Hall of Fame Weekend: Live From Cooperstown on Monday

The Monday of Hall of Fame Weekend is usually a slow day in town because it is also getaway day for the 50-plus Hall of Famers and the two dozen other retired players who have spent several days in the village. That’s usually the case—but not this year. As I drove into town in the late morning, Main Street still looked packed, both with slow-moving cars and weary pedestrians. The north side of Main Street was especially congested, thanks to a long line of autograph seekers lining up outside of CVS for a shot at 2009 inductee Rickey Henderson. The line stretched all the way from CVS, located in the middle of the block, to Pioneer Street, and then some.

Those fans needed to exert extraordinary patience, since Henderson arrived about 40 minutes late for his signing. Unfortunately, Henderson’s tardiness is typical of too many ballplayers who routinely arrive late for autograph shows. It is simply amazing to me how many players, whether retired or active, pay so little attention to start times. As someone who occasionally does book signings, the idea of arriving late for any of them strikes me as thoroughly rude and completely unprofessional, but I get the feeling that it’s the norm in the autograph business…

All in all, the weekend provided success, both economically and artistically. The rains, except for the heavy downpours on Friday, stayed away for the most part, Henderson delivered a surprisingly good and funny induction speech; and fans had plenty of opportunities to acquire autographs of both Hall of Famers and retired standouts. The Friday afternoon youth clinic was also a big hit, thanks to impeccable organization by the Hall and the MLB Alumni Association, and the enthusiastic presence of ten former major leaguers…

As nice as Hall of Fame Weekend was, leave it to Keith Olbermann to bestow his arrogance on the village. In his error-prone Baseball Nerd blog, Olbermann decided to poke fun at former Giant John “The Count” Montefusco because his autographed picture is selling for only $4.95 at the local CVS. Hey Keith, that’s $4.95 more than most of Cooperstown would pay for your Cornell-trained signature. Of course, Olbermann didn’t mention (because he didn’t bother to ask anyone) that Montefusco signed those prints as part of an appearance that raised money for a CVS-sponsored charity. (Graciously, Montefusco also signed for a longer period of time than he was originally scheduled.) And last I looked, Montefusco had a pretty respectable career, winning 90 games and National League Rookie of the Year honors in 1976. Hey, I’d pay triple the listed price for The Count’s signature…

Olbermann’s presence aside, Hall of Fame Weekend provided a needed boost of energy to a town that has been hit hard by both the national and state economies. Bolstered by an estimated 20,000 fans and a cast of nearly 80 former ballplayers, Cooperstown felt revitalized over the last five days. As someone who has been living in Cooperstown for the past 16 summers, I never get tired of this special weekend. For a baseball fan and for someone who wants to see Cooperstown thrive and prosper, Hall of Fame Weekend is a worthy endeavor.

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  1. Dr. Jeremiah B.C. Axelrod said...

    It would have been nice if you had read Olbermann’s article with any spirit of fair-mindedness at all. He has been gushing in his celebration of the Hall of Fame and Cooperstown all week for just the sort of reasons you should appreciate.

    His discussion of John Montefusco’s CVS autograph at no time whatsoever questioned The Count’s on-field or later triumphs. The coda of Olbermann’s original paragraph was indeed painfully simple: “Fame is fleeting.”

    He was, like so many of us, taken with the truth that our heroes of youth are now too often reduced to nostalgia or, worse, $4.95 unsold consumer trinkets – discarded objects that symbolize how we cruelly abandon our heroes (just as our heroes too often abandon us; see Olbermann’s very generous articles on Pete Rose all week for more on that).

    I am sure Olbermann would be very pleased to discover that Montefusco had signed those pictures for a worthwhile charity and that some fans still remember the man’s baseball achievements. That is the hope of Cooperstown: that our heroes of the past be not forgotten in the future – precisely the spirit that Olbermann’s pieces very ably encapsulate.

  2. Bruce Markusen said...

    Jeremiah, I don’t see it that way at all. Olbermann was poking fun—as is often his style in print and on the air—at someone because the value of his autograph has gone down. I didn’t se Olbermann’s piece as being sympathetic toward Montefusco at all.

    At the same time, Olbermann goes out of his way to defend an absolute sleaze like Pete Rose and call for his reinstatement to the game and his election to the Hall of Fame. This despite the fact that Rose gambled on baseball, lied about it repeatedly for years, then timed the release of his book to coincide with the election of Paul Molitor to the Hall of Fame, just so that he could draw attention away from the Hall and onto himself. (Rose also continues to gamble, as evidenced by repeated trips to the casino in nearby Vernon and the regular trips he makes to Las Vegas.) In Olbermann’s strange world view, Montefusco is a figure to be mocked, while Rose is a man deserving a reprieve. Simply put, I find that dichotomy disgusting.

  3. Dr. Jeremiah B.C. Axelrod said...

    Hello, Bruce – I still do not agree with you about the tone of Olbermann’s comments about Montefusco, but I see now that you are reacting as much against Olbermann’s forgiveness of that scoundrel Rose as you are about his treatment of Montefusco, and I am very sympathetic to that aspect of your critique.

    Again, I do not think he mocked Montefusco, but Olbermann is certainly guilty of lumping the two together unfairly, all under the nostalgic guise of memory, forgetting, and forgiveness. We may have all been unjust, in some cosmic sense, in failing to remember and honor Montefusco’s career, but the much more morally damning injustice in Rose’s case is that people somehow feel sorry for that guy.

  4. Craig Murphy said...

    I followed Rickey Henderson around town that Monday morning and even stood in line for that autograph!  What you didnt state was the fact that Rickey had been at a Press Conf and earlier meetings all day, and took the chance to get a bite to eat and a few moments with his daughters in a diner just 2 buildings down from CVS, where he was to sign.  I dont understand why your story had to include any negative comments at all?!?  And to then take a shot at Rickey is just looking for attention and not good reporting.  Especially when the guy was just being “human”.  This will be the last time I read one of your stories.

  5. Bruce Markusen said...

    Craig, Rickey’s hectic schedule is an understandable concern, but the fact of the matter is that he WAS paid a large sum of money to sign and paying fans WERE informed that he was going to sign beginning at 12 noon. If he was not prepared to honor that time commitment, he should not have made it in the first place.

    Additionally, he could have eaten lunch after the signing. CVS set him up with a table in the back of the store, where he could have eaten privately with his family members.

    I’m sorry that you feel so strongly about this that you’ve decided not to read any more stories that I write. I don’t include negative comments for the sake of being negative, but in order to report the actual facts as they happened. (And I was at CVS that day and have reported the story accurately.) I have no axe to grind against Rickey. In my Sunday post, I praised him for delivering an excellent speech and providing the highlight of the day.

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