Induction Weekend begins with Ozzie Smith’s Turn Two

Written by: Bill Francis

Two. More. Days.

For Fred McGriff and Scott Rolen, that’s all that stands between them and their plaque in Cooperstown.

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The official start of the 2023 Hall of Fame Induction Weekend began early Friday morning with the rebranded Turn Two with Ozzie Smith, a fundraiser hosted by the Education Ambassador for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Now in its 20th year, Turn Two is a Museum fundraiser that supports the Hall of Fame’s educational mission and the Ozzie Smith Diversity Scholarships for the Museum’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development.

This year, Smith’s guest instructors included Hall of Famers Eddie Murray, Larry Walker and Dave Winfield.

“I think that’s part of what this is all about. It’s about having some degree of consistency which you want to have in baseball, too,” Smith said during a media session at Doubleday Field. “But I think that in being able to bring different guys in, I think it brings it a different flavor every year and gives people the opportunity to hang with and see and meet some guys from other teams that they otherwise would not get to get a chance to meet.”

“It’s rewarding to be able to help the education department here at the Hall of Fame. It takes money to make this thing work. This is one of the ways that I can contribute.”

Thirty Museum supporters participated in Turn Two on Friday, raising more than $22,000 for the Museum. Since founding Turn Two more than 20 years ago, Smith has helped generate more than $250,000 in support of the Hall of Fame.

For Walker, a Class of 2020 inductee, the atmosphere was relaxing this time in Cooperstown compared to his time on stage.  

“To walk in now compared to the year that I got inducted – because I didn’t hide how nervous I was having to do all the speeches and interviews and everything – it’s really simple,” he said. “A lot of the pressure is off you and you get a chance to do events like this and really just get to talk to the guys more. During an induction year, you’re taken everywhere and you’re doing stuff everywhere you don’t get to really see a lot of the players. So it’s much more relaxing right now.”

Back at The Otesaga Resort Hotel on Friday afternoon, Hall of Famers and their families were arriving to celebrate the induction of McGriff and Rolen on Sunday afternoon, the highlight of the weekend. Laughing and catching up was the theme of the day, as those special individuals with bronze plaques made that journey to Cooperstown.  

Holding court was crafty righty Bert Blyleven, with the dominant curveball that helped him to 287 wins and 3,701 strikeouts that led to his Hall of Fame election in 2011.

“It’s always an honor to come back. I said as long as God’s willing, and I’m on this side of the grass, I will be here in Cooperstown. It’s a special place to be around and rub shoulders with the baseball greats,” Blyleven said. “It took me a long time to get in, so why would I want to leave? To go through the Museum again, walk into the Plaque Gallery. The hair on my arms stands up every time I walk in. It’s the game that I grew up as a kid loving. I got to play for a long time. To actually see your plaque. I go every year, my wife and I, to take a picture and make sure they didn’t take it down.

“And my fellow Hall of Famers, I didn’t like them at all when I pitched against them. But then you find out they they’re not such bad guys, you know? As a player, you were kind of brought up not talking to the opposing team. Now they’re behind batting cages, giving each other high fives.”

Blyleven did have a particular memory of his Induction Weekend – his mom and dad.

“My dad was not with us. He passed away from Parkinson’s. But my mother was there. And my family was there, my children. They still talk about it. We actually rented a house right down here at the corner. And at two o’clock in the morning, they’re out on the on the on their little boats and having fun. They still talk about that – they had so much fun,” Blyleven said. “This year I brought my granddaughter Avah, who’ll be 16 in December. She loves sports and living in Florida. We’ve gone to Rays games and Marlins games. She’s very excited to be here.”

Second baseman Ryne Sandberg, a 2005 electee, calls his trips for Induction Weekend “the highlight of my summer.”

“It’s a treat for me. It’s one of the first things always on the calendar. Unfortunately, I missed last year because I had had COVID, so I was champing at the bit to come back this year,” said Sandberg, who appeared on MLB Network’s MLB Now with Brian Kenny and Jayson Stark on Friday. “It’s always good to see the guys and be a part of it. And to actually catch up with the game of baseball and talk baseball. I always leave with a good mind about the game.

“We’re able to talk about the game – the good, the bad, and all in-between – and just compare notes. We all pull for a good game going forward, us getting together and sharing our thoughts of the game. I think it is important for us to lead that way and really stand for the game of baseball and the history of it. And so it’s fun to be in that role and to be around the Hall of Famers. I leave with a very good feeling about the game.”

Sandberg was sporting a special ring on his finger.

“I wear my Hall of Fame ring to all my appearances because I like to share it with the fans,” Sandberg said. “I always mentioned that there are usually about 50 or 60 living Hall of Famers at one time – there’s that few of these rings walking around. That’s my line to the fans as I share it. They’re always so impressed with that. And I always catch myself how impressive it is. It’s such a small group and a great group that I always remind myself what an honor it is to wear the ring and to be a part of it.

“It’s an elite group. There’s no Hall of Famer that should not be a Hall of Famer. There’s no looking back there. It’s kind of interesting going forward to see with today’s game, how many will be Hall of Famers. You’ll see players that can peak in their early 30s and not put together the 14 or 15 years. So it’ll be interesting going forward. I think it’ll still be an elite group going forward. The talent level in major leagues is so impressive so strong and impressive players. They’re definitely Hall of Famers coming in. As I get older, it’s just fun to see the new classes come in and be part of that welcoming committee.”

Craig Biggio said: “It’s always an honor to be able to get the opportunity to come back and be with your new teammates.”

Elected to the Hall of Fame in 2015, he still has special memories of the occasion.

“The speech itself because you want to make sure that there’s so many people that have helped you along the way,” Biggio said. “Obviously there’s a skill and a talent level, but yet you’re not getting here on your own. There’s so many people that you want to thank. At the end of the day, you don’t want to be missing anybody. You know your speech is something that is a process through a course of the year after you find out. I still remember I asked to go first so I can get it over with. I didn’t want to sit there. So it was fun to get mine done and then the really enjoy it and watch everybody else for that particular day get in.

“And now I look around and I pinch myself every time I walk around here and you never know who you’re going to bump into. It’s a pretty special place. If you’re a baseball fan, you really should make it a bucket list type of place to come and see because it’s, it’s beyond words. You’ve really got to experience it yourself.”

Hall of Fame Weekend 2023 runs through Monday in Cooperstown. The Class of 2023, featuring Fred McGriff and Scott Rolen, will be inducted at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 23, at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown. Admission to the Induction Ceremony is free.

The 2023 Induction Ceremony will be televised live exclusively on MLB Network. The Induction Ceremony will also be available via a webcast at

The Hall of Fame Awards Presentation will be held as a private event at 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 22, with a live simulcast on the big screen at Cooperstown’s Doubleday Field. John Lowe will receive the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s Career Excellence Award, Pat Hughes will receive the Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence and Carl Erskine will be honored with the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award.

Also on Saturday, July 22, the Hall of Fame Parade of Legends returns to provide fans with more thrills. Hall of Famers will ride down Main Street in trucks en route to a private reception at the Museum during the 6 p.m. event.

Bill Francis is the senior research and writing specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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