Gwynn, Ripken ready for their big day
Record crowd expected for Sunday's induction ceremony
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- A Baltimore Orioles fan paused outside the gates of the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday.
"I don't see many San Diego hats in town," the man said. "That's a long way to come."
Perhaps. However, they've come from near and far to view Sunday's induction of the Orioles' Ironman, Cal Ripken Jr., and Mr. Padre, Tony Gwynn.
The induction ceremonies, featuring Gwynn and Ripken, are set for 1:30 p.m. at the Clark Sports Center. The ceremonies will be streamed live on MLB.com.
Hall officials are anticipating an estimated crowd of 50,000 or more, based on booming ticket sales at the Museum. By Saturday evening, a one-day record of 13,000 fans had filed through, besting the 9,500 set in 1995. Over the last two days, attendance was about 20,000.
The record of 50,000 was set in 1999 when Nolan Ryan, Robin Yount and George Brett were inducted. A downtown overlay of Orioles black-and-orange indicated a big migration from Maryland.
The wild card is the weather. Intermittent rain doused the area Friday and Saturday. Sunday's forecast is for 75 degrees and partly sunny for noon but 78 with isolated thunderstorms for 3 p.m. ET.
The ceremony is scheduled to start outdoors, rain or shine, at 1:30 p.m. at the Clark Sports Center. Only if the National Weather Service issues a severe weather warning will the event be delayed or cancelled. Everyone hopes that Gwynn and Ripken will be the Sunshine Boys.
Joining them on the platform will be Denny Matthews, the Kansas City Royals' broadcaster, and Rick Hummel, baseball writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Matthews will receive the Ford C. Frick Award that goes to a broadcaster "for major contributions to the game of baseball." Hummel will receive the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for "meritorious contributions to baseball writing."
Together the quartet of Ripken, Gwynn, Matthews and Hummel represents a rarity. Each of them spent his entire career playing for or covering the same ballclub.
"When I look back on it, I think part of the reaction that we're getting from the fans is the fact that we played on one team," Gwynn said.
He spent 20 years with the Padres; Ripken 21 years with the Orioles. Each retired after the 2001 season and was elected by the BBWAA in his first year of eligibility.
"I'm a Padre and I always will be and I'm pretty proud of the fact that everything I did, I did in one uniform," Gwynn said. "It's pretty awesome to see that on your bubble-gum card and it's going to be awesome to see that on your plaque."
Probably a lot better on the plaque, one of 280 in the Hall.
"I was lucky that I was drafted by the team I wanted to be drafted by," Ripken said. "And then I was even luckier to make it through the system and stay with the big-league team. It's not always easy because the nature of the sport is change."
Expected to attend the ceremony are 53 of the 61 living Hall of Famers, from Sparky Anderson to Bob Feller to Willie Mays to Dave Winfield. That would eclipse the record of 50 returnees set in 2004.
Given that impressive backdrop, the man who played 2,632 consecutive games for the Orioles and the man who had a .338 average for the Padres will be enveloped in a glossy glow.
"Some of these moments -- I've had one or two, with the streak and saying goodbye to the fans the last year," Ripken said. "The moment feels pretty surreal and it's not really until a week or two weeks later when you look back on it that you really feel it's you that played that role."
What concerned the two former stars on the eve of the induction were their acceptance speeches.
"There's no way in the world I can be as comfortable behind the microphone as I am standing on the field or being in the clubhouse or being in that big moment with the bases loaded in the ninth inning," Ripken said.
Ripken enlisted their help of his former agent, Ron Shapiro, to remove "some of the clutter out of the speech" and make it more simple.
That gave Gwynn pause as he considered his own speech.
"I'm the clutter king," he said.
However, Gwynn was bearing down on this as he would a fastball.
"You only get one chance at this and so you want to do a good job. You've got to joke, you've got a story, you've got to know you're crying," he said.
Now their time is very near.
"This is a wonderful celebration of baseball and it's not about us," Ripken said. "Each and every year it happens, it's about baseball and I think the fans recognize that."
The fans also recognize what Ripken and Gwynn meant to the game.
"The feedback I'm getting is that we did things the right way. We played on one team. And we were pretty good players, too," Gwynn said.
No one is disputing that.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.