A special Saturday
Fans connect with Hall of Famers on Induction Eve in Cooperstown
The day began early with golf and ended with a parade. Not a bad day to be in Cooperstown.
With the induction of the Class of 2010 only a day away, the little Central New York village was abuzz with excitement. Though Saturday started with dark clouds and intermittent drizzle, the Hall of Fame Invitational golf tournament went off as planned. Included in the numerous foursomes at the Leatherstocking Golf Course, adjacent to the Otesaga Hotel, were many of the greatest ballplayers in the game’s history. And with the Induction Ceremony taking place only hours away, it was no surprise that the participants, between holes, were asked by the assembled media about this year’s electees: Five-tool outfielder Andre Dawson, World Series-winning manager Whitey Herzog and longtime National League umpire Doug Harvey.
“I do know Whitey extremely well,” said Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett. “I played for him in Kansas City from 1975 to 1979 and I’m just really excited for him. It was long overdue in my opinion, and I kept telling Whitey that.
“I was supposed to be on a cruise right now in Sweden and Norway, and the reason I didn’t go on the cruise was because Whitey is going in this weekend. So my wife is a little mad at me and the cruise ship line is a little made at me, but I’m having more fun here with Whitey than I would on the cruise.”
Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan was a contemporary of all three honorees.
“I played against Dawson and he was a great player,” Morgan said. “He could run, he could throw, he could field, he could do everything. He was an intimidating force on the other team, and that’s what a Hall of Famer is.
“And I loved Whitey’s way of managing,” Morgan added. “He’s my way of managing, my kind of guy. I liked running, putting pressure on the defense, and he had the guys in St. Louis. He gave them a free hand and they played the game the way I like to see it played, with a lot of fun, a lot of action, and he didn’t get in the players’ way.”
Morgan also has a longstanding relationship as a broadcast partner on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball with Ford C. Frick Award honoree Jon Miller.
“Obviously, it’s well deserved because he’s done a lot for the game,” Morgan said. “He knows what he’s doing and he knows the game.”
Also playing golf this morning was Bruce Froemming, a big league umpire from 1971 to 2007.
“I worked (on a crew) with Doug one year, 1972, with Augie Donatelli and Stan Landes, but I was with Doug a lot of years and we became good friends,” Froemming said. “Doug was a Hall of Fame umpire. He was consistent, he was fair, he took charge, and he knew how to handle the game.
“And this is a thrill for me because it’s the second time I’ve been here. I was here in 1989 when (umpire) Al Barlick was inducted. It was a thrill for me to come then and to come back again. Baseball couldn’t have a better setting than this.”
Dawson, sharing a golf cart with former Expos teammate Tim Raines, was asked about what his time in Cooperstown had been like thus far.
“It’s exciting, overwhelming, and I’m looking forward to Sunday,” he said. “It’s been building now for, I guess, the last few weeks or so. And to actually be here with all the Hall of Famers, they’ve welcomed me with open arms.
“Frank Robinson told me last night, ‘You’re not in yet. And when you do get in Sunday night, you’re going to be on probation for a year.’”
Dawson than talked about entering what he called “a sacred fraternity.”
“When you get into the Hall of Fame, every individual has a different story,” he said. “You never hear anything negative about a Hall of Famer and why they don’t belong there. So for me it’s an honor, it’s a thrill … I never envisioned this from the outset. It’s a culmination of longevity and consistency. And I’m just very proud to be in this fraternity.
“I don’t feel nervous,” he added. “I think I’ve really tried to prepare myself for this weekend. Today is a day that will be very long for me. Tomorrow is going to come and things are going to happen so fast. As long as I get off this (golf) course and I don’t hurt anything, I’ll be fine.”
Later in the morning, it was time for a little fun. Connecting Generations, a trivia contest called Hall of Fame Feud that involved teams made up of families against a trio that included Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver and current big league umpire Jerry Crawford, was held at the Clark Sports Center.
Between the banter of host and former big league second baseman Harold Reynolds, the families, the trio of baseball greats and the approximately 700 audience members were questions based on polls posed on the Hall of Fame’s Facebook page. These included “Where do you like to sit at a baseball game,?” “What is your favorite current ballpark?” and “What is the best souvenir you can get at a ballpark?”
By mid-afternoon came an inductees press conference, held at the Cooperstown High School auditorium, in which Dawson, Herzog and Harvey took questions.
“It’s been a change in my life since December,” Herzog said. “It seems like everybody wants a piece of you.”
Dawson was just trying to soak it all in.
“Obviously, it’s a very impactful and exciting moment for me and my family,” he said. “We’ve looked forward to tomorrow since early January, and as God is my witness, this has been probably the most exciting time of my life. And I’m just going to enjoy it, make the most of it, and make sure that when I leave Cooperstown on Monday I can look back and say, ‘Wow, what a weekend.’”
The long day of activities ended with the inaugural Hall of Fame Legends Parade, which traveled down Main Street and concluded on the front steps of the Hall of Fame as thousands of people lined the sidewalks.
HALL OF FAME WEEKEND NOTEBOOK: The Class of 2010, featuring Andre Dawson, Doug Harvey and Whitey Herzog, will be enshrined at 1:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown…Admission to the Induction Ceremony is free, and the event will be televised live on MLB Network.
Bill Francis is a library associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum