Fan labors to keep long tradition alive

  • Follow Baseball

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. --- Sometime late Monday afternoon one of the grandest of baseball traditions will end -- and only the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres will be able to boast -- or lament -- that they played the final Hall of Fame Game.

Kristian Connolly still can't believe Major League Baseball is ending the lone exhibition game left on the schedule and one so closely linked to the game's beginnings. So he's working to save it.

"I love my hometown, I love baseball, and this was a decision that was going to hurt both," said Connolly, a 30-year-old who grew up in Cooperstown and interned at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. "Simply throwing in the towel on a nearly 70-year-old tradition, rather than making it work -- in the interest of what is best for the sport -- should be embarrassing for those making that decision."

Soon after the decision was announced in late January, Connolly created the Web site savethefamegame.com. He's also sent letters to baseball commissioner Bud Selig, players' union leader Donald Fehr, a select group of major leaguers from all 30 clubs, and the owners and front office leaders.

Connolly said he's received a supportive response from Phillies chairman Bill Giles and a letter from Dave Dombrowski, president, general manager and CEO of the Detroit Tigers. Dombrowski's June 4 letter on Tigers letterhead said the players association "negotiated this change in (the) recent basic agreement settlement."

There have been no replies from any players, nor has Connolly received word from any Hall of Famers. At least one has voiced an opinion, though.

"It's all money, isn't it? I think it's a shame," said 89-year-old Bob Feller, a Hall of Famer since 1962. "It's an insult to the Hall of Fame and to the Hall of Famers. I just think that they should do it for the fans. What do they do for the fans, anyway? Take their money? Raise their prices?"

Naturally, some politicians have entered the fray.

"At a time when the reputation of professional baseball is in jeopardy because of the negative attention surrounding recent scandals, the last thing Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association should be doing is ending a tradition that everyone can rally around," New York Congressman Maurice Hinchey wrote in a letter to Selig and Fehr. "Surely, at a time when Major League Baseball is taking in record profits and has the ability to charter private jets for teams, it isn't asking a great deal to keep this important tradition alive."

Selig responded in a letter to Hinchey, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and other members of Congress who have objected to the cancellation of the game.

In it he said: "As you know, our teams play 162 games in 180 days. With interleague play and interdivision matchups, finding two teams that could be scheduled into Cooperstown during an off day has become exceedingly difficult."

How times have changed.

In 1941, National League president Ford Frick instructed the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians to play in a driving rain so the thousands of fans in attendance would not go home disappointed. And two years later, because of the strain World War II was exerting on the nation's gasoline reserves, the Brooklyn Dodgers rode into Cooperstown on horseback.

Connolly scoffs at the notion that it's too hard to coordinate.

"It's not about the schedule," he said. "Major League Baseball can schedule games in Japan, China, Mexico, Memphis, Orlando and Puerto Rico, so isn't it likely that they could find a way to hold a game in Cooperstown? I think if this game were anywhere near a major league city or if the Hall of Fame were in a major league city they would find a way without even thinking twice about it."


Search Augusta jobs