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Ghost town: Cooperstown preparing for its oddest induction weekend ever
A week away from its annual induction weekend, the city of Cooperstown, N.Y., is in full panic mode.
Attendance at the National Baseball Hall of Fame has been declining and the museum’s biggest weekend of the year figures to be a dud thanks to a sweeping no vote from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
What to do? The museum has been scrambling to rescue the July 26-28 induction weekend by tapping into its steroid-free past. With the doors firmly slammed shut for the Steroid Era bad boys — Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Co. — the Hall is trying to drum up business by celebrating yesterday’s stars.
That means Lou Gehrig (Class of 1939), Rogers Hornsby (Class of 1942) and the entire Class of 1945 will finally get their induction ceremony in Cooperstown. Gehrig didn’t make it because of his illness and travel restrictions kept the 11 others who will be honored from making the event.
Each of the 12 Hall of Famers will be officially inducted, with their plaques read by returning Hall of Famers. The topper is Gehrig having his plaque read by Cal Ripken Jr., the man who broke his ironman streak.
The rest of the schedule includes Roger Bresnahan (plaque read by Carlton Fisk), Dan Brouthers (Orlando Cepeda), Fred Clarke (Bert Blyleven), Jimmy Collins (Wade Boggs), Ed Delahanty (Billy Williams), Hugh Duffy (Jim Rice), Hughie Jennings (Ozzie Smith), Mike “King” Kelly (Andre Dawson), Jim O’Rourke (Tony Gwynn), Wilbert Robinson (Tommy Lasorda) and Hornsby (Joe Morgan).
This is what happens when the writers pitch a shutout. There were 569 votes cast for this year’s class and none of the 37 candidates on the ballot got the needed 75 percent of the vote. Craig Biggio came the closest with 68.2 percent of the vote. Clemens got just 37.6 percent, Bonds 36.2 and Sosa 12.5.
The July 28 induction ceremony will also honor umpire Hank O’Day, fomer Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and 19th-centure barehanded catcher/third baseman Deacon White, who were elected by the Hall’s Pre-Induction Era Committee in December.
O’Day was a Chicago native and pioneering National League umpire who worked 10 World Series. He was also the umpire at the center of the controversial “Merkle’s Boner” game between the Cubs and Giants in 1908.
Folks in Cooperstown are hoping 2014 ushers back the kind of induction weekend they need to keep the tiny town afloat. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that attendance at the museum was down to 260,000 visitors last year, the Hall’s lowest since the mid-1980s.
“The hope is we’ve bottomed out,” Hall president Jeff Idelson told the Journal.
There is hope for the Hall. Greg Maddux debuts on the ballot in 2014 and it’s hard to imagine any voter leaving the former Cubs pitcher off that ballot.