Fans, players share the fun at Hall of Fame Classic

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Their smiles were so big, you’d have thought they’d all just won the lottery.

Mike Timlin, bending over near home plate so players could sign his jersey. Jeff Kent, drilling homer after homer to win the pregame Hitting Contest. Lee Smith, signing autographs until every fan was happy at Doubleday Field.

6-21-09-Muder_Timlin.jpgIt was the inaugural Hall of Fame Classic on Sunday in Cooperstown, and the fans cheered lustily at every opportunity — thrilled to have their heroes back on the playing field. But it was the players who seemed to be the most grateful.

“Thank you for having us here,” said Kent, who was playing in the major leagues this time last year. “It’s really a thrill to be in Cooperstown.”

The day’s longest ovation was reserved for Bob Feller, who started the game and revved up his legendary fastball one more time at 90 years of age. When he left in the middle of the first inning, the crowd of 7,069 fans at Doubleday Field gave him a standing ovation. When he received his first standing-O on the baseball mound, Franklin Roosevelt was president.

“Thank you for coming,” Feller said the the crowd after his Team Wagner defeated Team Collins 5-4.

No, Bob.. Thank you for coming.

It could only happen in Cooperstown, the home of baseball dreams — for fans and players.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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