Sun, Fun and Baseball: Hall of Fame Classic Thrills Fans at Cooperstown’s Doubleday Field

Knucksies defeat Wizards 5-4 at annual Legends Game at the Home of Baseball

(COOPERSTOWN, NY) – The magic of Cooperstown shined brightly on Saturday, as Hall of Famers and recently retired legends converged on Doubleday Field for the eighth annual Hall of Fame Classic.

On a perfect 89-degree day to begin the summer season, the heroes of the game celebrated the National Pastime where the game’s pulse beats the strongest.

“This is the best father/son trip ever,” said Jerry Hairston Jr., who brought his young son with him to Cooperstown and then showed his boy his big league skills by winning the pregame Home Run Derby. “I’m pretty blown away by all the history.”

The Knucksies won the seven-inning legends game 5-4 as Melvin Mora homered twice to capture the Bob Feller Player of the Game Award in front of 6,412 fans at Doubleday Field.

“The big thing is that nobody is going to get hurt,” Mora joked after the game. “But when you’re in that batter’s box, even with a small park like this, you still have to get a hold of the ball to hit it out.”

The Hall of Fame Classic, presented by Ford Motor Company, featured Hall of Fame managers/coaches Andre Dawson, Rollie Fingers, Fergie Jenkins, Jim Rice and Ryne Sandberg along with players Brandon Backe (Astros), Michael Barrett (Nationals), Danny Graves (Reds), Jerry Hairston Jr. (Dodgers), Travis Hafner (Indians), LaTroy Hawkins (Twins), Shea Hillenbrand (Red Sox), Andruw Jones (Braves), Terrence Long (Athletics), Noah Lowry (Giants), Melvin Mora (Orioles), Jamie Moyer (Phillies), Darren Oliver (Rangers), Juan Pierre (Marlins), Todd Pratt (Mets), J.J. Putz (Diamondbacks), Desi Relaford (Mariners), Kerry Robinson (Cardinals), Aaron Rowand (White Sox), Andy Sonnanstine (Rays), Ryan Spilborghs (Rockies), Tanyon Sturtze (Blue Jays), Jeff Suppan (Royals), Alan Trammell (Tigers), Jack Wilson (Pirates) and Steve Woodard (Brewers).

“You hear about (the Hall of Fame) all the time,” said Backe, a former Astros and Rays pitcher who had never before been to Cooperstown before participating in Saturday’s Classic. “And everything that I’ve heard is true. It’s just unbelievable.”

In the top of the first, Rowand doubled and scored on an RBI groundout by Hafner. The Knucksies rebounded, however, in the bottom of the third on Mora’s first two-run homer of the day.

The Wizards tied the game at 2 in the top of the fourth when Robinson’s double scored Spilborghs. Meanwhile, the game’s two shortstops –Wilson for the Wizards and Relaford for the Knucksies – each made stellar defensive plays to snuff our rallies in the middle innings.

Then in the top of the sixth, Robinson doubled home one run and later scored on a wild pitch to give the Wizards a 4-2 advantage. But the Knucksies responded to another two-run homer by Mora in the bottom of the sixth, tying the game at 4. Three batters later, Hairston hit a long homer to left field off Hawkins to put the Knucksies in front for good.

Graves picked up the win on the mound, with Sturtze notching a save. Hawkins was tagged with the loss.

CLASSIC NOTEBOOK: Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers helped present the 2015 George W. Rulon American League Baseball Player of the Year award to Justin Hawkins of American Legion Post 193 of Chapin, S.C…Hawkins attends the University of South Carolina Sumter. Fingers accepted the 1964 American Legion Player of the Year Award 52 years ago on Doubleday Field…Four soldiers from nearby Fort Drum were honored during the game and also participated: Sergeant Kenneth Fultz, Chief Warrant Officer James Shimanek, Captain Jeffrey Wilson and Captain Christopher French…The National Colors and the US Army Colors were presented by the Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division Artillery, Fort Drum, led by Sergeant First Class Matthew Randazzo and including Specialist Mark Robinson, Specialist Patrick Perry, Specialist Chactier Rodriguez and Specialist Dillon Stevens…Christopher Suprun, a 23-year veteran of public safety services, threw out the first pitch to his son, Dodge…Alexandra Fassler of Oneonta, N.Y., performed The Star-Spangled Banner…Brooklyn native Sharon Jones performed God Bless America…Ball boys and ball girls from Cooperstown Central School included Raymond Carberar, Chad Carr, Scott Curtis, Carson Haney, Katlyn Palmatier, Romain Pelissier and Alexis Tsouvas…The umpires for the game were: Bob Moore (home plate), Jim Dutcher (first base), Shawn Beckerink (second base) and Norm Crowley (third base).

Hall of Fame Weekend 2016 will take place July 22-25 in Cooperstown, with the Induction Ceremony on Sunday, July 24. Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza will be inducted as the Class of 2016 at Cooperstown’s Clark Sports Center.