By Bera Dunau Staff Writer
---- — The Baseball Hall of Fame announced last week the first big headline act to join the Boston Pops in the 75th anniversary concert on Aug. 2: Paul Simon.
“It’s going to be a great capstone to the summer,” said Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson. “Having an event like this to celebrate the true culture of baseball is going to put the museum and this town in an incredibly positive light.”
Simon is a 12-time Grammy winner and two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. His early work was with partner Art Garfunkel in the group Simon and Garfunkel. He moved on to a solo career, which is best known for the album “Graceland.” Currently he is on tour with Sting.
Idelson said that Simon, and each subsequent artist to join the lineup, will perform three songs with the Boston Pops, who he called the world’s greatest house band.
The two hour concert is scheduled to take place at the Clark Sports Center, six days after this year’s Hall of Fame inductions. It is titled “A Concert In Celebration of the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum’s 75th Anniversary.”
Although the complete lineup has not been announced yet, jazz guitarist and former New York Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams will also be among the musicians featured.
The genesis of of the concert began about 18 months ago, when Idelson was introduced to Loren Harriett, a producer who specializes in producing musical projects and events with sports stars and organizations with a charitable element.
Harriett had recently completed the production of an album celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Boston Red Sox. Tied in with that album were a series of limited edition Fender guitars produced for the anniversary. Harriet said that the two began talking about the Hall of Fame’s 75th anniversary, and the idea of making a guitar in honor of it.
This led to a meeting between Idelson, Harriet, Artistic Director of the Boston Pops Dennis Alves, Charles Steinberg from the Boston Red Sox and a representative from Fender, where the concept of a 75th anniversary concert was pitched.
“What they presented was right in step with the culture of Cooperstown,” said Idelson.
This resulted in Harriet being given the go ahead to put on the concert. In order to accomplish this, he has form an LLC, LGH19 Productions.
“I’m just fortunate,” said Harriet. “This is the only time there will be a 75th anniversary for the Baseball Hall of Fame.”
The concert is being organized as a fundraiser for the HOF, with all net proceeds going to the Hall. Harriet says that the concert will be divided into five or six segments, each of which will celebrate a different part of baseball. Three of the segments that Harriet said will be a part of the concert will be a segment celebrating little league baseball, a segment honoring baseball’s great players and moments and a segment honoring the military, the troops and the baseball players who served in the armed forces.
“That segment is going to be incredibly emotional,” said Harriet.
He also said that video footage will play a part in the concert.
Said Harriet, “The video footage is going to be phenomenal.”
The opening of the concert has already been recorded by noted Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully.
“He really wanted to be a part of this so badly,” said Harriet, who said that Scully may not be able to attend the concert in person because of a commitment to announce a Dodgers game.
Harriet said that an effort is going to be made to pair the musicians with the segments that best suit them.
“We want to incorporate the right artists into the right segments,” said Harriet.
“I would say highly likely,” said Harriet, when asked if Simon would perform “Mrs. Robinson,” his famous song that references Yankees baseball player Joe DiMaggio.
“There’s nobody who plays better with a symphonic orchestra,” said Idelson, on Simon.
As for Williams, Harriet, who produced Williams albums, said that the Latin Grammy nominee is very excited to play with the Boston Pops.
“This is a lifelong dream for Bernie,” said Harriet.
One of the songs Williams and the Pops will be performing will be his rendition of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.”
“It’s going to be a three minute truce on the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry,” said Harriet.
Idelson has known Williams since he was employed by the Yankees organization and counts him as a friend.
“It’s interesting to see guys who can transition from being superstars from one arena to another,” said Idelson.
In addition to musicians, the concert will feature appearances by television and movie stars, as well as members of the HOF.
The concert is also being held in conjunction with a silent auction, all proceeds of which are going to benefit the HOF. The auction is being held in three week increments, and will continue until December of this year.
Some of the items that have been auctioned off already are two of the six Fender Stratocasters made by Fender to celebrate the HOF’s 75th anniversary, VIP Tickets to see Paul McCartney at Fenway Park, tickets to the premier of the new Godzilla movie in Hollywood and a table reading and hang out with The Simpsons cast. All items in the auction are donated.
“We’re going to probably have a little bit of everything,” said Harriet.
The next three-week period of the silent auction begins Friday, Feb. 28. Information on the items can be found at cooperstownconcert.com.
Harriet said that there has been a very strong response to the concert from the music and entertainment industry, in terms of donating to the auction and being open to participating in the concert itself.
“I don’t think anybody has said no, I don’t want to be a part of this thing,” said Harriet.
Harriet said that more details on the lineup of musicians, entertainers and baseball players will be released as the concert gets closer. He also said that there will be other events held in conjunction with the concert, including a celebrity softball game the Friday before in conjunction with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and an announcement with the Grammy museum.
Still, the central purpose of the concert and the silent auction is to raise money for the Hall of Fame, which is a not-for-profit organization.
“We want to raise as much as we can,” said Harriet, who also said that the concert will also try to raise awareness about the Hall throughout the country.
For more about the concert, visit cooperstownconcert.com.