By Greg Klein THE COOPERSTOWN CRIER
---- — Jim Thome and his son, Landon, surprised the National Baseball Hall of Fame several days before the Hall of Fame Classic with the gift of the ball Thome hit for his 600th home run.
Thome and Landon, 6, were honored before the Classic for their gift. While playing for Minnesota, Thome hit two homers on Aug. 15, 2011 in Detroit for numbers 599 and 600. At age 38, he was the oldest player to make the 600 club although he did it in fewer at bats than anyone besides Babe Ruth.
Thome’s father, Chuck, had previously donated to the HOF the ball that Thome hit for his 500th home run. This will be the first time that the HOF has both a 500 and 600 home run ball from someone in the 600 club.
Thome finished his career with 612 homers, seventh on the all-time list. In 22 seasons, he played for Cleveland, Philadelphia, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles, Minnesota and Baltimore. He will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2018.
A Japanese warm-up
The appearance of Hideki Matsui, representing the New York Yankees, brought out of huge crowd ... of reporters.
Of the 48 credentialed media members for the game, 19 of them were representing media organizations from Japan. Most of those media members were reporters who cover Ichiro Suzuki on the Yankees and made the trip up to Cooperstown for the day.
“This is just a glimpse of what it will be like when Ichiro gets in,” said Craig Muder, director of communications for the HOF. “That year will be crazy.”
Suzuki, the Japanese slugger, who is a 10-time All Star and who won the American League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards in 2001, will turn 41 in October.
“I just hope he doesn’t retire this year,” Muder said. “If he and Jeter go in the same year, I don’t know if Cooperstown is big enough.”
Matsui, who was also popular with the crowd, gave his fans plenty to cheer about with two home runs in the Home Run Contest and another off Steve Avery in the Classic.
This was the first Classic where the Hall of Famers were not playing, but six members did appear as coaches and managers. Team Knucksie was led by 1997 inductee Phil Niekro and coached by 1992 inductee Rollie Fingers and 2011 inductee Roberto Alomar. Team Wizards was led by 2002 inductee Ozzie Smith and coached by 2003 inductee Eddie Murray and 2010 inductee Andre Dawson.
The players this year were mostly recent retirees, including Mark Kotsay, who retired last year, and a half dozen others who retired in 2012. Some like Matsui and Jack Wilson -- a shortstop whose career lasted 12 years, mostly with Pittsburgh -- and pitcher Kirk Rueter looked like they could still play.
Steve Garvey, who retired in 1987, was the oldest of the players, but he did not play.
Of the players who were in the game, pitcher Steve Avery had been out of the game the longest. Avery retired in 2003 after a brief comeback attempt. Previous to that, his last year in the majors had been 1999.
Seventh Inning Stretch of the umbrella
Isaac Brock, lead singer of Modest Mouse, may have tempted the fate of the baseball gods with his version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Brock, with his band standing at home plate to support him, sang an off-beat version of the song. He was later overheard telling someone that he had not grown up a baseball fan and had to look up the words to the song.
Not long after Brock sang -- with the game scheduled for seven innings, the stretch came in the middle of the fifth inning -- thunder sounded and the rains came.
Brock and Modest Mouse were in the middle of two sold-out shows at Brewery Ommegang. They had better luck with the weather at their Saturday night show. The rain that began at the Classic stopped around 7 p.m., not long before the concert.
Taylor Bayes, a senior at Cooperstown Central School, sang the National Anthem. American Idol contestant Kaitlyn Jackson, who is from Norwich, sang “God Bless America.”
Although the HOF will hold a concert to celebrate its 75th Anniversary on Aug. 2, the actual anniversary is June 12. There will be a weekend full of commemorations that weekend as well.
Attendance at the HOF will be free on June 12. There will be a dedication ceremony at 11 a.m. with HOF Chairman Jane Forbes Clark, President Jeff Idelson and members Joe Morgan and Cal Ripken, Jr. Cake will be served and visitors will be invited to sing “Happy Birthday” to the Hall.
At 1 p.m., local residents Homer Osterhoudt, Howard Talbot and Catherine Walker will speak in the Bullpen Theater about their HOF memories. All three were present at the Hall’s opening in 1939.
At 10 a.m. on June 13, the Babe Ruth Gallery will be dedicated and opened on the second floor of the museum. Members of the Ruth family will be present, and at 11 a.m., a round-table discussion on Ruth’s career will take place.
Later that day, at 5 p.m., Morgan and Ripken will speak in a “Voices of the Game” program.
More activities will be announced in the next couple of weeks.