You may have heard that the Hall of Fame Game in Cooperstown, an exhibition contest between two major league teams, will be having its last outing this coming Monday. Some writers have suggested that it’s a "que sera sera" moment, that "all things must pass", that should end because it's not practical. I wonder if they’ve actually ever gone to this game.
Have they seen the parade? Have they checked out the guy guy in the No. 7 Yankee car who looks a little like Mickey Mantle – and who, incidentally, is a bartender at a local resort? Have they seen the kids who scurry for the candy being tossed from the cars, snacks that they can easily get cheaply at the local CVS? It reminds me of tourists grabbing for cheap beads they pass out during Mardi Gras in New Orleans. And then you get to see the players in the trolley cars, with you trying to suss out the ones you actually might recognize.
You get to the stadium and you have the home run hitting contest, where almost inevitably some player you’ve never heard of beats out the league home run champion from the previous season. You take your score card and you dutifully mark down the names of the starting lineups, but it’s of no use, for they brought in all these extra players from AA, whose names aren't all on the rosters - check out all those uniforms with the numbers is the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s - and the managers put them in and out of the game like origami. My father-in-law Richard and I have gone to this game for 8 of the last 9 years. The only season I missed was the year after the Red Sox first won the World Series this decade, and he was able to secure tickets for that game the day of. Not so incidentally, he took all of these pictures.
Last year when I went to the game between Toronto and Baltimore with my father-in-law, there were five home runs hit just in our outfield section. One landed to my right and then careened to my left in front of my face. Another was just beyond our reach.
But my favorite part of the Hall of Fame Game involved begging the center fielder to throw the ball to your outfield section after his warm-ups with the left fielder. In fact, last year’s center fielder for the Toronto Blue Jays, Vernon Wells, was a master, systematically taunted each section with the ball, throwing it to one area only to reveal a secret second ball in his pocket, which he then tossed to the other section. It was marvelous theater, and great fun. I understand the logistical difficulties of Major League teams showing up in this tiny Otsego County burgh, but I don’t think the solution to this game/issue is to put an International League game there as some have suggested. There was an IL game played this year between Syracuse and Rochester, and the Syracuse team perhaps can continue to host the game, but it would be a weak substitute. Did you know the single A (short season) Oneonta Tigers already plays a game on Doubleday Field annually and before them, the Oneonta Yankees? It's hardly comparable.
What would be more interesting would be to have an old-timers' game played at the Field. In fact, this suggestion was floated about by the long-time fans of the game when they were standing in line waiting for tickets on a cold winter afternoon. There are already many baseball veterans who line the streets on the two Hall of Fame parade weekends selling autographs, so it is a natural extension of what’s been going on already in the town.
A more radical idea is to have a game between a couple teams there count in the standings. I'm not suggesting it - yet - but the notion intrigues.
In some form, Doubleday Field deserves Major League baseball.