Hall of Famers begin arriving for baseball’s best weekend

Written by: Craig Muder

In a week filled with memorable baseball moments, John Smoltz has seen almost all of them.

The 2015 Hall of Fame inductee called the 92nd All-Star Game on Tuesday as part of FOX’s team then arrived in Cooperstown on Thursday for Hall of Fame Weekend.

“It’s been a bit of a July scramble, but it’s all good,” Smoltz said. “This is a great weekend. I want to come back as many times as I can. FOX has always been good about letting me get out of (the Saturday telecast during Hall of Fame Weekend).”

As Hall of Famers like Smoltz, Larry Walker, Jim Thome and Eddie Murray arrived on Thursday, they joined Class of 2022 members Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat, who made their way to Cooperstown on Wednesday. The Class of 2022 – featuring Bud Fowler, Gil Hodges, Kaat, Minnie Miñoso, Oliva, Buck O’Neil and David Ortiz – will be inducted at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday on the grounds of the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown. Coverage begins at 11 a.m. exclusively on MLB Network.

“I had breakfast with Tony Oliva this morning at the Otesaga Hotel,” said Tim Kurkjian, the 2022 BBWAA Career Excellence Award winner who will be honored at Saturday’s Awards Presentation. “Then I was told that Jim Kaat is coming to the Awards Presentation and wants to sit in the front row. So that’s how my day has gone so far. That’s a pretty good day.”

Kurkjian, like Smoltz, was in Los Angeles for the All-Star Game – as part of his duties with ESPN – before heading straight for Cooperstown. On Saturday, he’ll receive the ultimate award in the baseball writing universe – alongside the late Jack Graney, who will be honored the Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award for broadcast excellence.

“Someone asked me what kind of thrill it will be when George Brett comes up and welcomes me to (Cooperstown),” Kurkjian said. “I said: ‘I’m not sure, I’ve never had that happen.’ But as much as that will mean, it will mean even more when Dan Shaughnessy, Peter Gammons and Jayson Stark (all previous winners of the BBWAA Career Excellence Award) shake my hand. My colleagues mean more to me than almost anything except my family.”

For Kurkjian, his family now includes the award winners and Hall of Famers who return to Cooperstown every summer. And that family grows each year, as new members experience the weekend of a lifetime.

“With my job at FOX, it’s a unique preview of who’s coming to Cooperstown shortly,” said Smoltz of 2022 All-Stars like Clayton Kershaw, Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols who are nearing the end of their exceptional careers.

“Who’s coming in eight years, seven years… some in six. I’m only seven years in (as an inductee). I can’t imagine being here 25, 30 or 40 years like some of the guys. But we all come back because it’s such a special place.”

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
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