A Classic moment

Game MVP Dmitri Young leads The Knucksies past The Wizards at Sunday's Hall of Fame Classic

June 19, 2011
Hall of Famers Phil Niekro (left) and Ozzie Smith wave to the crowd during the Cooperstown Game Day Parade on Sunday before the Hall of Fame Classic. (NBHOF)

COOPERSTOWN, NY – The bats crackled and the smiles sparkled as players and fans celebrated the game of baseball at Sunday's third-annual Hall of Fame Classic, presented by Ford Motor Company, in Cooperstown.

And when the day was over and The Knucksies had captured a hard-fought 8-6 decision over The Wizards, it was the game of baseball and all those who love the game who were the winners.

"The people keep me coming back," said Hall of Famer Phil Niekro, one of five players – along with John Doherty, Steve Grilli, Jim Hannan and Jon Warden – who have appeared at each of the three Hall of Fame Classics. "It's always good to come back to Cooperstown."

Thousands of kids, fathers and fans of the National Pastime celebrated Father's Day at the Classic, enjoying one more chance to cheer their heroes. The "kids" on the field, meanwhile, soaked up the atmosphere and rarely stopped smiling during the six-inning legends game in front of 5,687 sun-soaked fans.

"The event – the feel of the entire weekend – has been terrific," said Jeff Idelson, President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. "The diverse programs offered throughout Hall of Fame Classic Weekend gave fans the chance to interact with their heroes. We undoubtedly provided thousands of fans countless memories that will last a lifetime.

"It's a very all-American event in the all-American village: Cooperstown. These players on this field are men of great character, who represent all that's right about the game of baseball and the Hall of Fame."

On the field, The Wizards – captained by Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith – took the lead in the second inning when Bill Lee doubled and later scored on a passed ball. Billy Sample also scored in the inning, reaching on a hit-by-pitch and scoring on a single by John Doherty. Doug Glanville scored for The Wizards in the third inning, extending their lead to 3-0.

Joel Bennett and Frank Catalanotto doubled in the third inning for The Knucksies to cut the lead to 3-1. Dmitri Young followed with a single to score Catalanotto, then Hall of Famer Jim Rice scored on a wild pitch to tie the game at 3. Young scored on an error in the fourth inning to give The Knucksies a 4-3 lead. The Knucksies took a 5-3 lead in the fifth on an RBI single by Dale Murphy. Young followed with a three-run homer to give The Knucksies an 8-3 lead.

The Wizards rallied for three runs before the game was called after the top of the sixth due to the two-hour time limit, giving manager Dick Williams another victory on his Hall of Fame resume. Williams managed both teams.

"It's an honor to be with the Hall of Famers and legends," said Young, who was presented with the Bob Feller Player of the Game Award following the game symbolizing the game's Most Valuable Player. "It's an honor to put on a show for the fans."

The third annual Hall of Fame Classic Weekend was presented by Ford Motor Company, and the game featured Hall of Famers Andre Dawson, Goose Gossage, Phil Niekro, Jim Rice, Ozzie Smith and Dick Williams along with two dozen former major leaguers. The former big leaguers included Joel Bennett, Steve Braun, Frank Catalanotto, Don DeMola, Frank DiPino, John Doherty, Doug Glanville, Steve Grilli, Jim Hannan, Dave Henderson, Phil Huffman, Bob Kaiser, Rick Lancellotti, Jack Lazorko, Bill Lee, Oreste Marrero, Dale Murphy, Billy Sample, Reggie Sanders, Mike Timlin, Jon Warden, Willie Wilson, Rick Wise and Dmitri Young.

Bob Feller's widow, Anne Feller, presented the ceremonial first pitch before the game and presented the Most Valuable Player Award to Young following the contest. Bob Feller, who passed away on Dec. 15, appeared at the first two Hall of Fame Classics, captaining his team to a 9-0 win in the 2010 Classic. Feller was remembered before the game along with Hall of Famers Sparky Anderson, Harmon Killebrew and Duke Snider, each of whom passed away in the last year. Killebrew was also a team captain at the 2010 Hall of Fame Classic.

The day got under way with the Cooperstown Game Day Parade featuring the Hall of Famers and former major leaguers. The players arrived at Doubleday Field following the parade and then participated in the hitting contest, which was won by Young, who hit 171 home runs for eight teams in his 13-year big league career. For winning the hitting contest, Young received a Tiffany watch courtesy of Tiffany & Co.

CLASSIC NOTEBOOK: American Legion National Vice Commander Gene Pytka presented the 2010 George W. Rulon American League Baseball Player of the Year award to Brandon Drozd, a student at the University of Nebraska who played for American Legion Post 144 in Genoa, Neb....Wizards' outfielder Reggie Sanders, who finished second in the pregame Hitting Contest, showed off his defensive skills in the third inning with a diving attempt at a line drive in left field...Bill Lee, the "designated humorist" for The Wizards, entered the game as a catcher in the fourth inning wearing only an old-style glove – resembling a thick golf glove – on his right hand. Lee handled pitcher Don DeMola by catching the pitched balls with both hands.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is open seven days a week year round, with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. The Museum observes summer hours of 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. from Memorial Day Weekend until the day before Labor Day. From Labor Day until Memorial Day Weekend, the Museum observes daily regular hours of 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Ticket prices are $19.50 for adults (13 and over), $12 for seniors (65 and over) and for those holding current memberships in the VFW, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion and AMVets organizations, and $7 for juniors (ages 7-12). Members are always admitted free of charge and there is no charge for children 6 years of age or younger. For more information, visit our Web site at baseballhall.org or call 888-HALL-OF-FAME (888-425-5633) or 607-547-7200.