Hall of Fame Weekend stars await their moment in the sun
By Andrew Kivette
Pre-Hall of Fame Weekend Conference Calls:
“We’ll see you in Cooperstown.”
For the three families of the Class of 2013 inductees and three honorees, that saying has been resonating with them since December. And now, Induction Weekend for the Class of 2013 is right around the corner.
In total, six baseball luminaries will be honored, and the Hall of Fame will welcome three new inductees during Hall of Fame Induction Weekend, Friday through Sunday in Cooperstown.
On Monday, the families of inductees and award winners had one last chance to share their stories and thoughts with the media on the upcoming weekend.
The three inductees were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in December 2012 by the Pre-Integration Committee.
Also being honored this weekend in Cooperstown are the Spink and Frick Award winners – Paul Hagen of MLB.com and former Blue Jays voice Tom Cheek, respectively – along with Dr. Frank Jobe, the surgeon that forged new ground for pitchers with the development of what is now known as Tommy John surgery.
Representing Jacob Ruppert was his great niece, Anne Vernon. As Hall of Fame Induction Weekend draws closer, Vernon is looking forward to sharing Ruppert’s story.
“I know that my great uncle would be honored and excited to have this honor. [I am] trying to represent him to the best of my ability,” said Vernon. “The whole family is excited – and thank you so much to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and people who are coming. It’s going to be great.”
Ruppert was the mastermind behind creating the Yankee dynasty. He purchased the Yankees, and during his stint as owner he built Yankee Stadium and made the move to purchase Babe Ruth’s contract from Boston.
He transformed the Yankees into the most prominent team in town, moving out of the Polo Grounds and into Yankee Stadium. “He loved being at the park and my grandmother went a little bit with him,” Vernon said. “Babe Ruth was an important person in his life and he really didn’t talk about it. He really didn’t talk about it – he had pictures and he just wanted you to take [the Yankees team and accomplishments] in as it was.”
Speaking on behalf of the late Tom Cheek was his wife, Shirley. Cheek was selected as the 2013 winner of the Ford C. Frick Award, which honors excellence in broadcasting. A fixture in the Toronto Blue Jays booth, Cheek called the first 4,306 regular season games and 41 postseason games in Toronto history.
“I think Tom never really realized the impact he had until the day when they put his name up on the Wall of Excellence,” Shirley said. “He realized at that point how important he was to the club.”
As she looks ahead to Induction Weekend, Cheek is most excited to share the memories of Tom with loved ones and family members. “My emotions right now are kind of at a high level. I realize now that it’s come down to crunch time, it’s the final week and it’s been building up since (December).
“I think (it’s) really important for my grandchildren (because) they don’t really remember their grandfather. I think they are kind of in awe about all of this and I think it will really hit home to them what the true meaning of what their grandfather did for Canada – and the Toronto Blue Jays.”
“I miss his voice most of all – he had such an amazing voice.”
Jerry Watkins, the great grandson of Deacon White, will represent the bare-handed catcher and third baseman from the 19th century at Sunday’s Induction Ceremony.
“This is indescribable what it means to our family,” said Watkins. “It has been a lifelong dream of (Deacon White’s) grandchildren and his great grandchildren to see him honored in this way.”
James “Deacon” White was one of the 19th century’s greatest players. As a bare-handed catcher, White was an innovator. He was one of the first players in professional baseball to use a catcher’s mask and one of the first to catch the ball on the fly while catching.
According to Watkins, White earned the nickname “Deacon” from his teammates. “He was given the nickname by his teammates, because he was a devout Christian,” said Watkins. “He would pray, he read his Bible and they called him The Deacon.”
Paul Hagen spent 40 years as a baseball journalist, including 26 years covering the Philadelphia Phillies. He will be honored this weekend at the Awards Ceremony on Saturday, July 27, with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious contributions for baseball writing.
In his 40-year career, Hagen has seen some memorable things. From the Kirk Gibson in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series to many no-hitters, Hagen has witnessed a lot of memorable moments that fans dream of seeing.
One event though, resonated with Hagen about his career covering baseball. “Being at the earthquake World Series in 1989 was unique to say the least. It convinced me of something that I have always thought: If you can do a good job covering a baseball beat, you can do just about anything in journalism,” Hagen said. “I think a lot of baseball writers showed how adaptable they were and how well they can cover just about anything during that.”
Hagen’s looking forward to the weekend festivities in Cooperstown.
“Everybody likes to be recognized for what they do, especially if you put a lot of yourself into it,” he said. “I think it’s nice to get that recognition. I’m really excited when I think about how excited my family is – that means a lot to me, to see how much they are looking forward to it and see how excited that they are. They have put up with a lot for me to do this all of these years.”
During the Awards Ceremony on Saturday, Dr. Frank Jobe will be recognized for his contributions to the game of baseball. Jobe pioneered what is now known as Tommy John Surgery, giving pitchers a chance to pitch again after a severe elbow injury.
“I didn’t (think that this surgery would have a long-lasting impact on Major League Baseball),” Jobe said. “I wanted to fix his elbow and he (pushed) me to do it, because we knew that he couldn’t pitch the way it was.”
Dr. Jobe performed the first surgery on Tommy John in 1974, knowing that it had not been done before. The result was that John continued on playing until 1989 after sitting out the 1975 season to rehabilitate his arm.
Andrew Kivette is the 2013 public relations intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development