We’re usually wary about being accused of boosterism, but we can’t help but feel excited about this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame Weekend.
Particularly after last year, when the baseball writers could not muster enough votes to qualify any former players for induction into the Hall, the optimism not only in Cooperstown but in Otsego County is palpable.
That’s because instead of chatter about which prominent ex-players didn’t get voted in because they may have been associated with performance-enhancing drugs, this year the talk is about the six worthy inductees who figure to lure a lot of visitors to our area.
The Hall of Fame, which has been — shall we say — generous in its attendance estimates though the years, has said it expects upward of 40,000 people to attend the free induction ceremony at the Clark Sports Center at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. That has local business folks pumped up.
“What we’re hearing is a lot of excitement for the Induction Weekend,” said Matthew Hazzard, interim director at the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce. “…This won’t be the biggest year, but it’s definitely one of the biggest ones. The excitement level definitely is there.”
The record announced attendance was in 2007 when Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn were inducted. We aren’t likely to see numbers like that until Mariano Rivera is almost certainly inducted in five years and fellow Yankee Derek Jeter in six. But this year’s group figures to draw a lot of people with Southern accents.
Four of the six 2014 honorees have ties to the Atlanta Braves. Pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and manager Bobby Cox were longtime Braves, and Joe Torre, being inducted primarily for his years as a Yankees manager, played for the Braves.
Also getting plaques during Sunday’s ceremony are Frank Thomas, who spent most of his career with the Chicago White Sox, and Tony La Russa, who managed the White Sox, Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals.
Today will see the Hall of Fame Awards Presentation at Doubleday Field, with honors going to writer Roger Angell and broadcasters Joe Garagiola (in absentia) and Eric Nadel. This will be followed by the Parade of Legends, where fans can see former inductees ride in floats down Main Street in Cooperstown.
On this, the Hall of Fame’s 75th anniversary, it is expected 50 Hall of Famers will attend and listen to the speeches of the six inductees. That would match the record set in 2008 for most returning players.
Hotel accommodations have been filled for months, local tourism officials said, and callers have been referred to lodging in Utica, Albany, Binghamton and Syracuse. It just feels like a Hall of Fame Weekend should, and that’s pretty darned good.