Thursday, August 01, 2013

Deacon & Joe

I chronicled much of this year's Hall of Fame weekend on Twitter, so some of this is a repeat of what I've already commented on, but I thought I'd touch on a few highlights here.

But first, to get one of the common questions out of the way. Yes, I go to Cooperstown for the induction festivities every year, even if they're not inducting anyone. The latter point, though, is strictly hypothetical. There's never been a year since I've been attending that no one was inducted. Even though the writers whiffed on a talented list of candidates—as my friend Joe said, there were as many as 20 players you could make at least a reasonable case for—the Veterans Committee voted in three new Hall of Famers: former Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert (whose tenure started the franchise's run as the most successful in the history of all sports), turn-of-the-century umpire Hank O'Day, and 19th century catcher/third baseman Deacon White. 

The weekend's turnout was much smaller than usual, which I had mixed emotions about. On one hand, the crowds were so much more manageable than in any of my previous 25 Hall of Fame weekends, which was nice. But, of course, that doesn't bode well for Cooperstown's economy. Fortunately for local merchants and for the Hall of Fame itself, after one down year, things should get back to normal for at least the next three years. 

We stayed at a great B&B, which happens to be one of the only places in town that doesn't double their rates for this particular weekend. As a potential added bonus, their regulars whose room we took over might be discontinuing their annual tradition, potentially opening up a spot for us. That is, if Little Chuck didn't frighten them off, or if they aren't sore I accidentally stole their umbrella (I'll return it). 

Late Saturday afternoon's ceremony honoring Ford C. Frick Award winner Tom Cheek and J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Paul Hagen also included a tribute to Dr. Frank Jobe, the ground-breaking surgeon who performed UCL construction surgery on Tommy John (who became the surgery's popular namesake) in 1974. 

Also honored during Saturday's ceremony was Thomas Tull, the producer of "42." Tull, who also produced "Man of Steel" and the "Dark Knight" movies provided a memorable quote in which he declared Jackie Robinson the greatest superhero in any of his films.

Later, during the parade of Hall of Famers on Cooperstown's Main Street, Eddie Murray instantly became my favorite former player when he pointed to and acknowledged LC, saying "there's a cute little guy." Not that it hasn't been said many times before. 

Eddie Murray acknowledging my son (you'll have to take my word)

Rain dampened an induction ceremony that was already fighting an uphill battle for a reasonable turnout, but it didn't ruin perhaps the best moment in induction ceremony history. 

As you may know, I've been making the trip to Cooperstown with two old friends of mine, Joe Williams and his wife Carol, since 1987. Over the last several years, Joe has worked tirelessly as the chairman of SABR's Overlooked 19th Century Baseball Legends Project. In doing so, he has been a strong advocate for the Hall of Fame candidacy of Deacon White, and has maintained correspondence with several ancestors of White. 

One of those, of course, is Deacon's great grandson, Jerry Watkins, who delivered White's Hall of Fame induction speech. When Joe met with Watkins this weekend, Jerry indicated his intention to make mention of Joe in his speech. Joe's humble reaction was to say he really should give credit to Peter Morris, an influential SABR researcher, historian, and, most importantly, member of the Hall's Pre-Integration Era Committee that voted to induct White. 

Despite his lack of self-promotion, Joe's work (as well as that of Morris) was acknowledged by Watkins and it was a big moment for him. Needless to say, Joe has come a long way since I first introduced him to SABR via a 1987 book called The National Pastime

Because of the lack of a marquee name on the induction slate, the Hall decided it was a good time to formally induct 12 players who never got a proper induction ceremony due to World War II. 10 of these players were from the class of 1945, while the other two were elected during a period when Hall activity was minimal: Lou Gehrig (1939) and Rogers Hornsby (1942). 

Most important to me, though, was a player from the class of '45 whom I've written about here several times. Dan Brouthers died in 1932, four years before the Hall's inaugural class was chosen and 13 before his own election, but the Dutchess County native's brilliant career was finally officially honored

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