Your Guide to Baseball Hall of Fame Weekend in Cooperstown

The Baseball Hall of Fame will induct five new members on Sunday, July 30th, 2017 in Cooperstown, New York. The festivities are set to begin on July 28th and run through the 31st. Like the All-Star game and the World Series, Hall of Fame Induction Weekend is something every baseball fan looks forward to each year. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are planning on attending the festivities.

Finding Parking Is Tough

Parking is going to be tough. Cooperstown has a population of about 2,500 people. LastBaseball Hall year about 45-50,000 people came to see Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. get inducted. You do the math. So if you are planning on coming it’s best to get into town early enough to find a spot. By early I mean 6am if you want to get a good spot. The later you are the farther you’ll have to walk from where you parked. We’re talking miles.

Finding A Hotel Is Even Tougher

Hotel and accommodations. If you didn’t book a reservation the week after last year’s induction weekend ended then you’re not going to find anything close to town. I booked a room seven miles outside of town the week after last year. Two months later they cancelled on me. By that time I had to look elsewhere and the best I could find was something 45 minutes away. That was in August. That’s how fast it fills up.

But Baseball Hall of Fame Weekend Is Worth It!

If you venture to Cooperstown for the weekend you won’t regret it. Every year there’s about three dozen or so Hall of Famers who do autograph shows throughout town. Prices vary but they’re not too expensive, depending on who you want. Dennis Eckersley, Pete Rose, and Goose Gossage will run you about $40-60 for a signed ball. Others like Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson demand up to $300 for a single autograph. If you Google “autograph signings Cooperstown 2017” you’ll find a list of companies sponsoring these signings. They list their prices and sell tickets in advance. I’ve already purchased about eight so I won’t have to stand in line as long. I suggest you do the same.

Non-Baseball Hall of Famers Are The Highlight

Last year as I walked down Main Street I met former Negro Leaguers, old ladies who played in the All-American Girls Professional League in the 1940s, and former MLBers who didn’t quite have the numbers to get inducted. THESE people are the ones you want to stop and talk to. In addition to charging very little (if at all) for their autograph (maybe $10 at the most), they tell the best stories. The original Frank Thomas, who played for the Mets in their first year in 1962, loves chatting with fans. Pedro Sierra, who played in the Negro Leagues in the early 1950s, signed a ball for me in the most beautiful handwriting I’ve ever seen on a baseball. George Foster, the NL MVP in 1977, has a great sense of humor. These are the people you want to seek out and talk to. They’ll chat with you all day!

In addition to the Baseball Hall of Fame itself, check out the many stores open all weekend. You’ll see a lot of junk but you’ll also see a lot of neat things. Yastrzemski Sports in the center of town has a treasure trove of baseball cards old and new. Across the street is Mickey’s, another great spot if you need a good baseball cap. And don’t forget the great places to eat up and down Main Street.

See you there! (Don’t forget sunscreen!)

Pete Rose Denied Induction Into Hall of Fame For Final Time

Pete Rose, the all-time hits king at 4256, was denied eligibility for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame for likely the final time. Many applauded the decision handed down by the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors. In their mind, Rose accepted, and must abide by, a lifetime ban he received in 1989. Others say it’s too stringent. With Pete Rose denied induction into the Hall of Fame for likely the final time, baseball fans will surely become more divided over the issue.

Then-commissioner Bart Giamatti banned Rose in 1989 for placing betts on baseballPete Rose Denied Induction games. Rose denied any involvement in gambling for many years before finally admitting it in 2004. Despite his confession, which he thought would exonerate him, the path to Hall of Fame induction only narrowed. In fact, it’s Rule 3(E) that continues to block Rose’s path to Cooperstown. The Baseball Writers Association of America election rules state that anyone who is permanently ineligible by Major League Baseball may not be considered for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. This is the rule the Board of Directors cited in their decision to shut the door forever on Rose’s induction.

But is the Board of Directors being too stingy? Yup!

