A Great American Tragedy

Doubleday Field On July 27 1998, I attended my first ever Baseball Hall of Fame game at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, N.Y.  In the game itself, the Orioles defeated the Blue Jays in the battle of the birds 7-1, but the result itself isn’t important.

I never lived through the simpler times of baseball and sports where leagues weren’t as tyrannical and (maybe) players cared.  They show these times on film in Cooperstown or on Yankeeography where the games are shown in black and white and players didn’t wear helmets.  Although I never lived through those times, I can imagine they were a lot like Cooperstown on the one day a year when Major League Baseball played a game there.

The things that I remember the most about my first time at the Hall of Fame game are the player interactions with the fans.   At a small venue such as Doubleday Field, players have no choice but to interact with the fans – talk to them and (gasp!) sign autographs.  Cal Ripken, Jr. was out there for what seemed like hours signing baseballs for kids.  Brady Anderson was the “big catch” for me, as I got his autograph along with guys like Tony Fernandez and Shawn Green.    It was also the first time I ever heard the name Roy Halladay, who started for the Jays and who was yet to make his MLB debut.  Although these players either played one inning or didn’t play in the game at all it was the interaction and closeness with the fans that made this event special.

There is only one barricade separating fans from players.  In 2007, the last HOF game I went to, Frank Thomas was waiting for a car to take him away from the ballpark and was faced with a few hundred fans calling out his name looking for an autograph.  I don’t know him, but the Big Hurt doesn’t seem like the friendliest guy in the world.  Due to the wait for the car, however, even Thomas caved and signed for some fans.

It’s sad to see MLB take away the Hall of Fame game, ending the annual exhibition because of the difficulties in scheduling the game.  There is no other MLB game on the schedule that puts the fans so close to the players or that takes one back to the simpler times of the game, when it was the game that mattered not the money.  Take a look at the site dedicated to saving the Hall of Fame game and encourage MLB to not end this great event.


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