Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Final Hall of Fame Game

My view from the hot-dog vendor.

So much for a tradition. The Cubs will play in the final Hall of Fame game -- ever -- this June. The fact that a team so perennially bad as the Cubs will be doing the honors of playing in the last HoF game is amusing enough, but most of you probably will let the tradition pass you by without even giving it a second thought.

For those of us at Luol's Dong, we'd like to give the MLB Hall of Fame game a fitting tribute.

Doubleday Field originally started as a cow pasture. The farm was originally owned by Elihu Phinney, and was believed to be used by Abner Doubleday and Abner Graves in their creation of baseball in the late 1830's. After Doubleday's death, the citizens of Cooperstown wanted to do something to commemorate his accomplishments, but found that the only baseball field in Cooperstown had already been purchased (to be turned into a hospital).

With Phinney's land seen as a fitting tribute, the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce bought the land in 1919 and created Doubleday Field. The first official game was on Sept. 6, 1920, between Milford and Cooperstown. The president of the National League, John Heydler, umpired the first inning.

After some trials and tribulations in hanging onto the field and keeping the rights to it within Cooperstown (for more info on that, go here), the Hall of Fame was created in 1939 to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of baseball. Not only that, but there was an unofficial "all-star" game, as ballplayers from every team were present. The game drew so many crowds and so much attention that Cooperstown planned to create a Hall of Fame game every year.

Starting in 1940, the Hall of Fame game would feature two major league teams playing at Cooperstown (which is so tiny that Scott Podsednik and Royce Clayton could hit back to back HRs). The tradition continued every year with the game being held near the HoF induction weekend, but scheduling issues pushed the game to May or June in recent years.

Interestingly, no team has every been able to call Doubleday field "home field." The field is only used for exhibitions, amateur league and American Legion ballgames. With 2008, this becomes the last HoF game to be played at Cooperstown. With no plans to move the All-Star game to Cooperstown (cough cough), it looks like Cooperstown will be left to rock shows -- hardly a fitting tribute.

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