Given the professionalism and competence evident over the years at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, we were impressed, but not the least bit surprised, Saturday when as Jeff Idelson said: “The weather gave us lemons, but I think we were able to turn it into lemonade.”
Idelson, president of the Hall of Fame, and his colleagues decided that when rain forced the cancellation of the fifth annual Hall of Fame Classic, they would move up their “Night at the Museum” program to the afternoon.
The Classic was created to replace an annual exhibition game involving major league teams. Instead of current players _ and to be more accurate, a preponderance of minor-league players brought to Cooperstown to fill out the rosters _ retired big leaguers have taken to the diamond at Doubleday Field.
But then it rained on Saturday … and then it rained some more.
“Really, Mother Nature made the decision to cancel,” said Idelson.
But instead of just sending thousands of fans home disappointed, they were able to hobnob with the players inside the museum.
For fans who grew up watching and idolizing major leaguers, Saturday turned into a day to remember.
Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson, Goose Gossage, Phil Niekro and Rollie Fingers posed for pictures and talked with visitors in the Hall of Fame Gallery near their plaques, and other former players did the same elsewhere in the building that is sacred ground to avid baseball aficionados.
Idelson estimated that 3,500 people had entered by mid-afternoon.
“We’ve never had the museum come alive quite like this,” he said.
If we have a suggestion to make the event better next year, it is that rather than have just a Saturday event on Memorial Day Weekend, add activities on Sunday to encourage visitors to stay overnight. Perhaps “pitch, hit and run” events _ a baseball equivalent to football’s “punt, pass and kick” competition _ for youngsters and oldsters could happen on that day with former major leaguers presiding.