COOPERSTOWN — One might expect the crowds flocking to Cooperstown for this weekend's Hall of Fame induction ceremony to be decked out in pinstripes in support of former Yankees Mariano Rivera and Mike Mussina.
What you may not expect is the overwhelming amount of fans that made the trip to see former Seattle Mariner Edgar Martinez's enshrinement into the Hall of Fame.
Buses carrying Seattle Mariners fans emptied out near the steps of the Hall, mixing in with hundreds more on Main Street. In a sea of Mariner caps and jerseys, his familiar number 11 and name were displayed on just about every fan's jersey. With home cities of other inductees no farther than Chicago, the outpouring of support by Mariners fans is impressive. One group of Martinez fans flew in from Puerto Rico to honor one of their own.
“We are in general huge baseball fans," Carlos Ruiz said. “We enjoy and support all Puerto Rican players and are very proud of Edgar."
"He was a great human being," Angel Quintero said of Martinez, the 2004 recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award. “I am a Cardinals fan but I am here for Edgar. I saw him play for San Juan and love his baseball and especially his humility.”
Other Mariners fans like John Scukanec offered other unique perspectives on Martinez.
“He is the Mariners,” he said. “Of course we had Griffey, but he's for everybody he played for.
"Edgar Martinez is all ours.”
It wasn't all Seattle in Cooperstown this weekend. Chicago White Sox fan Marty Anderson flew in from Alaska for Harold Baines.
“I met Harold for the first time in 2008,” Anderson said. “He was first base coach for the Sox and I was wearing my Harold Baines jersey. He came over between innings and he thanked me. He signed a hat for me and we became friends. I liked him because he played always for the team. If he was interviewed after a big hit he always mentioned his teammates. He never bragged or complained. Just a great person and a great player.”
Phillies fans Joe Maleno and Mike Jakimowicz said they came to Cooperstown for Roy Halladay. Wearing Phillies hats and jerseys, Maleno said, “I met Doc personally when the Phillies had their Lou Gehrig benefit and I won a ticket to have a photo taken with him. He was such a dominant pitcher, a clutch pitcher and a really nice man.”
For Jakimowicz, his first trip to Cooperstown is filled with emotion. His mother dreamed she'd send him to Cooperstown one day, but died before that dream was realized. “”Of course I'm here for Halladay," he said. “But I'll be thinking of my mom while we're here, too.” He continued, “These are the nicest people in the world here in Cooperstown. I love it.”
Running into Lee Smith’s family offered the chance to find out Lee’s reaction the day of the announcement. His son Dimitri said, “He was at home just sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. He was nervous. When the phone rang and he answered it, his eyes just lit up.”
Dimitri’s sister Nikita said, “We just started calling everybody we knew. He was just so happy.” Lee’s wife Diana said, “Yes, he was nervous and excited waiting for that call. It was an amazing moment of relief and joy when that call came.”
Yankee fan Moses Colon wore his Mike Mussina jersey. The Brooklyn native said, “He (Mussina) was such a consistent performer. And he left on his terms. One or two more years and he would have won 300 games, and nobody does that anymore. He was a big reason for those winning Yankee teams.”
Mussina's teammate, Mariano Rivera had his share of love from some unlikely places. Adam Williams said he's a big Yankee fan living in Red Sox territory. When asked how he had become a Yankees fan, Williams joked “Because I was raised right. Rivera was lights out. When he came into the game, you knew it was over. And he basically threw one pitch.” Williams' friend Pete DeTone agreed, saying, “You were just confident when he came into the game. Everyone knew it was over.”