Cooperstown Could See Small Crowds For Baseball HOF Induction Sans Living Legends
No players were elected to the Baseball HOF this year after the vote was made public yesterday, and while a traditional induction party will take place in July, it "won’t involve a single living honoree," making it "unclear just who exactly will be inclined to show up," according to Lynn Zinser of the N.Y. TIMES. Cooperstown-area memorabilia store Mickey's Place Owner Vincent Russo said, "Unless they come up with something truly unique, I don't see that drawing many people. It's going to be pretty quiet here." Zinser notes quiet in Cooperstown in July "is usually not a good thing." Local business owners said that the event "took a big hit in 2008, when the Hall of Fame exhibition game that used to be held in conjunction with induction weekend was moved to earlier in the summer." Legends Are Forever memorabilia store Owner Jeff Foster said that induction weekend "still accounts for somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of a lot of businesses’ annual revenue" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/10). Cooperstown Mayor Jeff Katz said that he "believes local merchants have become nimble enough to avoid a major hit to their bottom line if large crowds fail to turn out" for the induction ceremony. However, he added that he expects HOF execs will "seek to stimulate attendance for Hall of Fame weekend by recruiting some of baseball's living legends" to town. Baseball HOF President Jeff Idelson said, "We will be looking now for ways to enhance the weekend in ways we normally wouldn't. We will look for other ways to stimulate the economy" (Oneonta DAILY STAR, 1/10). In New York, Pitarresi & Root note the 12 HOFers who "never had formal inductions because of wartime restrictions will be honored," including Lou Gehrig and Rogers Hornsby. Baseball HOF Communications Dir Craig Muder said that he is "optimistic fans will come to Cooperstown for the inductions." Muder: "We're expecting a decent crowd. We're going to be honoring some very fine players" (UTICA OBSERVER-DISPATCH, 1/10).
DIFFERENT REACTIONS FROM SELIG, WEINER: Yesterday's announcement immediately sparked a sizable division in reactions from MLB and the MLBPA, otherwise enjoying historic levels of cooperation. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, speaking at owners meetings in Arizona, said he saw no issue with the inductee-less vote and said it validated the BBWAA's existing mission to elect the best candidates as opposed to meeting some sort of pre-determined induction quota. "The idea that this (result) somehow diminishes the Hall of Fame or baseball is ridiculous," Selig said, predicting a sizable induction class next year when Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas become eligible. "The goal isn't to ensure somebody gets in every year but to make sure they're deserving." But MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner said the lack of an inductee, given the presence of historic figures as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens was "unfortunate, if not sad." Weiner: "To ignore the historic accomplishments of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens … is hard to justify. Moreover, to penalize players exonerated in legal proceedings -- and others never even been implicated -- is simply unfair." Either way, the lack of a living inductee is likely to be a blow to a museum that already has seen attendance ebb over the last several years. Idelson acknowledged the lack of a '13 BBWAA inductee will have an "adverse effect" on induction weekend crowds (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).