07/26/2002 12:23 pm ET
Hall of Fame weekend busy as ever
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
This year's Hall of Fame class features just one player, Ozzie Smith, plus broadcaster Harry Kalas and writer Joe Falls. But the weekend is just as busy as ever, filled with a wide range of events for fans and Hall of Famers alike.
From the arrival of the game's greats on Friday, through a minor league game on Saturday, the induction on Sunday and the Hall of Fame Game on Monday, it will be a packed weekend in packed Cooperstown, N.Y. Smith's enshrinement, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, is the big event, but far from the only one.
And if you think it'll be chaotic in upstate New York for everyone else, imagine what it will be like for Smith.
"Friday's gonna be a very, very long day," Smith said. "And then of course Saturday I do get to play golf with the Hall of Famers and some friends on Saturday morning. But Saturday evening I get back busy again and then of course Sunday ..."
Smith planned to arrive at the Hall on Thursday, but most of the men he's joining in baseball's elite fraternity don't make it to Cooperstown until Friday. At least 43 Hall of Famers, and perhaps as many as 50, are expected to appear this year, an unusually high count.
"It's a tribute and an honor to have guys coming back," Smith said. "It's not something that I had given a whole lot of thought to. I just assumed that there'd be 25, 30 guys. But 50 guys coming back is quite an honor, quite a tribute and I couldn't be more pleased."
During the day on Friday, "The Wizard" will take part in "Ozzie Smith Turns Two for Charity." There are fantasy camps, and then there's the opportunity to turn a double play with the greatest defensive shortstop the game has ever known.
"People pay $1,000 to get on the field with me and turn double plays and raise money for a local charity in that area," Smith explained. "I have 20 people signed up for that."
The "Turn Two" event will take place at historic Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, and the profits will benefit the Hall's educational department.
Saturday will bring a little minor league fun amid the celebration of the best of the big leagues. Doubleday Field is scheduled to host a game between the Oneonta Tigers and the Auburn Doubledays of the short-season Class A New York-Penn League at 2 p.m. ET. Also scheduled for Saturday is "Connecting Generations," which features trivia questions from baseball greats including Sparky Anderson, Rod Carew, Bob Feller and Mike Schmidt.
Of course, Sunday is the big day. When you think of Hall of Fame weekend, you think of the player speeches at the induction. Smith insists that he'll keep it short, even though no other players will be speaking.
"I think that people think that they're gonna get a speech for about 50 minutes," Smith told MLB Radio. "I'm not gonna do no 50 minute speech. I'm gonna do about 20-25 minutes and try and thank all of the people that have been a part of my success through the last 15-20 years and be done with it."
The ceremony will be broadcast on ESPN Classic and hosted by baseball announcer George Grande. Smith said he doesn't know what will appear on the plaque that will hang in his honor.
"I have no idea," he said. "They decide what goes on the plaque there (in Cooperstown). I won't know that until Saturday night."
The events don't end on Sunday, though. Monday morning brings the "Legends Series" panel discussion, featuring Smith, the Rockies' Todd Helton and Frank Thomas of the White Sox. Then Helton's and Thomas' teams face off in an exhibition game at 2 p.m. ET at Doubleday Field, as the annual Hall of Fame Game features Colorado against Chicago.
There's plenty to entertain and interest any baseball fan, and MLB.com and MLB Radio will be there for the whole thing. So if you can't make it to Cooperstown, stick with us complete coverage throughout the weekend.
Matthew Leach covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.