It seems fitting that baseball's lovable losers are helping end a nearly 70-year tradition.
The Chicago Cubs _ without a World Series championship in 100 years _ will play in the final edition of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Game at 2 p.m. today, when they face the San Diego Padres at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown.
The Cubs won the first Fame Game in 1940, beating Ted Williams and the Boston Red Sox, 10-9. Future Hall of Famer Williams hit two home runs in the loss.
The annual Home Run Derby will precede today's Fame Game at 1:15 p.m.
Tickets for the game are sold out. Brad Horn, the Hall's senior director of communications and education, said if any tickets are returned, they will go on sale at 9 a.m. today in the Doubleday Field parking lot. The field has a seating capacity of 9,571.
Major League Baseball announced earlier this year that 2008 will mark the last installment of its only in-season exhibition game.
"It's sad," Horn said. "We know the emotion of the Hall of Fame Game is the same drive that drives baseball fans young and old. We know with the game going away, it will be a sad occasion because it marks the end of a great tradition."
Chicago comes into the game with the best record in baseball at 45-23, a winning percentage of .643. The Cubs lead the St. Louis Cardinals by 3.5 games in the National League Central Division. The Padres (31-40, .437) are third in the NL West, 6.5 games behind division-leading Arizona.
"We're looking forward to welcoming the Cubs and Padres," Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said. "It's fitting that the Cubs played in the first game and are bookending with the last game. And the Padres played the first (major league exhibition) game in China and are playing the last (Fame Game) in Cooperstown."
Weather could play a factor today. The National Weather Service (http://forecast.weather.gov) shows that showers and thunderstorms are likely, calling for mostly cloudy skies with a high temperature near 73. The chance of precipitation today is 70 percent.
In the event of a rainout, the Fame Game will not be made up. Rain ended the 2006 Fame Game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds in the third inning, and the Hall offered refunds to ticketholders.
"When Major League Baseball told us the Padres were coming to town, we were hoping that San Diego weather would be coming with them," Idelson said. "Apparently, that wasn't part of the deal. All we can do is hope Mother Nature is the baseball fan we think she is."
A parade down Main Street will start today's festivities at noon, followed by the Home Run Derby and the Fame Game. Horn said the participants for the Derby, as well as starting pitchers and lineups, will be set this morning.
The Padres, who will serve as the visiting team, have a roster of 36 players. The Cubs have 43 roster players. The rosters include two bullpen catchers apiece.
Chicago, which is managed by former New York Yankees outfielder Lou Piniella and won the NL Central last season, beat Toronto, 7-4, on Sunday. The Padres, managed by Bud Black, lost at Cleveland, 7-3.
One of Chicago's top players, Alfonso Soriano, is on the disabled list with teammates Daryle Ward, Angel Guzman and Chad Fox. None of those players will appear in Cooperstown, Horn said.
Shortstop Ryan Theriot is batting .310 for Chicago this season. First baseman Derrek Lee (.289), third baseman Aramis Ramirez (.300) and catcher Geovany Soto (.288) are the Cubs' top power-hitters, with 14, 11 and 10 home runs, respectively. Soriano leads the team with 15 homers.
Carlos Zambrano and former closer Ryan Dempster lead Chicago's pitching staff with 8-2 records. Ted Lilly is 7-5 and Jason Marquis is 5-3. Kerry Wood (3-1) _ a former starter _ is the Cubs' closer this year and has converted 18 of 22 chances.
The Fame Game will be televised live on WGN out of Chicago. Time Warner Cable subscribers in Oneonta can watch the game on channel 25.
"It's very exciting and the first time since 1995 with a live televised game," Horn said. "The broadcast will be built to give visitors a strong sense of what Cooperstown is all about. WGN is looking to have fun with the game."
Outfielder Brian Giles leads San Diego with a .304 average. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .293 with 19 home runs and 62 RBIs, and third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff is at .263 with 10 homers and 33 RBIs. Gonzalez and Kouzmanoff are the only two players on San Diego who have hit double digits in home runs.
The Padres also feature former Oneonta Tigers catcher Luke Carlin, who is hitting .164 (9-for-55) in 17 games this season. He has three doubles, a triple and two RBIs.
San Diego is also expected to bring three of the best pitchers in baseball.
Closer Trevor Hoffman is MLB's all-time saves leader with 539. Hoffman (1-4, .450) has converted 15 of 18 save chances this year.
Starter Greg Maddux, 350-219 all-time, is 3-5 with a 3.31 ERA this season. Reigning Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy is 5-3 with a 2.64 ERA.
Horn said after the 2008 Fame Game ends, the Hall will start looking for a suitable replacement for one of its biggest events of the year.
"We remain committed to having an event that gets people excited for Cooperstown and baseball," Horn said. "... After the final out (today), we can plan ahead. Our focus is to make this last game something truly memorable."
The website savethefamegame.com, created by Cooperstown native Kristian Connolly, is attempting protest MLB's decision to cut its ties with the Fame Game by holding a moment of silence for the duration of the bottom of the third inning.
P.J. Harmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-432-1000, ext. 229.