It’s Hypocritical To Deny Rose Induction

There’s no denying Rose gambled on baseball. It’s a crappy thing to do. Some say it’s no big deal but keep something in mind. You’re profiting off the hard work of your teammates. Then there’s the whole being illegal thing. But if the writers inducted Rose into the Hall of Fame then he would be in good company. Legendary New York Giants manager John McGraw allegedly threw games after the Giants were eliminated from the playoffs. Rumors about Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker’s connections to gamblers continue to this day.

Then there’s Hall of Famer John Clarkson. Clarkson won 50 games in 1885 (Yes, you read right) for the Chicago White Stockings. He’s in the Hall of Fame despite the fact that he murdered his wife with a razor. Let’s not forget Cap Anson and Kenesaw Mountain Landis, two more inductees who are directly responsible for introducing, and maintaining, respectively, segregation in baseball. So we can let other gamblers in, along with murderers and bigots, but not Pete Rose? That’s definitely a double standard.

Pete Rose Denied Induction For Final Time

Seeing Pete Rose denied induction is disappointing. It’s also somewhat hypocritical. Of course, Rose is no saint. But there are very few in the Hall of Fame whose character can’t questioned (Brooks Robinson comes to mind). This isn’t to dismiss what Rose did. But 25 years is enough.

Let Rose into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Hawking Autographs Hurts Baseball’s Integrity

I’m a member of a Facebook group called Autographs 101. Members give advice and judge the authenticity of signatures. One of the things I love about the group is that its members truly love the game of baseball. Seeing someone proudly display pictures of hawking autographstheir grandfather’s Ted Williams autograph is exciting. One of things that really bothers me though is when someone shows of an autograph they got for free at a game and wants to sell it. Someone gets a baseball signed by Kris Bryant or David Ortiz, then posts a picture of it asking for an obscene amount. Hawking autographs for personal profit not only hurts the game’s integrity, but it’s a selfish thing to do.

I’d go to ballgames as a kid hoping I’d get a few autographs. Other teens and I would stand behind each other patiently waiting for the signatures of Brett Butler, Moises Alou, Pat Hentgen, and Andy Petite, who all signed for me. Nowadays though I see full grown men shoving kids away to get an autograph. Some ballparks now have a Kids Only section where they can get autographs.

These hawkers get hundreds for Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and David Ortiz. Knowing that fans are profiting off of them, some ballplayers now refuse to sign for adults. Others will sign a ball but won’t do it on the sweet spot because they know a fan won’t be able to get as much for it. Washington Nationals’ pitcher Max Scherzer is going an extra step to ensure fans aren’t hawking autographs. Scherzer set up a website where fans can buy his autograph with all the profits going directly to charity. This angers some fans who won’t be able to make a 100% anymore. They brought it on themselves though.

Hawking Autographs Ruins It For Other Fans

I attended the Hall of Fame Classic game last weekend in Cooperstown. Hundreds of fans stood behind a fence on the first base line waiting for Hall of Famers to come and sign. Most were little kids. But I saw many adults with 2×3 foot posters hoping that someone like Wade Boggs would sign it. How obnoxious do you have to be to not only take a kid’s place, but lug around something that large?

I attended the game with my buddy Angelo who told me a story about Alex Rodriguez. A few years ago, his brother stood outside the ballpark for A-Rod. Most of those who were waiting were little kids who A-Rod is apparently more than happy to sign for. But an overzealous fan almost ruined it for everyone when he handed a box of a dozen baseballs to A-Rod asking him to sign each one. “C’mon man, really?” A-Rod said to the guy. “I know what you’re going to do with those.” A-Rod ignored the guy and continued signing for the kids. The guy got nothing, and deservedly so.

I collect autographs myself. I mail baseball cards to former players, and pay a fee to meet them in Cooperstown. One thing I won’t do is push kids aside. If you think that’s okay then you need to get a life.

