06/16/2003 4:02 PM ET
Phils top Rays in Hall of Fame Game
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Randy Wolf went to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum expecting to learn about history. He left with a greater sense of perspective.
By Paul C. Smith / MLB.com
"It's pretty cool," Wolf said. "You go there and you see all these exhibits about great players of the past. And then you realize, some of the guys we're playing with now are going to be the guys in the exhibits in the future."
Wolf, a Phillies starting pitcher, singled out Roger Clemens, the newest member of the 300-win club, as an excellent example.
"It's simple, we're watching history," Wolf said. "Roger is probably the greatest pitcher of the modern era. No one else is going to have 511 wins like Cy Young. So, 50 years from now, people are going to look back at Clemens like we do at Cy Young."
Mixing history, baseball and grandeur is nothing new in Cooperstown. And on Monday, the tiny village in upstate New York again hosted a classic festival in honor of just those elements.
The weather was a perfect 72 degrees and Doubleday Field was packed to the brim for the 57th Annual Hall of Fame Game between the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Philadelphia Phillies.
The 7-5 Phils victory was not of much consequence because the fans came simply to see their heroes, past and present. And there, mixed in a pre-game parade and on the field before the game were Lou Piniella, Jim Thome, Rocco Baldelli, Larry Bowa, Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Robin Roberts, Gaylord Perry, Ferguson Jenkins and one of two members of this year's induction class, Gary Carter.
It was a scenic event mixed with memorable moments and surrounded by diamonds and stars.
"This is wonderful, a great opportunity for a guy like me," said Rays minor leaguer Pete LaForest, who started at catcher in the game. "Just to have a chance to mix with past and present players like this in such a fabulous setting is a real honor."
Wolf and his teammates arrived in Cooperstown early Sunday night because of a rainout in Cincinnati and had a chance to spend some time taking a private tour at the Hall of Fame.
"We spent a couple of hours going through there with Johnny Bench and Robin Roberts," Wolf said. "That was very special. Robin's in the Hall of Fame, so he doesn't have to take time to talk to a guy like me, but he does. In fact, he's down in Clearwater every spring and always spends a lot of time with players. That's what baseball is all about."
Piniella has been to Cooperstown twice as a manager and thoroughly enjoyed another visit.
"There is a wonderful history here, great memories," Piniella said. "You owe it to yourself to come up here and stay a few days. It's just a fantastic little trip."
Piniella also liked the fact that the Rays, the youngest team in the Majors, were included in the proceedings.
"To be a part of baseball history, in the sense that you are here with everything going on, is good for a young team," Piniella said.
The Rays arrived late from St. Petersburg through Albany and most of the players opted to get some rest. Baldelli, the most popular Ray in these parts, already has a small display in the Hall that includes the ball used for his 40th hit through April, a Major League record for rookies.
"It was tough because we got in late and didn't get to go," Baldelli said. "But it's a cool feeling already having something in the Hall. I know I could play no matter how long my career lasts and, no matter what happens, I've got something there. It would have been nice to take a peek at it."
Baldelli said he played at Doubleday Field when he was in high school at Bishop Hendricken in Rhode Island.
"Yeah, we came all the way up here for the whole weekend and I didn't swing the bat," Baldelli said. "I walked twice, if you can believe that."
Baldelli, who has only 11 walks in 271 plate appearances, knows he can return to the Hall of Fame at any time. He was presented with a lifetime pass on Sunday night.
"I could come back in the dead of winter and take my time," Baldelli said.
Like Baldelli, Wolf is looking forward to returning when he can thoroughly enjoy every exhibit.
"When I go again, I want to spend time with everything." Wolf said. "Especially the display with the World Series rings."
Wolf said he found something fascinating around every turn in the Hall on Sunday night.
"I was just walking through and, all of a sudden, there was Roger Maris' 61st home run ball, it was just sitting there in a case in the middle of a room," Wolf said. "That's the way it is there. The whole Hall is incredible."
Home run hitting contest: Rays outfielder Ben Grieve wowed the crowd with monster shots onto the quaint old houses beyond the outfield at Doubleday Field and eventually won the home run hitting contest in the sixth round of a swing-off against teammate Travis Lee.
Tampa Bay's Aubrey Huff finished with four home runs in 10 swings. Philadelphia's Pat Burrell hit four, while Tomas Perez drilled two and Jim Thome was shut out.
Grieve and Lee, an ex-Phillie, both finished with seven home runs in their first 10 swings and qualified for the tie-breaker. They both took five swings and hit three home runs to send the pre-game contest to a swing-off. At that point they took one swing each until the sixth round when Grieve homered deep to right to win.
Phillies notes: Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas introduced the lineups for both teams before the game. ... David Bell was a late scratch in the game and was replaced at third by Nick Punto. ... Brandon Duckworth pitched one inning and allowed one run. ... Marlon Byrd hit a two-run home run in the second inning. It doesn't count, but it was his first home run of the season. ... The Phillies got a look at seven minor league prospects in the game, including pitchers Cole Hamels, Frank Brooks and Bob Korecky, catcher Trent Pratt (no relation to Todd), infielders Kiel Fisher and Brian Hitchcox and outfielders Jake Blalock and Vince Vukovich, John's son. Hamels struck out the side in the fourth. ... As always, with his animated antics, the Phillie Phanatic was a fan favorite in the parade, at the game and all around town.
Paul C. Smith is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.