Heroes Shine at Saturday’s Hall of Fame Classic in Cooperstown

(COOPERSTOWN, NY) – The line drives echoed off the grandstand at historic Doubleday Field and rattled off the rooftops of nearby buildings, taking fans back to a simpler time at the home of the National Pastime.

Cooperstown, big league stars and Hall of Fame legends: The recipe for a Classic afternoon of baseball.

On a sun-soaked, 54-degree afternoon in front of 5,338 fans, six Hall of Famers and 30 former Major League Baseball players laced up their spikes and dusted off their uniforms for another bow on the diamond. The seventh annual Hall of Fame Classic was organized by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, and for the seventh straight year, Ford Motor Company was the Presenting Sponsor of the Hall of Fame Classic.

Fueled by assistance from Major League Baseball, the Classic featured some of the biggest MLB stars of the last two decades. And many of those heroes jumped at the chance to return to Cooperstown for another game at Doubleday.

“Last year was a great experience, and I was honored to be asked to come back this year,” said Iván Rodríguez, a 14-time All-Star and 13-time Gold Glove Award winner behind the plate who also appeared at the 2014 Hall of Fame Classic. “Just being in an event like this in Cooperstown is an amazing experience.”

On the field, the Knucksies beat the Wizards 7-5 as Bob Feller Player of the Game Aaron Rowand drove in four runs with a two-run homer and later a two-run double that tied the game.

The teams were divided into American League and National League squads, with Hall of Famer Phil Niekro managing The Knucksies of the American League and Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith managing The Wizards of the National League. Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers, Tom Glavine, Tony Pérez and Robin Yount served as coaches for the teams.

Two-time 20-game winner Roy Oswalt started on the mound for the Knucksies and flashed a fastball velocity that was not far from his days in the big leagues. Oswalt retired the first four batters he faced and allowed just one run in two innings.

In the bottom of the first, a double steal by Brady Anderson and Rodriguez plated Anderson with the first run of the game, giving the Knucksies a 1-0 lead. Rowand followed with a two-run double off Wizards starter Steve Avery, scoring Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano to give the Knucksies a 3-0 advantage.

The Wizards got on the board in the second inning on singles by Castilla and Jack Wilson, cutting the Knucksies’ lead to 3-1. Then in the third, Knucksies’ pitcher Greg Cadaret hit Charles Johnson with the bases loaded, forcing in Rick Ankiel – and then walked Jack Wilson to bring home Bobby Abreu, tying the game at 3. Eddie Taubensee followed with another walk, scoring Castilla to give the Wizards a 4-3 lead.

In the fourth inning, Castilla’s double scored Ankiel to make it 5-3. It stayed that way until the sixth, when Rowand’s two-run homer off Steve Woodard tied the game at 5. Anderson followed later in the frame with a two-run double to left field that scored the deciding two runs in the Knucksies’ 7-5 win, with Dan Wheeler picking up the win in relief.

The seventh annual Hall of Fame Classic Weekend was presented by Ford Motor Company, and the game featured Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers, Tom Glavine, Phil Niekro, Tony Pérez, Ozzie Smith and Robin Yount along with 30 former big leaguers representing each of the major league teams, including: Bobby Abreu, Brady Anderson, Rick Ankiel, Steve Avery, Homer Bush, Orlando Cabrera, Greg Cadaret, Vinny Castilla, Ron Cey, David Dellucci, Bob Dernier, Jim Eisenreich, John Franco, Travis Fryman, Brian Holman, Charles Johnson, Jacque Jones, Mark Loretta, Bengie Molina, Russ Ortiz, Roy Oswalt, Kerry Robinson, Iván Rodríguez, Aaron Rowand, Alfonso Soriano, Eddie Taubensee, Alan Trammell, Dan Wheeler, Jack Wilson and Steve Woodard.

The day got under way with the Cooperstown Game Day Parade featuring the Hall of Famers and former major leaguers. Fans lined the Main Street route five-deep to see their heroes in America’s Most Perfect Village.

The players arrived at Doubleday Field following the parade and then participated in the Home Run Derby, which was won by Castilla, who hit 320 home runs for six teams in his 16-year big league career. For winning the Home Run Derby, Castilla was presented with a Lifetime Membership to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

CLASSIC NOTEBOOK: Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers helped present the 2014 George W. Rulon American League Baseball Player of the Year award to Sean Patrick Breen of American Legion Post 72 of Brooklawn N.J. Breen is a senior at Gloucester Catholic High School. Fingers accepted the 1964 American Legion Player of the Year Award 51 years ago on Doubleday Field…Four soldiers from nearby Fort Drum were honored during the game: Devin Fluke, Gary French, Joshua Williams and Jamarcus Willingham…The Fort Drum Color Guard presented the colors prior to the game…Charlie and Daelton Lamb of Richfield Springs, N.Y., performed The Star-Spangled Banner…First pitch was delivered by Chad Welch of Smith Cooperstown Ford….Ball boys and ball girls from Cooperstown Central School included Jack Donnelly, Jennifer Flynn, Christina Noto and Michael Perrino…The umpires for the game were: Jim Dutcher (home plate), Jim Weir (first base), Mike Chase (second base) and Dale Shuck (third base).

For a box score from Saturday’s game, click here.