These Baseball Records Will Never Be Broken

Baseball records fall almost every season. Most of them are obscure and don’t get much attention. Former Atlanta Braves second baseman Mark Lemke holds the record for most plate appearances (3664) without being hit by a pitch. Hall of Famer Hughie Jennings holds the record for most hit-by-pitches (287). While these records are interesting, they’re not the kind that players set out to break. There are some baseball records, however, that will never be broken. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Cal Ripken Jr.’s Consecutive Game Streak

Cal Ripken Jr. made history on September 6, 1995 when he passed Lou Gehrig’sbaseball records consecutive games-played streak of 2130. That’s 2130 straight games that Ripken didn’t miss despite broken bones and sprains. With the clauses and stipulations in contracts nowadays, you’ll never see another player come close to breaking this record.

Cy Young’s Record of 511 Wins

Cy Young holds the record for most wins, and losses, for a pitcher at 511-316. Young played for 21 years during a time when relief pitching was rare and a pitcher threw all nine innings. Nowadays it’s a monumental feat if a pitcher wins 300 games in his career.

Joe DiMaggio’s 56-Game Hitting Streak

This is a record historians and Yankee fans stubbornly defend as one that’ll never fall. In 1941, DiMaggio hit safely in 56 games. Since then, Pete Rose is the only player to come close to breaking that record with a 44-game streak in 1978. Many players have reached the 20 and 30 game plateau. With modern technology utilized by almost every pitcher to analyze opposing batting stances, it’s likely no player will ever surpass DiMaggio.

Ty Cobb’s .366 Lifetime Batting Average

The best players today can barely reach this average in a season. So the idea of a player coming anywhere close to breaking Cobb’s lifetime batting average record is nonexistent. Cobb batted over .400 three times and won nine consecutive batting titles. He’s also only one of two players with more than 4,000 hits in his career. Like a pitcher winning 300 games, getting 3,000 hits is hard enough. To accumulate enough hits to pass Cobb’s .366 average will never happen. This is one of those baseball records that players will find difficult to come within 50 points of reaching.

Batting Records Aren’t What They Used To Be

Technological advancements are putting a dent in the pursuit of records. Pitchers and hitters now have hundreds of different types of media they can analyze to gain an advantage over their opponents. Medical advances are prolonging baseball careers, but they’re also revealing flaws in practices that pitchers and hitters have relied on for years. Whereas it was once common for pitchers to throw all nine innings and go past 150 pitches, it is now proving detrimental to their arms.

Better designed base gloves also play a role in setting and breaking baseball records. For example, Ty Cobb holds the American League record with the most errors by an outfielder with 271. Those errors account for a lot of base hits. But baseball has seen a huge drop in errors by outfielders now that gloves are better designed with a wider net and stronger grip.

While the records listed above will likely remain standing for years to come, baseball could use a shot in the arm in the form of their pursuit. Ripken’s pursuit of Gehrig’s record excited baseball fans in the wake of the 1994 strike. It brought fans back to the ballpark. While attendance isn’t an issue right now, seeing someone like Mike Trout pursue Barry Bonds’ single season HR record would make the game even more exciting to watch.

Ryan Flaherty’s Maine Roots

Most who have listened to Red Sox/Orioles games have heard of Baltimore utility player Ryan Flaherty’s Maine background. But few know the backstory of how the kid from Portland made it to the show.

Flaherty grew up surrounded by baseball. His dad, Ed, is the coach at the University of Ryan Flaherty's maineSouthern Maine and a local legend. He won two national championships with the Huskies in 1991 and 1997. In fact, the University just named the field there after the elder Flaherty.

Making an Impact

Flaherty played high school ball for the Deering Rams and was a standout in football as well as baseball. A 2005 graduate, he led Nova Seafood to the American Legion World Series Championship in 2004 and won the Telegram League batting title. Flaherty also won the Maine Gatorade and John Winkin baseball award as a senior along with Legion Tournament MVP. To make his resume more impressive, Flaherty was a finalist for Maine’s prestigious football award, the Fitzpatrick Trophy.

Ryan Flaherty’s Maine childhood transitioned into a college career at the “Harvard of the South”—Vanderbilt University. While with the Commodores, Flaherty played alongside fellow big leaguers David Price and Pedro Alvarez. He received an honorable mention his freshman year and a Second-team All-America selection. During his final season with Vanderbilt, he hit .542 in the NCAA Tournament. His consistent performance at the plate led Coach Corbin to coin him “the model of consistency.”

