Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hall of Fame Classic

I've wanted to try and get a post up here but there hasn't been too much to say. For the past two weeks I've been working pretty steadily doing assorted research at the Giamatti Research Center at the Hall of Fame. Steadily and hard. So much so that my attempt to track the research I do has flopped. There's just been too much. Add a group project and an individual project plus an occasional seminar or two (and artifact spotlight presentation preparation) and there has been an awful lot.

We just got back a little while ago from our second big event of the summer, the Hall of Fame Classic. Up until last year, there was a Hall of Fame game played at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown. This was an exhibition between two major league teams. Presumably (I've not heard an actual story) the travel was too much to ask of two major league teams in the middle of the season just to play an exhibition game. Thus, the Classic Weekend was born.

I had to work the Classic Weekend and I have to say, it is a nice family oriented event. For me, it began Saturday with Doubleday Field being open for people to come out and play catch. Being the day before Father's Day we had a lot of fathers and sons of various ages out throwing. Great Field of Dreams moments. My favorite was an older man (70+) who had had a lung removed years ago and had not played catch in 25 years.

In the afternoon, there was a skills clinic for kids with former big league players. I and another intern were in charge of the seven year olds of which we had eighteen. All totaled, I think there were about 130 kids and they cycled through eight stations.

In the first station, Dennis Rasmussen taught the kids how to throw the four seam fastball and Dickie Noles caught the kids. Station two had one of my favorite instructors, Mark Whiten, teaching kids how to field the outfield position. Whiten was a last minute substitute for Jay Johnstone and I thought Whiten did a great job. He kept the kids interest and taught them some things.

Our third station has Paul Blair give some tips on hitting. Given the ize of the groups, the kids couldn't hit so it wasn't as useful as one would hope. Station three had two old-timers, Jon Warden and a gentleman whose name I forget (ironic in that I easily committed the names of my 18 seven-year-olds to memory (I'm really good with names)) taught bunting. They bemoaned how it wasn't taught well now, if at all.

Tony Saunders and Rich Surhoff did some pitching instruction at the next station. My other favorite station was the infield instruction. John Doherty and Steve Cambria did that and they were great with the kids. I've been in New York for three weeks now and Doherty has the biggest, boldest, brashest New York accent of anyone I've encountered. He was born in the Bronx so that makes sense.

Drew Marino, a former Mets coach, talked about how important the position of catcher is and then Steve Grilli wrapped it up with baserunning instruction. The kids seemed to have a good time and I think a few picked up some useful tips.

Today was the Classic itself, a sort of pickup game between former players. You had Team Feller against Team Killebrew with Bob Feller and Harmon Killebrew "managing" the two teams. Everyone loves Bob Feller. The only player who may have received more applause was Ozzie Smith.

Before the game there was a parade through Cooperstown and then a Home Run Derby took place at Doubleday Field. Bill Madlock, Kevin Bass, Mark Whiten and defending champ Jeff Kent were the competitors. Kent was obviously the favorite as he is not too long retired and was quite the slugger. Whiten and Kent moved on after the first round but Whiten surprisingly took the title.

The game itself was a blast. You had old-timers and semi-recent retirees. Plus, there were four players from the Military All-Stars, a team comprised of military players who have to actually try out for the squad and who then participate in exhibitions all over the place.

It is a lot of fun and few of the players take it seriously. In the first inning, Ozzie Smith hit a grounder to first. Phil Niekro, who was pitching, tried to cover the bag. That would have been tough back in the day. As it was, the 71 year old Niekro was about three steps behind Ozzie getting to first.

Team Feller crushed Team Killebrew 9-0. Mark Whiten was player of the game with two home runs. Military All-Star Robby Hisert added one of his own. One of my all-time favorites, Dave Fleming, former pitcher for the Seattle Mariners, played in right field and pitched an inning. He also laced a double down the rightfield line. Go Dave!

The second basemen were a treat to watch. Jeff Kent did a running over the shoulder basket catch, ala Willie Mays. Tim McIntosh made a nice play behind second, just getting to the ball, flipping it with the glove to Desi Relaford who turned the deuce. By far the best play was a play you will never see in a major league game because it is illegal. The Hall has video but you can't see it well.

Jeff Kent blooped a ball into shallow right-center. McIntosh turned to give chase, saw that he wasn't going to get to the ball, and threw his glove at the ball. The glove hit the ball, the ball shot straight into the air and McIntosh caught it with his bare hands when it came down.

There were seven Hall of Famers involved with the game. Niekro, Feller, Killebrew, Smith, Gary Carter, Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage.

That's it for me with the weekend events until Induction Weekend. The Hall does a great job putting on events and if you get a chance, the Classic is a great opportunity to enjoy a special event without the insanely gigantic crowds and hotel prices of Induction Weekend.

1 comment:

Sooz said...

Wow, that sounded like a lot of fun. Thanks for the write up.