Members of the savethefamegame.com campaign were hoping to silence the crowd at Doubleday Field during the bottom of the third inning of the Hall of Fame Game Monday, in order to demonstrate opposition to the decision to end the game, but Mother Nature had other plans — the nearly 70- year tradition came to an end earlier than expected.
At about 2:35 p.m., shortly after the National Anthem was sung, the sold-out exhibition game between the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres was called due to poor weather conditions. Thunder roared in along with lightning flashes, heavy winds and hail, that at first, had organizers thinking the game could be postponed. However, as more storms rushed in, about 10,000 baseball enthusiasts ran to seek shelter. The savethefamegame.com campaign was launched earlier this year, following the announcement by Major League Baseball that the 2008 Hall of Fame Game would be the final such game played, ending a tradition that began in 1940. Despite ruined plans, the savethefamegame.com campaign announced that it will continue moving forward with its effort to urge MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, MLB President Bob Dupuy, MLB Players Association Chief Donald Fehr and Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson to reverse the decision to end the annual baseball tradition in Cooperstown after this year.
``I’ve always thought that Mother Nature should be the only thing to cancel a Hall of Fame Game, and today (Monday) that proved to be true,’’ said savethefamegame. com creator Kristian Connolly. ``The savethefamegame. com campaign had a tremendous experience in Cooperstown today, and the parade alone was an amazing event. I can’t say enough about the thousands of people who showed their support for savethefamegame. com today, and we look forward to building upon that support in the future.’’
Connolly, a Cooperstown native, said even if the game had been played, the campaign to save the game would not have ended on June 16.
``This was an important day and we were able to accomplish a great deal, but this campaign moves forward and will remain being about ensuring that major league teams and/or major league players continue to play a game on Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, as they have since 1940,’’ Connolly said.
Connolly said he believes the last week has validated the idea that people all across the country want the tradition to continue, and that it’s only a matter of getting the word out about the decision to end it in order to get people motivated to voice their opposition to the league and to the players.
``I was extremely encouraged to see some veteran players, like future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, step up and say that the game is a good thing, that the opportunity for players to come to Cooperstown is special to them, and that ending the game is a big loss,’’ Connolly said.
Connolly said the campaign will try to build on that sentiment as much as possible. ``Baseball is a long season and there are still key events on the calendar, so there will be plenty of opportunities to keep spreading the word, both in Cooperstown and elsewhere, that savethefamegame.com will pursue to keep the campaign moving forward,’’ Connolly said.
Sen. James Seward had earlier joined the fight to save the game, but said he heard directly from MLB commissioner Bud Selig that the plan to cancel the game is irrevocable, so now he has formed a local commit- tee to develop an alternate plan to fill the Hall of Fame Game niche.
``I’m very disappointed, but we won’t lie down and quit,’’ said Seward. ``We’ve got to start planning how we can turn around a tough break and make sure we have a significant annual baseball event that continues to be a tourist destination, builds on our baseball history, and is an economic asset for our area.’’
``The Hall of Fame Game is key to our area, and we need to work together to make a positive change for Cooperstown, Otsego County and the area that will boost tourism and create jobs. I am convinced that the Hall of Fame has done everything to keep the game and certainly the Hall will be a key part of our effort to develop a honest substitute,’’ added Seward. According to Seward’s spokesperson Duncan Davie, the committee is still in its early stages, and the senator is not ready to put any ideas out to the public yet.
Kathie Egloff, from Glenfield, N.Y., marched in the parade as part of the savethefamegame. com campaign.
Egloff said the Hall of Fame Game has become a family tradition, and she would hate to see the game taken away from Cooperstown. ``I have been coming since my son (Wyatt Gokey, who also marched) was three years old,’’ said Egloff. ``He is now 11.’’
Egloff said she pulls her kids out of school so they can experience the excitement of the game. Professional tickets are too expensive, so the Hall of Fame Game is the best way to give the kids exposure to professional players, said Egloff.
