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!)

The Hall of Fame Case for Manny Ramirez

The latest Baseball Hall of Fame ballot was released on Monday, and it features Red Sox icon Manny Ramirez as a headliner. Few athletes have electrified Boston more than Ramirez, whose talent was outrageous, but failed drugs tests and off-field antics will likely keep him out of Cooperstown. Nevertheless, let’s take a closer look at his case.

Manny Ramirez

Manny Ramirez played in parts of 19 seasons, mainly with Cleveland, Boston and the Dodgers. His career slash line of .312/.411/.585 is otherworldly, and only seven men have outperformed his .996 OPS. Manny hit 555 home runs, more than Mickey Mantle, Jimmy Foxx or Ted Williams. He also drove in 1,831 runs, good for 18th all-time. In every way, Manny Ramirez was one of the greatest hitters ever to grasp a bat.

Manny Ramirez, Soul of the Red Sox

Perhaps more importantly, the charismatic outfielder helped bring two World Series championships to Boston, a city that yearned for just one. Along with David Ortiz, Manny defined a generation at Fenway Park, forming arguably the greatest three-four punch in modern baseball history. Ramirez made 12 All-Star teams; won nine Silver Slugger Awards; and was named MVP of the 2004 World Series. He was also the American League batting champion in 2002, and the home run king two seasons later. That illustrates just how dynamic he was at the plate.

In any other era, such numbers and achievements would have made Manny Ramirez a lock for the Hall of Fame. But his career overlapped a dark period for the National Pastime, which was blighted by performance-enhancing drug abuse. Ramirez failed three tests and served two suspensions in his career. The first came in May 2009, when Manny used a women’s fertility drug to aid his production. Though it came late in his career, one can only question the validity of so many numbers compiled through the years. That may be difficult for Ramirez to overcome.

The Long Road to Cooperstown

If superior players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are kept outside the Hall of Fame due to steroid allegations, then Manny Ramirez has little hope. At first glance, the evidence against those players is far sketchier than it is against Ramirez. Bonds received just 44% of the vote last year, his fourth on the ballot, while Clemens got 45%. Players need 75% to join the Hall of Fame. It’s a rocky road for anybody tainted by PED innuendo.

Manny Ramirez has admitted his mistakes. He’s even displayed a willingness to help younger players avoid similar pitfalls. As an instructor with the Chicago Cubs, Ramirez has been praised by Theo Epstein, whose life he routinely made difficult with the Red Sox. While those steps deserve praise, history says they won’t affect Hall of Fame voting numbers. Mark McGwire has enjoyed a renaissance as a coach, but his Cooperstown support slumped to just 12% last year. There’s little hope he’ll ever be elected.

If you add in Manny’s often prickly attitude, an uphill struggle awaits. People don’t easily forget a star outfielder roughing up a travelling secretary, for instance, and these things matter in a voting context. My best guess is that Ramirez receives around 25% of votes this year. That’s obviously inadequate, but it’s also a poor base from which to build support in subsequent years, sadly.

To anyone who watched the Red Sox during their golden rise in the 2000s, the suggestion that Manny Ramirez wouldn’t one day have a plaque in the Hall of Fame seems absurd. He was one of the most dominant hitters of his era, of any era. But poor decisions along the way will likely curtail his ride to Cooperstown. And that’s a real shame for all involved.