During their Major League careers, Ozzie Smith, George Brett and Gary Carter never played as teammates. That changed somewhat on Friday morning, as the three Hall of Famers combined forces in an effort to turn double plays -- and raise money for the Hall of Fame's educational efforts.
The three legends, who are in Cooperstown for this weekend's induction ceremony, which will be broadcast live on MLB.com, took part in a special event called "Turn Two."
The program, an annual fundraiser headed up by Smith, allowed fans to turn double plays with Brett, Carter, and "The Wizard" at Cooperstown's historic Doubleday Field. Thirty-eight fans took part in this year's event, including one fan from Japan and several from Thunder Bay, Ontario. In exchange, each fan participant made a $500 donation (or $375 for Friends of the Hall of Fame members), with the money allotted to the Hall's growing education department.
Now in his fourth straight year of lending his time to the Turn Two program at the Hall of Fame, Smith says the event has two primary goals. "It's about helping raise money and giving fans the opportunity to mingle with the guys that they watched growing up," says Smith, a 2002 Hall of Fame inductee. "It's about having some fun, and raising some money at the same time."
According to Hall of Fame officials, this year's event raised approximately $20,000 for the Hall's education program. The Hall's educational efforts reach thousands of children each year, through field trips to the Hall of Fame and Museum and through distance learning classes.
Most of the funds raised by Smith are targeted toward two diversity scholarships that the Hall of Fame offers to college-age students. "We have interns who come up and have the opportunity to work at the Hall of Fame during the summer," explains Smith, the longtime St. Louis Cardinals great who now serves as the Hall's education ambassador. "I have two students, one from a college in St. Louis, Harris Stowe, and one from my alma mater, which is Cal-Poly, in San Luis Obispo, Calif. The kids come up here and learn the baseball experience [by working] in Cooperstown."
Although the Turn Two event is relatively new to the Hall of Fame, the program is actually a continuation of a charitable effort that Smith initiated several years earlier. "I've been doing this on my own before I became a Hall of Famer," said the 50-year-old Smith, who has gained little weight since his playing days and looks like he could still turn double plays in a Major League game. "So I just brought the program with me to the Hall of Fame and Cooperstown. They've embraced it. We've been able to raise some money for the education department, which is very, very important. We're working on different ways that we can raise money for the Hall of Fame to make it a very special place, and this is just my small way of being able to do that."
As part of the two-hour event, which took place on a comfortably sunny Cooperstown day, each fan participant played second base and took part in five double plays. On some plays, the fan handled a ground ball and then flipped to Smith covering the bag; on other occasions, Smith handled the grounder and tossed the ball to the fan, who took a turn covering the base. The ball was then thrown to first base, which was manned by Brett, who then completed the relay by throwing the ball to Carter at home plate. During one of the breaks in the program, Brett provided the fans at Doubleday Field with some additional entertainment by mocking the pitching motions of former Major Leaguers Al Hrabosky, Jim Kaat, and Scott McGregor.
While Brett has previously taken part in the Turn Two event, this year marked the first year of involvement for Carter. One woman, who took her turn fielding grounders, broke down in tears upon meeting "The Kid." Carter, known for his charitable efforts in battling leukemia and helping underprivileged school children, enjoyed the opportunity to work with Smith on the Hall's behalf. "I think it was very special," said Carter, a 2003 Hall of Fame inductee who is currently managing the Gulf Coast League Mets in the rookie league. "To raise money to help the education process here at the Hall of Fame, I think it's wonderful."
Bruce Markusen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.