Backtracking: In Our Times: Hall of Fame weekend in 1982 featured Hank Aaron

File     The 1982 Hall of Fame inductees show off their plaques after ceremonies on Sunday, Aug. 1. From left they are Travis Jackson, A.B. (Happy) Chandler, Frank Robinson and Hank Aaron.

A normal baseball induction weekend in Cooperstown would occur this weekend. Just wait until next year, as some underachieving baseball clubs might say in a given year.

The baseball world lost Hank Aaron this year, so it would seem fitting to recall this man’s special weekend, back in 1982.

“Hammerin’ Hank” shared the induction stage that year with legendary Frank Robinson, and a star of yesteryear with the New York Giants’ Travis Jackson, as well as a former baseball commissioner, A.B. “Happy” Chandler.

According to The Daily Star of July 31, “Aaron and Robinson were both elected in their first year of eligibility. Aaron, who spent all but two years of his 23-year major league career with the Braves (Atlanta and Milwaukee), broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record of 714. By the time he retired in 1976, Aaron had 755 homers.

“Robinson was a batting hero to Cincinnati and, later, Baltimore. He also retired in 1976, ending his career as player-manager of the Cleveland Indians. Robinson hit 586 home runs, is the only player ever to win the most valuable player awards in both leagues, and was the first black manager in major league baseball.

“At least one of the four inductees says he plans more than a simple ‘thank you’ when he steps to the microphone.

“Chandler, 84, told reporters in Kentucky he wants to set the record straight on the color issue in baseball.

“‘I’m going to tell the Jackie Robinson story and set it all straight,’ Chandler said. ‘For years all those smart-aleck sportswriters gave (Dodger owner) Branch Rickey all the credit for bringing Jackie into baseball. I want to set the record straight. You know what they say: opinions die, records live.’

“‘The record, Chandler said, shows that baseball’s team owners voted 15-1 to prevent Robinson from becoming the major league’s first black player on 1947.

“But historians overlooked the fact that the commissioner of baseball had to approve the transfer of Robinson’s minor league contract to the Brooklyn Dodgers, Chandler said.

“Ironically, the memory of Jackie Robinson plays an important role in another part of this year’s Hall of Fame weekend.

“The U.S. Postal Service will issue the new Jackie Robinson commemorative stamp in Cooperstown Monday. Robinson’s widow and his brother and sister are expected to be at the ceremony. Social activist, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, will give the benediction.”

Induction ceremonies were still held in Cooper Park, outside of the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s library, on Sunday, Aug. 1.

As The Star reported the next day on Hank Aaron, “In his speech, Aaron made no reference to the man whose record he broke, or the lack of recognition he received until the latter years at his career when it became evident that he would challenge Ruth’s record.

“Aaron, now the director of player development for the Atlanta Braves, made reference to fellow Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella.

“‘I feel a sense of great humility today,’ Aaron said. He said Jackie Robinson and Campanella ‘proved to the world that a man’s ability is limited by lack of opportunity.’

“‘The way to the Hall of Fame is like the way to heaven,’ Aaron said. ‘It’s a long and winding road, and I did not make the journey alone,’ Aaron said.

“‘For 23 years I took the god-given talent I had and developed it to the best of my ability. But it was not fame I sought,’ Aaron said.

“During a post-ceremony news conference, Aaron said he believes someone will someday will break his home run record, but noted it will be a difficult task.”

The day’s crowd was estimated at about 4,000, as prior to the afternoon ceremonies, Cooperstown’s Main Street had been busy with people buying souvenirs and searching for famous faces to seek autographs from.

This weekend: A salute to jobs well done locally in July 1941. 

Oneonta City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area before 1950. His Wednesday columns address local history 1950 and later. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at simmark@stny.rr.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/opinion/columns/.

Ask Mark... 

Have you ever had a question about a history-making event or a prominent person in our area and didn't know where to find the answer? Well, we've got an expert who might be able to help you. Historian Mark Simonson has spent many years chronicling major local happenings, and he's ready and willing to dive into The Daily Star archives for answers, which will appear in this newspaper and online at www.thedailystar.com.

Write to him at "Ask Mark," The Daily Star, 102 Chestnut St., Oneonta, NY 13820 or email him at simmark@stny.rr.com

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