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At Hall of Fame, baseball cards come to life

By Mike Wertman, Sports Writer Posted 26 July 2014 at 12:00 am

Photos by Cheryl Wertman  – One of this year’s Hall of Fame inductees, former Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux, plays a round of golf on Friday morning at the Leatherstocking Country Club.

Cooperstown – It’s the Mecca for baseball fans, especially this weekend when the Baseball Hall of Fame celebrates its milestone 75th annual induction ceremonies.

It’s always a special weekend which we have attended almost every year since 1999 when Cheryl’s favorite player, George Brett, was inducted along with Nolan Ryan, Robin Yount and Orlando Cepeda.

Crowds were modest on Friday, both at the Leatherstocking Country Club where many of the Hall of Famers and other veteran players in attendance enjoy a round of golf, and at the many card and memorabilia shops along Main Street.

Among the players we saw taking in a round of golf on Friday morning were two of this year’s class of Hall of Fame inductees, former Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux and Tony LaRussa, the former manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, Oakland A’s and Chicago White Sox.

The Hall of Fame has displays for two of the new inductees: former Atlanta Braves teammates Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux.

A visit to the Hall of Fame later in the morning saw some nice displays of the uniforms and other momentos from the careers of Maddux and LaRussa along with the other four inductees: former Braves pitcher Tom Glavine, former Braves manager Bobby Cox, former New York Yankees Manger Joe Torre and former Chicago White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas.

A walk up and down Main Street to check out the shops was certainly easy as the sidewalk was quite literally as wide as the street, which is closed off to traffic for the weekend because of the large crowds expected. And as a footnote getting to and from the outlying parking areas outside of town is also easy thanks to the frequent trolley service.

It is a festive atmosphere and there is certainly no shortage of Hall of Famers and other former major leaguers as every card shop had a number of Hall of Famers and or other former major leaguers on hand to sign autographs – for a fee.

Former Los Angeles Dodgers manager and Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda signs an autograph for a fan.

It was fun to see the likes of Tommy Lasorda, Rickey Henderson, Pete Rose, Juan Marichal, Denny McClain, Dale Murphy and Bobby Valentine to name a few but one would have to be in a bit of a higher tax bracket to get some of those signatures, which went as high as $99 for Lasorda for instance.

Cheryl, who is a softball enthusiast and former player, though did get one reasonably priced autograph when she got to meet former team USA Olympic gold and silver medal winning star pitcher Jennie Finch. She expressed her hope that softball would soon be re-instated as an Olympic sport. “I hope it gets back in by the 2020 Olympics but it still has to go up for a vote,” Finch said.

Team USA Olympic softball team pitcher Jennie Finch displays her gold and silver medals.

The walk along Main Street also provided the opportunity to meet and visit a bit with former long time Major League umpire Bruce Froemming who worked games in both the National and American Leagues for some 37 years (1971-2007). When asked what he though about the instant replay system Major League baseball is now utilizing for games he quickly gave is a ringing endorsement. “Terrific,” he said of using replay. “We have the technology to do it and we should use it.”

The television media was also out in force along Main Street as at one point we had a chance to see MLB network’s Peter Gammon doing a broadcast right across the street from the Hall of Fame.

Former Major League umpire Bruce Froemming, at left, talks were with former Detroit Tigers pitcher Denny McClain and former New York Met Frank Thomas.

To be sure, visiting Cooperstown on induction weekend is like seeing your collection of baseball cards come to life.

We are planning to spend a little more time in Cooperstown Saturday to check out the golf tournament in the morning which always attracts several dozen Hall of Famers, and hopefully if the weather holds to see the parade of Hall of Famers down Main Street to the Hall of Fame in the evening.