Cooperstown village officials are preparing for record-breaking crowds at this year’s National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina and Mariano Rivera, who were elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, will join Harold Baines and Lee Smith, selections from the Today’s Game Era Committee, in the class of 2019 induction ceremony Sunday, July 21, at The Clark Sports Center in the town of Middlefield.
“We did have big crowds for Cal Ripken,” said Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh. “It’s not the first time we’ve done this.”
Attendance peaked at 82,000 in 2007 for the induction of Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gywnn. Last year’s induction of Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Alan Trammell, Jim Thome and Jack Morris ranked second in crowd size, bringing in 53,000 visitors, according to HOF estimates.
This year’s inductees are expected to draw a loyal fan base from the cities they once played for — Baltimore for Mussina and Baines, as well as New York City and Chicago; Toronto and Philadelphia for Halladay and Boston and Baltimore for Smith — many of which are just a few hours’ drive from Cooperstown.
However, the headliner remains Mariano Rivera, the New York Yankees relieve who was the first player elected to the Hall with a 100% of the votes.
An official attendance estimate was not available from the Hall of Fame, but at least one village official said breaking the 2007 record is a possibility.
Village officials plan for the event several months in advance, coordinating with Cooperstown Village Police, the Otsego County Sheriff’s Office and New York State Police, Tillapaugh said.
“Everyone works hard to plan this,” she said.
Main Street will be closed between Chestnut and Fair streets beginning at 5 a.m. Friday, Tillapaugh said. Parts of Pioneer Street will also be closed to vehicular traffic, and several other streets will be temporarily designated one-way.
“It should make for a very pedestrian-friendly downtown,” Tillapaugh said, “and allow our shuttles and trolleys to move freely between the stops.
“We’re adhering to past plans but willing to be flexible,” she continued. Some streets may remain closed through Monday to accommodate continued weekend activities.
For the first time this year, the Cooperstown Central School District has hired a firm to coordinate paid parking at the elementary and high school lots, Tillapaugh said, and the proceeds will benefit the school’s sports booster club, Friends of Music and Art and other associated nonprofits.
The village also established additional peripheral parking lots — named after baseball greats like Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron — out of a “strong consideration” for increased crowd sizes, Tillapaugh said.
The village installed several new solar-powered trash compacting receptacles downtown using funds from the village’s $2.2 million transportation enhancement grant administered through a program of the Federal Highway Administration. Trash receptacles along Main Street are typically removed to accommodate and protect the crowds at Saturday’s Parade of Legends, Tillapaugh said, but the new ones are designed to be locked instead.
Tara Burke, president of the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce, advised visitors to plan their itineraries in advance, calling restaurants to inquire if reservations are required and scheduling activities before arriving.
This year’s induction festivities will be the first for Burke, who took over the position earlier this year.
“We’re really looking forward to this weekend,” she said. “We really work hard to accommodate the number of visitors and make sure everyone has a good time.”
Visit baseballhall.org/visit/hall-of-fame-weekend for more information.
Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at email@example.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.