Hall of Fame Weekend: Live From Cooperstown

With heavy humidity, threatening skies, and building crowds on Main and Pioneer streets, Hall of Fame Weekend 2009 made its presence known in Cooperstown on Thursday…

One of the surest signs of the arrival of Induction Weekend is the sighting of the Fergie Jenkins Van. I saw Jenkins’ colorfully decorated vehicle, which he uses to travel around the country and Canada in efforts to raise money for his charitable foundation, early in the afternoon on Thursday. Another clearcut sign of Hall of Fame Weekend is the presence of Pete Rose, who was spotted at a Main Street autograph signing on Thursday. Now that Rose has apparently given up hopes of being reinstated, he’s back to his habit of appearing at Hall of Fame Weekend and signing his autograph at inflated prices. Amazingly, Rose receives more for his signature than just about all of the Hall of Famers, even those who were far superior players…

Also on Thursday, 2009 Inductee Rickey Henderson made an unexpected appearance at the Main Street CVS Pharmacy, causing a bit of a commotion in the store. Henderson isn’t scheduled to sign at CVS until Monday afternoon, but he dropped by on Thursday afternoon to negotiate some of the remaining details to his autograph session. When fans spotted Henderson in one of the aisles, they began to crowd around, thinking that Henderson was signing right then and there. A mini-mob scene formed, before the fans were eventually told that Rickey will not appear until Monday. Henderson will not be signing anywhere else in Cooperstown, meaning that CVS has an exclusive on him throughout the weekend…

Two other Hall of Famers did sign at CVS on Thursday: Jenkins and 90-year-old favorite Bob Feller. Feller visited town to pitch in the first Hall of Fame Classic last month; he won’t be doing any pitching this weekend, but I’m sure that he’ll be giving his outspoken opinion on just about anything he’s asked. Feller receives his fair share of criticism for being one of those old-fashioned “get off my lawn!” kind of guys, but the man is always accessible to the media, willingly engages fans in conversation, and has an impeccable resume as both a player and American war hero. During my years at the Hall of Fame, I interviewed Feller more than any other player, and he never failed to treat me with fairness and respect. And there is no one who loves the Hall of Fame, or would do anything to promote its popularity, more than Rapid Robert.

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