The National Baseball Hall of Fame induction weekend drew over 50,000 fans this year. Fans from Seattle, Cincinnati, and New York City came to the small upstate New York town to see Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. receive their induction plaques. Despite high-priced hotel rooms and even higher temperatures, it was one of his largest turnouts ever for an induction.
Cooperstown has a population of only about 2400 people. There are many hotels in the area, but they command a starting price of $1000 for three nights during HoF weekend. Even with that kind of money it is hard to get a reservation within 20 miles of the town. Once you’re there though, it becomes clear that the effort is worth it. I arrived Friday morning after leaving Boston at 6am. After finding parking, I spent the entire three days in town. I met dozens of Hall of Famers, and browsed all the stores. I bought books, a few jerseys, and a lot of hot dogs.
I paid good money to meet former players and get their autographs. While their signatures are expensive, for many, the money goes to charity. For example, Fergie Jenkins, a one-time Red Sox pitcher, charges only $30 for his signature. According his website, the money goes to humanitarian needs. Last year saw Pedro Martinez, a Red Sox favorite, got inducted. He charges $169 for his autograph so I skipped him. Martinez’s induction last year attracted thousands of Red Sox fans to Cooperstown. It was great to see so many people wearing number 45.
While this year’s induction weekend drew over 50,000 fans to Cooperstown, I can tell you that almost every one of them felt singled out by Piazza and Griffey’s speeches when they talked about the fans. Between the large crowd, and the two amazing inductees, this induction weekend turned out to be one of the best ever.
Induction Weekend Drew Many Non-Hall of Famers Too
There were many non-Hall of Famers there too. Even though induction weekend drew tens of thousands, I found myself alone in the Cooperstown Bat Store on Main Street Friday Sunday. It’s there I got to talk to George Foster for a while, a very nice and funny man. The former Cincinnati Reds outfielder caught Carlton Fisk’s ball off the foul pole in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Foster kept the baseball in his garage for almost 25 years before giving it up for auction. It sold for $113,000 in 1999. I asked him how he felt when he grabbed the ball.
“Were you like, ‘Damnit!’ or what?” I asked.
“I don’t use that kind of language.”
“Oh sorry. Were you like, ‘Darn it!’?”
“I was like, ‘Darn it, I’m hungry! We just played 12 straight!'” Jokes aside, Foster suggested that the team knew there was likely going to be a seventh game because Boston played so hard.