SBJ/January 16 - 22, 2006/Other News

Less-than-legendary year for Hall of Fame

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is projecting attendance to stay essentially flat in 2006 as it wrestles with changing dynamics in the museum industry and the lack of a megawatt-star inductee this year.

Museum executives, in New York last week to announce new inductee Bruce Sutter, said the year’s attendance projection is 340,000. The sum would mark only marginal growth over last year’s total of 337,170 and remain much lower than the museum’s 1989-94 heyday, when annual attendance twice topped 400,000.

Hall President Dale Petroskey says 2004’s
champion Red Sox helped drive attendance.
Dale Petroskey, Hall of Fame president, said he is hoping turnout for Sutter’s July 30 induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y., is aided by fans traveling from Chicago, St. Louis and Atlanta, where Sutter played nearly equal amounts of time during his 12-year career.

Sutter, however, was elected with 76.9 percent of votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America, the lowest such mark since Ralph Kiner in 1975. Sutter admitted he lost hope of induction after falling short in 12 previous Hall votes and said he doesn’t belong in the same conversation as Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax.

“Bruce, we think, will draw from three great markets and help us over the year,” Petroskey said. “But there’s no question we received quite a lift last year from the Boston fans.”

Thousands of Red Sox faithful traveled last year to Cooperstown to see artifacts from the club’s 2004 World Series triumph, as well as the induction of star third baseman Wade Boggs.

The Hall, meanwhile, continues to develop programs to expand its reach and protect itself against down years in attendance. A recently started endowment program has generated five $1 million donations, including ones from San Diego Padres owner John Moores, former Houston Astros owner John McMullen before he died last fall, and Hall chairwoman Jane Forbes Clark. Petroskey ultimately would like to increase the endowment to $50 million, but as of now is not pursuing corporate donations.

Also planned is a traveling exhibit to showcase the influence of Latin America in baseball, an event that will follow up on the Hall’s Baseball as America exhibit that is next week concluding a successful four-year tour across the country.

Meanwhile, a long-planned deal to bring the Hall’s Web site under the umbrella of MLB Advanced Media is within days of completion, Petroskey said. The pact, agreed to in principle last summer, has been held for months as lawyers review contractual language. The site’s address, baseballhalloffame.org, will remain unchanged in the deal, but MLBAM will handle the Hall’s online commerce and aid in expanded news coverage of the 62 living inductees.

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