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Local Sports

July 28, 2013

Hall to honor the old ball game

Imagine an owner making a deal for a pitcher, then converting him into a hitter and watching as he finishes his career with more than 700 home runs.

Think of a catcher who played without a glove, a mask and other protective equipment.

Or how about a guy who attends a professional game as a spectator, gets recruited from the stands to umpire and then goes on to work 10 World Series.

All of it seems unthinkable.

Those who attend Sunday’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at 1:30 p.m. at the Clark Sports Center will hear how much baseball has changed over the past 130 years or so.

“Our job is to honor history as it unfolds, either in the moment, or some cases like this, in moments many decades after,” Hall President Jeff Idelson said as the Cooperstown shrine prepares to enter the way-back machine. “For the three gentleman inducted this year, it’s been a long time waiting. Nonetheless, it’s well deserved.”

The three men — former Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, bare-handed catcher Deacon White and umpire Hank O’Day — earned election via the Pre-Integration Committee in December, bringing the number of Hall of Famers to 300. All of them died before the United States’ involvement in World War II (1941).

In 2013, they’re hardly household names.

That’s the biggest reason Sunday’s ceremony doesn’t figure to draw many fans.

“We know the crowds will be lighter than years with a headline inductee,” Idelson said. “There are those who adore the history of the game who will come, and others who attend year in and year out, it’s a weekend they circle on their calendar. But we know the crowds won’t be as big as if we had a living inductee.”

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot this past year included some greats of the game — home run king Barry Bonds and seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens among them — but none met the 75 percent threshold for induction.

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