Big League Success

The Chicago Cubs chose Flaherty in the first round (41st overall) of the 2008 Major League Baseball Draft. In four seasons of minor league ball, Flaherty batted .279 with an on-base percentage of .347, slugging percentage of .455, and 182 RBI. He also hit 38 home runs and 79 doubles. While in the Cubs organization he was ranked as the 8th best prospect.

Despite this, Flaherty was Rule 5 eligible and was subsequently selected by the Baltimore Orioles. He has continued his consistent performance and has become one of Buck Showalter’s primary utility options.

To this day, he is the only active major league player born in Maine, as Charlie Furbush is currently a free agent. In 2012, he became the first Mainer to hit a postseason home run.

The Idleness of Clemens’ Number 21

As I cover college baseball games this weekend in Waco, Texas, my attention is drawn Roger Clemensaway from the 10 players on the field. The Texas Longhorns are in town, which means, for the only time all season, I am more focused on the parents section. I’m looking for a certain number 21.

Penciled in the Longhorn lineup at both DH and First Base is a familiar name: Clemens. With the potential to meet their dad, Roger, this weekend, it got me thinking about one of the most tumultuous careers in baseball history. Roger Clemens will always go down as a Red Sox legend, but would you guess that his number is retired?

No, you wouldn’t. Nestled on the facade in Fenway Park’s right field lies 10 retired numbers, but not number 21. What you might not know, however, is that 30 Red Sox wore that number before the Rocket, but none since. Are the Red Sox hiding behind their own tradition?

For over a decade, Clemens was revered in Boston. From 1984-1996, the Rocket racked up 192 wins, tying him for the franchise record. Whom is he tied with? A guy by the name of Cy Young—you may have heard of him. Clemens knows him well, winning the Cy Young award three times in Boston as well as an American League MVP award in 1986. He was the unequivocal ace who led the Red Sox to the World Series that year as well. Before he came to Boston, no one had struck out 20 batters in a game. By the time he left, he had done it twice. It wasn’t Clemens’ time in Boston that made him a villain, it was his time away.

After Dan Duquette’s prognostication of his demise, Clemens went to division rival Toronto. It was his time north of the border where things became fishy. After injuries wore down his final few sub-par years in Boston, Clemens began to defy logic. Even as he aged, he was recovering even faster from these injuries and was pitching as well as ever. In two seasons with Toronto, he won the Cy Young Award both years and earned the elusive pitching Triple Crown each season.

To further push the buttons of Red Sox fans, Clemens traded in his Jays uniform for pinstripes. As a Yankee, he won four AL Pennants, two World Series titles, and the Cy Young yet again in 2001. After a combined record of 27-18 in his first two seasons in New York, he went 20-3 in 2001. Coincidentally enough, it was revealed his trainer Brian McNamee was injecting him with anabolic steroids at the time. Now, it’s no wonder Clemens was always butt hurt.

Why The Fans Don’t Want To See The Number 21

The final middle finger to Red Sox Nation came in the winter of 2005. Upon Curt Schilling’s endorsement, the Red Sox were in the sweepstakes to sign Clemens as a free agent. In a little-known attempt to bring him back, a third grade class in Rockland, MA, made a video for the Clemens family. In it, the kids begged him to “come home, Roger”, apparently bringing his wife to tears. At the end of the video, a number 21 was glowing on that right field facade, if the Rocket were to re-enter Boston’s atmosphere. Instead, Clemens re-signed with Houston and in 2007, ended his career with a return to New York.

Once revered in Boston, Clemens is now reviled. His number 21 is retired only at Disch-Faulk Field at the University of Texas. While there, Clemens was the ace for their 1983 National Championship team. No, I think it’s gonna be a long, long time till we see Clemens’ number up there with Williams and Yastrzemski. It won’t take touchdown to bring us round again to find he most certainly is the man he is at home. Sir Elton John will not be doing any serenading over the Fenway speakers any time soon. For all the things Clemens has done to Boston fans on and off the field has certainly made the Rocket public enemy number 21.