COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — The fellows in the Cooperstown Rotary Club are pretty crafty. Knowing that the induction weekend is the largest collection of Hall of Famers in one spot anywhere under the sun, the Rotarians have commemorative miniature baseball bats made with each inductee’s superlatives.
At $5 to $7 a pop, it’s a pretty nice bit of cash to be made in a weekend.
But also understanding the mind of the collector, the guys in the Cooperstown Rotary know that there probably won’t be much of a market for certain keepsake bats. For instance, there were piles of Jim Bunning bats from when the former Phillies and Tigers pitcher was inducted in 1996. There were plenty of Eddie Murray bats too.
Could it be because Bunning has created a reputation for being a creep?
However, don’t go looking for a keepsake bat with umpire Doug Harvey’s name on it. There was a run on those last year when Harvey’s family and friends bought them all up.
“We made 50 of them for Doug Harvey and when they walked up and down Main Street and found out there wasn’t anything with his name on it, they snapped them all up,” a Rotarian said.
So thinking there would be a repeat of the run on Harvey mementoes, they made a limited number of Pat Gillick bats, who will be inducted to the Hall of Fame on Sunday afternoon along with Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven. After all, Gillick is kind of like an umpire in that he wasn’t known as a player. Plus, there are nine umpires enshrined in the gallery at the Hall of Fame and Gillick will be just the fourth general manager. Better yet, when Nolan Ryan was inducted in 1999, it took 12 years to sell all 300 bats.
In that case, there is no sense in flooding the market with items that might not sell.
Actually, just 50 bats for Gillick might not be enough. That’s especially so when noting that Alomar and Gillick are the first two members of the Toronto Blue Jays to be enshrined here in Cooperstown, and the media and fans contingent from Canada is pretty strong this weekend.
There are so many Canadians in Cooperstown for the induction ceremonies that Gillick had trouble going on a routine walk around town.
“I was out yesterday for a while in the street and it took me about an hour and a half to get back,” Gillick said during Saturday’s Hall of Fame press conference with Blyleven and Alomar.
Undoubtedly, Gillick was hit up for a few autograph requests. Truth is, Main Street in Cooperstown during Hall of Fame weekend looked like a wild bazaar where autograph and memorabilia collectors and dealers trolled the street looking to collect certain signatures on specific pieces. With 51 of the 65 living Hall of Famers in Cooperstown for the weekend, it was as if Main Street was a smuggler’s paradise.
Two men amidst the fray on Saturday afternoon carried a matted poster containing the signatures of 19 of the 20 living members of the 3,000 hit club. The only autograph missing?
Strangely, this piece of memorabilia wasn’t in the museum on display. Instead, it was as if it were Main Street had become overrun with the money changers in the temple from the New Testament. Up and down the street high-priced baseball cards and elaborate, one-of-a-kind signatures were presented for sale and it made one baseball fan wonder…
What is the point of the induction weekend? Were folks in town to celebrate the national pastime or to make a buck off it.
Certainly that idyllic notion of fathers and sons talking about baseball and pouring over memories, memorabilia and exhibits in the Hall of Fame, had been replaced with the quest for collections. But not just any collectible, but instead, collections seen as pseudo-antiques in the form of pricey baseball memorabilia. Yes, it was there, but you had to really go looking for it.
Still, don’t think for a moment the Hall of Famers were being exploited. Oh no. During a two-block stroll down Main Street on Saturday afternoon, one could find most of the Hall of Famers sitting at long tables selling autographs in front of the local shops. On the north side of the street were Goose Gossage, Jim Bunning, Yogi Berra, Lou Brock, Frank Robinson and Gaylord Perry. Over on the other side of the street were Juan Marichal, Andre Dawson, Johnny Bench and the gate crasher, Pete Rose.
Pete Rose’s autograph in Cooperstown could be yours for $60 to $75. Or, one could fly to Las Vegas and go to gift shops in Caesar’s Palace and get it from Pete for free.
No, Hall of Fame weekend isn’t about the cozy images depicted in “Field of Dreams.” It’s more like “Wall Street,” only no one had to be reminded of the catch phrase, “Greed is good.” They already knew.