Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Baseball Hall of Fame expecting a deluge next summer

Cooperstown readies for '07 rush

This is unequivocally going to be a momentous occassion in baseball history. I've already got my room reserved - how about you?

Anyone planning to attend the 2007 Hall of Fame induction ceremonies better make reservations, well, yesterday. The lucky ones just might find a place to stay within 100 miles of Cooperstown, the central New York State village that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors annually but has insufficient housing to accommodate all the pilgrims who come for an induction on one weekend .

Although the names on the ballot used by the Baseball Writers' Association of America for next year's election won't be announced until late November, fans are well aware right now who some new candidates will be. With the ballot to include 3,000-hit Club members Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn, Cooperstown and Hall officials are already bracing themselves for what they believe may be the largest induction turnout in history.

Ripken, whose remarkable career was enhanced by his playing in 2,632 consecutive games, and Gwynn, an eight-time National League batting champion, have the credentials to be first-ballot Hall of Famers. Although there is a debate among voting writers about the qualifications of the man who broke Roger Maris' 37-year-old single-season home run record, Mark McGwire presents the possibility that the 2007 ballot could produce three first-year inductees.

Only one time since the original class of five players (Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson) was elected in 1936 have as many as three first-year candidates been elected. That was in 1999, when Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount made the grade. Their induction attracted a crowd estimated at 50,000, which is believed to be the largest attendance for a ceremony. Tickets are not sold for the induction, so the Hall has to approximate the amount of people who find a place on the hills beyond the Clark Sports Center.

My personal jury is still out on McGwire. He was a childhood hero of mine, broke a pretty impressive record and definitely had a HoF career. Granted, it is said he used some performance enhancing drugs -- which no doubt taints the above points -- but I believe it was determined that they were not against the rules at the time of his use.

I'm positive many of you out there do not share my iffy stance, but the child in me just finds it tough to imagine him not there. Either way, I can't wait to see Cal and Tony. Next year will be amazing.


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