Players, Fans Experience Thrill of Cooperstown at Sunday’s Baseball Hall of Fame Classic

Game MVP Mark Whiten Leads Team Feller to 9-0 Win over Team Killebrew in Legends Game at the Home of Baseball

June 20, 2010
Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers started the game on the mound for Team Killebrew. (Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

COOPERSTOWN, NY – They came back to the home of baseball with their old uniforms and gloves, ready to play the game they love one more time. They came back to reminisce with old rivals and teammates, savoring a chance to swap stories and renew friendships.

But mostly, they came back for the fans. And the near-capacity crowd at Cooperstown’s Doubleday Field loved every minute of Sunday’s second-annual Hall of Fame Classic, which resulted in a 9-0 win for Team Feller over Team Killebrew.

“It’s fun coming back to see some of the guys and share the old war stories,” said Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers, who started the game on the mound for Team Killebrew. “Not to mention, it’s Father’s Day in Cooperstown. Where would a kid rather be?”

Thousands of kids, fathers and fans of the National Pastime celebrated Sunday 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 seven-inning legends game in front of 7,006 sun-soaked fans.

“If you love baseball the way we do, it’s an honor (to play in the Classic),” said former big league pitcher Dickie Noles. “It’s a fantasy camp for us.”

On the field, Team Feller – led by Hall of Famer Bob Feller – a broke on top in the first inning thanks to the bat, glove and arm of Mark Whiten. The 43-year-old veteran of 11 big league seasons threw out two runners on the bases to snuff out a Team Killebrew (led by Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew) rally in the top of the first, then homered with Bill Madlock aboard in the bottom of the first to give Team Feller a lead it would not relinquish. Military All-Star Robby Hisert homered in the bottom of the third – again with Madlock aboard – to give Team Feller a 4-0 lead, and Whiten followed with another homer to increase the lead to 5-0.

“It’s a great opportunity for some of us younger players to play with some of the greats,” said Whiten, who was active in the big leagues as recently as 2000 and hit four home runs in a game with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1993. His batting helmet from that game is part of the artifact archive at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Dennis Rasmussen added a two-run single to score Kevin Bass and Desi Relaford later in the third inning to increase to lead to 7-0, Hisert scored on a wild pitch in the fifth to make the score 8-0, and Relaford followed with a double that plated Whiten with Team Feller’s ninth run.

The second annual Hall of Fame Classic Weekend was presented by Ford Motor Company, and the game featured Hall of Famers Gary Carter, Bob Feller, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Harmon Killebrew, Phil Niekro and Ozzie Smith along with 22 former major leaguers. The former big leaguers included Kevin Bass, Paul Blair, Brian Boehringer, Fred Cambria, Bert Campaneris, Frank DiPino, John Doherty, Dave Fleming, Steve Grilli, Jim Hannan, Jeff Kent, Tim Leary, Bill Madlock, Tim McIntosh, Dickie Noles, Mike Pagliarulo, Dennis Rasmussen, Desi Relaford, Tony Saunders, Rich Surhoff, Jon Warden and Mark Whiten.

The day got under way with a 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 Whiten, who hit 105 home runs for eight teams in his 11-year big league career. For winning the hitting contest, Whiten received a Tiffany Grand quartz watch courtesy of Tiffany & Co.

“Classic Weekend in Cooperstown was a rousing success on every level,” said Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson. “The diverse repertoire of programs staged with the players who participated gave families the opportunity to connect generations and allowed adults the chance to take a step back in time to their own childhood. We undoubtedly provided lasting memories for the 7,000 fans who chose to spend Father's Day at the ballpark, and the players who participated and gave glowing reviews of their experience. It was a most memorable weekend.”

CLASSIC NOTEBOOK: Before the game, American Legion National Vice Commander Dr. Gordon Brown presented the 2009 George W. Rulon American League Baseball Player of the Year award to Tyler Jacobson, a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Plattville who played for American Legion Post 337 in Pulaski, Wisc.…Team Feller second baseman Tim McIntosh turned in a spectacular defensive play in the sixth inning when he tossed his glove in the air at a Jeff Kent pop fly, deflecting the ball with the glove and catching the ball bare-handed before it hit the ground…Kevin Bass added three hits for Team Feller, while Madlock, Hisert and Relaford added two apiece.

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