O's, Jays extend Cooperstown tradition
Annual Hall of Fame Game to take place on May 21
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- It is entirely appropriate that one of the teams competing in this year's Hall of Fame Game is the Baltimore Orioles. That is the franchise for which all-time leading Hall of Fame vote-getter Cal Ripken Jr. played his entire Major League career.
The Orioles fittingly will kick off the summer of Ripken's election along with eight-time National League batting champion Tony Gwynn with an appearance Monday, May 21, against the Toronto Blue Jays. These are the same clubs that played against each other here in 1998 when Ripken was still on the Orioles roster. Three months later, the game's "Iron Man" would end his record consecutive-game streak at 2,632 at Camden Yards against the New York Yankees.
The annual in-season exhibition game between Major League teams at Doubleday Field will mark only the second appearance by the Blue Jays, who have a following in central New York because their long-time affiliate in the Triple-A International League is based in Syracuse.
This will be the sixth scheduled appearance by the Orioles, who beat Toronto, 7-1, nine years ago to even their Hall of Fame Game record at 2-2. Baltimore's scheduled game against the Montreal Expos in 1990 was rained out. The Orioles were originally scheduled to oppose the New York Mets this year, but the Mets were forced to cancel when their Subway Series game against the Yankees on Sunday, May 20 at Shea Stadium was changed to an 8:05 p.m. ET start to accommodate ESPN.
The Hall of Fame Game Parade down Main Street through the village of Cooperstown begins at noon on May 21. Orioles and Blue Jays players will participate in a home run derby in pre-game festivities starting at 1 p.m., one hour before the first pitch of the game at Doubleday Field, which has a capacity of 9,571.
The Hall of Fame Game has been a staple of the baseball season since 1940, when the Boston Red Sox opposed the Chicago Cubs. The previous year, when the Hall of Fame Museum officially opened June 12, an open date on the Major League schedule, an all-star game was played featuring two players from each big-league club. In addition, there were exhibition games later that summer between the Yankees and the Triple-A Newark Bears and between the Philadelphia Athletics and the Penn Athletic Club.
The Red Sox-Cubs matchup in 1940 began a tradition that continues to this day. At that year's Winter Meetings, the clubs agreed to arrange for teams to participate annually in an exhibition game here. Through 1978, the game was scheduled the same Sunday as the induction ceremony, which this year will be July 29. From 1979 through 2002, games were scheduled the Monday after the induction.
This marks the fifth consecutive season that the Hall of Fame Game has been held on a separate weekend from the induction. Scheduling conflicts warranted the change, which is welcome in one major way in that it allows visiting clubs to lodge downtown at the Otesaga Hotel rather than other accommodations outside the village, due to the over-crowded conditions on Induction Weekend.
Katy Feeney, MLB vice president for scheduling and club relations, noted, "When I first started scheduling, in some instances we would select the teams and find a week where they had an off-day and change it to a Monday from a Thursday as long as it didn't violate any rules. That became more and more difficult because the schedule is more rigid now, with Interleague Play, and there are more places to go, more teams."
The Mets' situation this year is an example of those scheduling conflicts. Separating the Hall of Fame Game from the Induction Weekend allows the Hall, village residents and visitors an additional weekend to celebrate the game, which is at the foundation of the museum's appeal.
Jack O'Connell is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.