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May 23, 2013

Legends game has seen drop in attendance rates

The National Baseball Hall of Fame’s annual seven-inning exhibition game featuring former major league players will be held this weekend.

Once again, the Hall of Fame has changed the date. Last year, the change was minor — instead of having the game on Father’s Day, it was moved to the day before. The game had been held on Father’s Day from 2009 to 2011.

When the date change was announced in November, Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson said: “The Hall of Fame Classic has quickly emerged as one of the highlights of the baseball calendar, and the move to a Memorial Day Weekend date will allow fans to celebrate the traditional start of summer with an opportunity to draw closer to a salute to America’s heroes of the military.”

He added, “We are excited to bring this event to Memorial Day Weekend, with the hopes for even more residents and tourists to celebrate the start of summer.”

Attendance has dropped for the last two Classics, a substitute for the Hall of Fame Game — a Major League Baseball exhibition that had a 68-year tradition in Cooperstown before it was discontinued in 2008.

The inaugural event drew 7,006 people and attendance bumped up slightly to 7,069 the following year. In 2011, 5,687 fans showed up, and in 2012 the number dropped to 5,116.

This will mark the fifth annual Hall of Fame Classic, which is set to begin at 2 p.m., Saturday at Doubleday Field.

Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson will make his Classic debut at the age of 54. Since his 2009 election to the baseball shrine, has heard the same words upon each return trip to Cooperstown: “He looks like he could still play the game.” Now he has the chance to prove it.

The 10-time All-Star who holds the big league records for runs scored (2,295) and stolen bases (1,406), will be one of four Hall of Famers taking the field. The others include pitchers Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage and Phil Niekro. More than 20 former big leaguers will also participate in the game, which is presented by Ford Motor Company.

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