roland Hemond the Buck O’ Neil Award for lifetime contributions to the game. For the first time, the awards ceremony was held the day before the induction, and at a different site, the lovely and historic Doubleday Field. There had been concern that few fans might turn out for the event, but people filled the grandstand and much of the first base bleachers, making it a terrific turnout of several thousand for the inaugural ceremony. Attendance was so good that it’s almost certain the Hall will continue to stage the awards ceremony at Doubleday on the Saturday of Hall of Fame weekend.
Crowds on Main Street have appeared much stronger than they did last year. Based on a visual and very unofficial count, it looked like easily an increase of 1,500 fans over last year, when rainy weather put a clamp on the Saturday crowds. This year’s weather has been consistently hot and humid, with highs in the low nineties.
I had a chance to pick up an autograph and an interview from one of the folks on Main Street: longtime right hander Jim Perry, the older brother of Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry. I had assumed that Jim was in town to join Gaylord for the festivities, but Jim said he hadn’t actual seen his brother yet this weekend; his real reason for attending is to support Bert Blyleven at this year’s induction. The elder Perry was in the latter stages of his career in Minnesota when Blyleven came up with the Twins.
Jim Perry remains one of the most underrated pitchers in the game’s history. He won 215 games against 174 losses with a 3.45 ERA, made three All-Star teams, quietly won the American League Cy Young Award in 1970, and never spent a day on the disabled list from 1959 to 1974. (During that time, he averaged 36 starts per season.) Once criticized for being too nice a guy to win in the major leagues, the soft-spoken Perry proved all of those critics ridiculously wrong, particularly during his years in the Twin Cities.
With my Perry autograph in tow, it’s time to look toward Sunday. The induction ceremony, featuring Blyleven, Roberto Alomar and Pat Gillick, will begin at 1:30 at the Clark Sports Center. The weather figures to be a little cooler, with temps reaching into the high eighties.
Afterward, I’ll be attending the annual Cooperstown SABR meeting, where I’ll be presenting a program on baseball cards of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. The SABR meeting will start at 6 p.m. at Tillapaugh’s Funeral Home. Yes, you read it right, a funeral home. Unlike the flash mob, it’s a Cooperstown tradition.