The merchants and hotel folks in Cooperstown and environs always have a lot riding on what former players the Baseball Writers’ Association of America determine are worthy of induction into the Hall of Fame.
The more exciting the choices, the more people will attend the annual induction ceremony each July. These people will spend money on lodging, food, memorabilia, gas, diapers, aspirin, newspapers, candy bars and a lot of other things being sold or rented around here.
Toward that end, the selection of pitchers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz — along with Craig Biggio, who toiled effectively as an infielder, outfielder and catcher — should have business people feeling pretty chipper.
Johnson was not a popular player when he was with the Yankees, basically because of a prickly personality and the fact that he was well past his impressive prime when he wore pinstripes. But still, he was a Yankee, at least for awhile, and that should entice some New Yorkers to make the trip here next summer.
Martinez’s induction should lure a ton of Bostonians and residents of Montreal and the Dominican Republic, and rightfully so. A Dominican native, Martinez won a Cy Young Award when pitching for the Expos and pitched his heart out for seven seasons with the Red Sox. From 1997 to 2003, he was arguably the best pitcher … ever. Later, he spent four years with the Mets and one with the Phillies.
Smoltz, who excelled as an Atlanta Braves starting pitcher and reliever, will provide an appealing reason for Atlanta fans who visited Cooperstown last year for the induction of three former Braves to return for the July 26 ceremony.
Biggio spent his entire career playing for the Houston Astros, for whom he garnered more than 3,000 hits. He missed out on getting selected last year by only two votes.
It should turn out to be a terrific summer for Cooperstown-area tourism, and for that we are happy and grateful. But we are even more happy for the Hall of Fame itself, which always carries off inductions with distinction. As the keeper of the flame for the best sport of all, it provides the best hall of fame of any sport.
Moreover, we rejoice in the fact that the baseball writers chose to keep steroid cheaters out of the Hall. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Mike Piazza have never been convicted in a court of law for using performance-enhancing drugs. But in the court of “if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck …” they all unworthy of induction.
That Johnson, Martinez, Smoltz and Biggio thrived in the steroid era while playing clean adds to their luster. For Cooperstown and the Hall, it promises to be a very good year.