Different, but good, Induction Day at Hall
Without any living inductees, Hall of Fame comes up with unique program
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- There: None and done. The Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies came and went Sunday afternoon. Had MTV carried them, it might have identified them as HOF Unplugged. Whatever pleasant ripples the ceremonies did create -- and there were some -- didn't reach the shore of nearby Lake Otsego. The program was delayed by rain and defused by absence. It was without ad libs and moments of spontaneity. The afternoon passed sans the sort of highlight we all will recall for decades.
Nothing akin to the ramblings of Scooter occurred. Nothing comparable to the tearful 46-second speech of Mazeroski or the anticipation that preceded Rickey's terrific speech of four years ago. There was no throng of thousands like the one that filled acres of lawn for Ripken and Gwynn. No chants of "Reg-gie, Reg-gie" or a loud and long "Oooooooouuuuuu" for Larcenous Lou.
The ceremonies were without a living inductee, even though the number of men posthumously saluted was 15, more than the number honored at most Sunday ceremonies. Willie and Yogi didn't make it this weekend. Nor did Boy Wonder Robin and Batman Molitor. One Whitey couldn't make it to the ceremonies Sunday. The other -- Herzog -- was most likely fishing all weekend. And for reasons of health, Seaver stayed home. For unknown reasons, Brett chose to spend the weekend in Idaho.
And many of the members of the crowd announced as 2,500 came disguised as folding chairs and patches of grass.
And it was a good day, anyway. Good and warming and wonderful. Yes, it also was quite different from the majority of the induction days of the past. So what? After the 1962 Mets had performed horribly one day, Casey lamented that "the attendance got cheated." Not so Sunday, not if those who did come arrived with umbrellas, realistic expectations and a genuine appreciation of the game.
And those who stayed away ... Mel Allen used to say, "Plenty of good seats are still available," and there were -- it was their loss.
The Hall made tasty lemonade out of what could have been a lemon. But, really, how bad could it have been when glimpses of Koufax, Gibby and the Hammer were available? A day diminished? Yeah, OK, it was; but also delightful. How can a day that includes a Ralph Kiner sighting not be fulfilling? How fortifying to see Brooksie moving well (especially to his right, of course) four years after his health had been cause for concern! And doesn't Pudge still stand so tall?
Emcee Gary Thorne, aware of the threatening skies, quick-pitched the introductions of the 32 Hall of Famers seated behind the podium. Another "So what?" He spoke as if he were double parked, but his voice always enhances the day.
The sun made more than a cameo appearance even without the help of Doug Harvey (see 2010), and the number of drops that fell on the modest gathering during the program was estimated at merely 973, one per non-paying costumer. Not too bad at all.
You could see that Eck still can pass for 40 and Sandy for 60 -- how does he do that? -- and that Hawk remains game-ready trim. It was evident that Rickey could still walk, run and maybe even steal.
Okay, so Schmidty and Palmer stayed home, and Sandberg was working -- for the Phillies and, to the horror of the North Side, not the Cubs. And Yaz and Nolie are working on streaks of consecutive ceremonies without an appearance. But Gaylord and all that white hair showed up again, as did Cha-Cha and Knucksie, Frank Robby and Ripken, Ozzie and his L.A. and Baltimore buddy Ed-die, Goose and Rollie, Morgan and Bench, the Dominican Dandy the Dutch Master.
Dr. Frank Jobe was introduced again, and the man he fixed, Tommy John, was there, too, wearing his emergency golf pants. John always is dressed and ready to tee off.
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With the introduction of each man, any baseball brain that's been functioning for a decade or so would flood with images and memories and so much good stuff that the absences became inconspicuous and the occasionally dark overcast skies seemed less menacing.
The game endures. Despite the Black Sox, the pre-Jackie era, the DH, Pine Tar, the Marlins' fire sales, labor issues and PED consternation. And despite Hall of Famers conspicuous by the absence, the program endured and entertained Sunday. The legacy of the game always fills in the blanks.
A split second of Kid Carter appeared on the video screen, and thoughts of Mets '86 developed. A brief few seconds of Mr. Theodore Ballgame reminded you of that swing. And there was a glimpse of the Duke of Flatbush to make you feel warm and fuzzy.
Gehrig and Hornsby weren't there, of course. They had been inducted long ago, sans ceremony. But the Hall fixed that with Ripken and Morgan reading the words on the respective plaques of the Iron Horse and Rajah that had been in place since '39 and '42. Great touch. Whoever came up with those assignments ought to get freebies to the World Series and personal introductions to Glavine and Maddux next summer.
So too for whomever remembered to salute The Man once again. To show again the video of Musial's harmonica version of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" was more than appropriate. The video showed Stan swinging an invisible bat after playing. The clip was from 2003, and The Man still had bat speed.
The relatives who delivered acceptance speeches for barehanded catcher Deacon White, Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and umpire Hank O'Day delivered some human touches and almost enough anecdotes.
All right, so the day was something less than a grand salami, but it was more than a two-out double with the bases empty. The game's history and all the images were more than enough compensation for what and who were missing.
It was a good day, anyway.