The sight of kids playing catch Sunday at the Clark Sports Center seemed fitting.
After all, there’s practically no other day on the local calendar more likely to inspire kids and adults alike to have a catch than Hall of Fame Induction Day.
But the timing and the site of the thrown baseballs were indisputable evidence that this was no ordinary Induction Ceremony.
Kids zipped baseballs back and forth DURING the acceptance speeches. They did so at a spot that, practically any other year, would have been occupied by hardcore fans cheering on one of the greats of the game as he recalled memories of his storied career.
Not this year.
According to the HOF, 2,500 fans heard speeches by Dennis McNamara, Anne Vernon and Jerry Watkins (last year, when Barry Larkin and Ron Santo were inducted, about 17,500 attended).
McNamara, Vernon and Watkins are descendants of Hank O’Day, Jacob Ruppert and Deacon White, respectively. O’Day, Ruppert and White earned induction into the Hall of Fame via a Pre-Integration Committee Era election this past December.
All three died in the 1930s.
During a ceremony delayed 53 minutes by a light-to-moderate rain that commenced just before the scheduled 1:30 p.m. start, McNamara, Vernon and Watkins delivered short but compelling addresses about men they’d never met.
Thirty-two Hall of Famers sat behind them. Forty were expected, but Luis Aparicio, Whitey Ford, Tony Gwynn, Doug Harvey, Willie Mays, Bill Mazeroski, Tom Seaver and Bruce Sutter — all on a list of expected returnees the Hall released July 17 — didn’t attend.
This year’s ceremony was no different than past years in that the speakers talked about character and integrity.
McNamara, the great-grandnephew of O’Day, said, “Do your best with honor and integrity.”
One of the reasons this year’s inductions were so lightly attended was due in part because some on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot might have lacked those qualities.