Even the kids knew it was a down year for the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Induction Weekend.
Standing on Pioneer Street, in front of their makeshift business, 13-year-olds Margaret Harmon and Nicole Idelson could tell from their still-full bowl of snacks for sale.
“We usually end up selling something every year,” said Idelson. “This year was harder.”
“Because of the rain,” Harmon offered.
“And not as many famous people going in,” added Idelson, who should know. Her dad, Jeff, is president of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
By 1:30 p.m., the girls were offering free pieces of candy and snacks to the younger kids in their neighborhood.
By then, the rain had starting falling hard. The start of the induction ceremony was officially pushed back until 2:15 p.m.; it actually started closer to 2:30 p.m.
Hall of Fame representatives put on happy faces as they dealt with inclement weather for the second time this year (the Hall of Fame Classic was rained out on May 25).
“What would baseball be without some inclement weather,” joked announcer Gary Thorne.
On Main Street, the faces weren’t always as happy.
“It is just a disaster,” said Brian Paterno of Paterno Brothers Sports. “It is no busier than a normal weekend.”
Not everyone was as negative as Paterno, however. Several businesses reported good sales and good foot traffic, although no one said business was up from last year when 17,500 fans attended the induction of Barry Larkin and Ron Santo. Given the official attendance figure reported by the Hall was 2,500, that’s not surprising.
“It is not as good as last year, but people are still coming in and they are still buying,” said Sarah Mower, manager of Mickey’s Place.
A few doors down at Extra Innings, manager Scott Morley said he recognized many regular visitors.
“The people you expected to see, you saw,” he said. “The diehards you see every year came back this year.
“I think we got about what we expected (in business),” he added. “We’ll know for sure tomorrow. Obviously the number of people here is down.”
At Tin Bin Alley, employee Holli Erkson said business was good even if traffic was down.
“This weekend was okay,” she said. “It has been busy all weekend, but nothing like other years. I have been working here for six years now, but it has definitely been the slowest induction weekend I have seen.”
At Cooperstown Bat Company, co-owner Connie Haney said that while weekend sales were up and down, she likes to stay positive.
“Friday was a little quieter than last year, but that may have something to do with (Dreams Park) rather than the Induction. Saturday was on par with last year. Sunday, we’re not sure yet. Overall, it has been business as usual for us. We’ve had some of our regulars, who come in every year, come back this year, so we are happy to see them.
“We try to keep very positive about business and hope that if you are positive then people will feel good about your business,” she continued. “It seems to work for us.”
Across the street, Paterno was not feeling the same vibe.
“I thought it would be better,” he said. “I would say the crowd has to be down 80 percent from last year, easily.”
Paterno said he blamed the Baseball Writers’ Association of America for not giving any current candidates the needed 75 percent of the vote for induction. Craig Biggio came closest with 68.2 percent.
“These reporters think they are above everybody else by submitting empty ballots, when they should have put guys like Biggio and (Mike) Piazza in this year,” he said. “If you only have three guys to induct who are all dead, what do you expect?”
Clearly no one expected 2007, when Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn brought about 75,000 fans.
“That was like nothing I have ever seen,” said Erkson.
Added Mower, “quite frankly, all the Induction Weekends start to blend together in my mind, except for the Cal Ripken year. The Ripken year was overwhelming.”
But Mower said she thinks she may see it again soon. “I am aware we could have a really good five years of inductions coming up, and Main Street needs that,” she said. “It is nice to have Induction Weekend come alive.”
With Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas on the ballot for the first time next year, and Randy Johnson and Ken Griffey, Jr. as first timers in 2015 and 2016 respectively, some headline years are looming for the HOF.
And since New York Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera is retiring this year and Derek Jeter is nearing retirement, Mower said she thinks there may even be a record-breaking crown in the next decade. Rivera’s induction in 2019 is as close to a sure thing as the HOF will ever get.
“Let’s hope they stagger their retirements,” Mower said, “so we get them a couple of years in a row. It would be great if we got 100,000 one year, but it would be even better to get 50,000 two years in a row.
“We’re used to ups and downs with the weekend,” she said. “All in all, baseball isn’t going anywhere, so we think the business will keep coming.”