Egloff said she sees more and more kids at the Hall of Fame Game festivities each year, and it would be a shame to end such a great experience. She said she feels it is hard enough to keep kids interested in sports as it is, because people’s lives are becoming more hectic and there are more activities with which kids are becoming involved. As much as Egloff said she would hate to see an alternative to the game, she said if it were to happen, she would at least like to see current players involved somehow. She said the younger kids do not know the old-timers, so she doesn’t believe that option would appeal to the younger generation.
``Kids today watch the players on television and want to see the players they see on the screen,’’ said Egloff. ``Even if the players were just there to sign autographs that would be something for the kids to look forward to.’’ Dan Fuller, also from Glenfield, N.Y., said the fans come to support the players, so he believes the players should be able to take one day out of the year to come support their fans. He said most people understand the team’s schedules are busy, but they get paid enough to be able to fit the Hall of Fame Game into their schedules. Jerry Picolla traveled all the way from the San Francisco Bay area with his wife Carol and two grandchildren Cory and Brendan Kennealy to see the Hall of Fame Game, with his cousin Richard and his wife Dee of Oneonta.
While waiting for the parade to start, the Picolla cousins said this year marked the eighth game they had come to see together, the first being in the early 1940s, which they believed was either the second or third game that was played in Cooperstown. The guys were only 7 or 8 at the time, they recalled. Both Jerry and Richard said they believe the game still generates the same sort of excitement it always has. Jerry, who was decked out in an Oakland A’s Hawaiian t-shirt and team sports cap, said he finds it disappointing that the Cooperstown tradition will come to an end. He said the game’s demise will be a great loss to Cooperstown tourism.
Richard, whose parents used to manage the Victory Grocery Store in Cooperstown, said each year the game attracts more people. He said back in the early 1940s, it was unheard of to travel more than 100 miles; today there are fans of every team that are able to come experience the game.
When asked what he would like to see replace the game, Jerry said he would like to see an old-timers game.
``Babe Ruth played in the first game after he was already retired,’’ Jerry said.
Jerry said an old-timers game would also provide the opportunity for grandparents like him to bond with their grandchildren. Even if they did not know the players, it would provide the older generation an opportunity to teach the younger generation about the older players they watched and grew up with, said Jerry. However, he said, the players would not necessarily have to be real oldies; he said it would be good to see the ballplayers that have been retired only 10 years or less.
Sixteen-year-old Cory and 13-year-old Brendan sported their Chicago Cubs caps. It was their first Cooperstown experience. Although the game was cancelled, they were able to tour the Hall of Fame museum and buy souvenirs at the gift shops. Their next journey would be to the Bronx to see Yankee Stadium and then off to Boston to see Fenway Park.
As Cooperstown resident Mildred Lehman waited for the parade to begin, she said she was at the first Hall of Fame Game. She said she is sorry to see the game come to an end, and is particularly remorseful that the Cooperstown Central School students will no longer have the event to use as a fundraising opportunity.
Adam Shumway, a 17- year old from Morris, N.Y., said he was really let down when the game was cancelled, especially because it was going to be the last game. He said he and his mother have come to past Hall of Fame Games, but his entire family came out this year to become a part of history. ``It was really disappointing because we waited in line for so long and then had to leave the stands,’’ said Shumway. Shumway said he was not at the game to cheer on a specific team. He said he is just a genuine baseball fan that hopes some sort of game will replace the Hall of Fame Game, even if it is just a Triple A game.
This year marked the ninth occasion the annual Hall of Fame Game has been canceled.
The last time rain canceled a Fame Game was in 2006, when Pittsburgh and Cincinnati stopped playing in the third inning. Other rainouts were 1993 (Cleveland Indians vs. Los Angeles Dodgers); 1990 (Baltimore Orioles vs. Montreal Expos); 1962 (New York Yankees vs. Milwaukee Braves) and 1944 (Detroit Tigers vs. New York Giants). The game also was canceled in 1989 (Boston Red Sox and Reds) because the Reds had plane problems; 1981 (Oakland vs. Reds) because of the player strike; and in 1945 because of World War II.
Ticket holders who had been admitted to the park can receive a refund of the face value of the tickets by mailing the ticket stub, along with the ticket holder’s name and address, to Cooperstown Baseball Committee, P.O. Box 590, Cooperstown, N.Y., 13326. Refunds will be issued by check and should take four to six weeks for processing.
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