Legends Play in Cooperstown: Hall of Famer Phil Niekro to Appear at Hall of Fame Classic

Legends Game to be Held June 20 at Doubleday Field

May 17, 2010
Hall of Famer Phil Niekro will appear at the 2010 Hall of Fame Classic. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

COOPERSTOWN, NY – Phil Niekro mastered one of the most difficult pitches to throw, the knuckleball, and watched it dance past hitters for 24 seasons.

And much to the chagrin of some of those same hitters – but to the delight of fans at Doubleday Field – Niekro is ready to take the mound one more time for the June 20 Hall of Fame Classic in Cooperstown.

Niekro, one of only 24 300-game winners in baseball history, will suit up on Father’s Day at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown in the Hall of Fame Classic. The second-annual Classic Weekend will also feature fellow Hall of Famers Gary Carter, Bob Feller, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Harmon Killebrew and Ozzie Smith, along with 20 other former major league stars in a seven-inning exhibition game, with first pitch slated for 2 p.m.

The 2010 Baseball Hall of Fame Classic is co-organized by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. Ford Motor Company will be the Presenting Sponsor of the Baseball Hall of Fame Classic.

“Knucksie” was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997 after pitching until he was 48 years old, and even today at 71 he can still make that knuckleball dance. Playing most of his career for the Braves organization, Niekro was a five-time All-Star and won five Gold Glove Awards for his defensive work on the mound. He led the league in victories twice and earned run average once. He won 318 games and finished in the top 10 in Cy Young Award voting five times.

Niekro ranks 11th on the all-time strikeouts list with 3,342, and his 5,404 innings pitched are the most in the post deadball era. He won both the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award in 1979 and the Roberto Clemente Award in 1980. He was named to the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors in 2008.

Tickets for the Hall of Fame Classic are available online at baseballhall.org or by calling 1-866-849-7770. Tickets are $12.50 for first and third base seats and $11 for outfield seats. A $3.50 handling charge per ticket applies to phone and online orders. Phone orders will be taken Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EDT and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. EDT The online ordering system at www.baseballhall.org is available 24 hours per day.

Classic Weekend will feature a slate of family friendly activities, highlighted by the return of the Hall of Fame Classic. Other activities planned for Classic Weekend include the Cooperstown Golf Classic fundraiser for the Museum, a reprise of the popular “Family Catch,” the Youth Skills Clinic hosted by several former major league players, a special Voices of the Game program, and other special programs throughout the Museum.

Among the 20 other recently retired players already committed to participate in the Classic include former major league players Kevin Bass, Paul Blair, Brian Boehringer, Bert Campaneris, John Doherty, Don DeMola, Jim Hannan, Jay Johnstone, Jeff Kent, Tim Leary, Bill Madlock, Mike Pagliarulo, Dennis Rasmussen, Lee Smith, Rich Surhoff and Mike Timlin. Additional participants will be announced throughout the spring.

The Hall of Fame Classic will be preceded by the Cooperstown Game Day Parade, presented by the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce, the village of Cooperstown and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, beginning at noon on Main Street. Game participants will ride in the parade on their way to Doubleday Field. The Legends Hitting Contest will begin at 1 p.m., followed by the Hall of Fame Classic at 2 p.m.

On Saturday, June 19, the Museum will present the return of “Family Catch” at Doubleday Field from 12-2 p.m. Beginning at 3 p.m., the Hall of Fame and the MLBPAA will present the Youth Skills Clinic at Doubleday Field, featuring former major league players as instructors. At 7 p.m., the Museum will host a roundtable discussion with the seven Hall of Fame members. Advance registration is required for all events. Please call 607-547-0397 for more information.

For more information on Hall of Fame Classic Weekend events, call 1-888-Hall-of-Fame.

Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum