Championing the Classic
By Craig Muder
At 49, Mike Pagliarulo almost blends in with the crowd.
Wearing blue jeans and sneakers, the former big league third baseman strolled into Cooper Park next to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday and drew little attention. But quickly, the fans in the ticket line for the Hall of Fame Classic noticed it: The World Series ring Pagliarulo won in 1991 as as a member of the Minnesota Twins.
And suddenly, the buzz started.
Pagliarulo, who spent 11 seasons in the major leagues with the Yankees, Padres, Twins, Orioles and Rangers, visited the Hall of Fame on Saturday in advance of the June 21 Hall of Fame Classic. Pagliarulo will play third base during the Classic as well as sign autographs and share memories from his big league career.
On Saturday, he thrilled fans with his homespun advice and easy-going style.
Really, what I’m most proud about my big league career is that it allowed me to put my kids through college,” Pagliarulo said. “But when you come (to Cooperstown), you think about all the game gave to you. That’s why this is such a special place.”
After visiting with fans in the ticket line, Pagliarulo entertained more than 100 Museum fans in a 30-minute question-and-answer session. Ironically, his biggest baseball thrill came not on the field — but at the Yankees’ Old Timers Day 24 years ago.
I walked into the locker room, and Joe DiMaggio was at my locker. And he just started talking to me,” Pagliarulo said. “Then, Billy Martin and Mickey Mantle came in — and Mickey gets me in a headlock and drags me into the trainers room. God forbid I hit him back! That’s Mickey Mantle!
“I don’t remember anything on the field that day. But I remember the time in the clubhouse.”
Pagliarulo will join Hall of Famers Fergie Jenkins, Paul Molitor, Phil Niekro and Brooks Robinson at the June 21 Classic — along with about 20 other former major leaguers, including George Foster, Jim Kaat, Bill Lee, Steve Rogers and Lee Smith. More participants will be announced at www.baseballhall.org next week.
For ticket information, call 1-866-849-7770 or visit www.baseballhall.org.
Craig Muder is director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.