COOPERSTOWN — Three baseball lifers were recognized Saturday at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Award Presentation at Doubleday Field.
The Hall said goodbye to former President Jeff Idelson, posthumously honored pioneer baseball announcer Al Helfer with the Ford C. Frick Award and gave the J.G. Taylor Spink Award to The Athletic writer Jayson Stark.
Stark, who graduated from Syracuse University, started his writing career at the Providence Journal, before making a name for himself covering his hometown Philadelphia Phillies for the Philadelphia Enquirer. He later worked for ESPN and the MLB Network.
“I’m here today because I dreamed a dream,” he said. “Somehow I wound up doing exactly what I always dreamed of doing from the time I was old enough to dream about doing anything. That was my dream: to be a baseball writer.”
Stark said he loves Cooperstown, and remembers visiting not long after the 1994 strike, which cancelled the World Series. He thought the game had killed itself until he saw the passion people had at the 1995 Induction of Mike Schmidt and Richie Ashburn, among others.
“That, friends, is the beauty of Cooperstown,” he said. “Sometime in our lives, we all fell in love with baseball and (when) we arrive in Cooperstown, it brings it all back. It infuses that love, that glow in us.
“So, tonight, when you look in the mirror, remind yourself of that,” he continued. “It’s not a sunburn. That’s a glow. It’s the Cooperstown glow.”
Helfer was one of the first radio broadcasters to call actual games, rather than dramatizing a call based on news reports. He eventually became the voice of the Mutual Network’s Game of the Day, broadcasting games six days a week for five years in the 1950s. He worked for eight different Major League Baseball teams calling games. Red Barber, who broadcast Cincinnati Reds games with Helfer, gave him the nickname, “Brother Al.”
Helfer also became known for his college football announcing, including being the voice of the Heisman Trophy presentation for many years.
Idelson, who stepped down last month as Hall president and was replaced by Tim Mead, spent 25 years in Cooperstown. He was Hall president for the past 11 years.
“As the museum’s top ambassador to baseball, and to all those who love the game, Jeff shared his passion for our national pastime and promoted the importance of the Hall’s mission: to preserve history, honor excellence and connect generations,” said Jane Forbes Clark, chair of the Hall.
Idelson said he, too, loved Cooperstown and all it has meant to him and his family.
“If you can make a ca+reer out of what you love, and also live where you want to on top of that, you’re way ahead of the curve,” Idelson said. “That’s where I lived, way ahead of the curve here in Cooperstown, working at the Hall of Fame.”