Sun shines on Induction Weekend

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

Another Hall of Fame Weekend is in the books and by all accounts, it was a rousing success. Our staff was well prepared and ready to assure that each and every guest – from the returning Hall of Famers to the invited guests to the 21,000 fans who support the game we all love so much by attending the Induction – had the best possible experience possible.

7-29-09-Idelson_Berra.jpgEach year our staff agrees to control everything we can to assure success and be as prepared as humanly possible for elements we can’t. For the past five or six years, the weather patterns have been suspect and we have yet to have a completely dry four consecutive days of Hall of Fame Weekend. 

A few years ago, I was sitting on the back porch of the Otesaga on Friday morning of Hall of Fame Weekend in rocking chairs with Yogi Berra. He looked at me and said, “Hey Jeff, how come it rains a little bit on Hall of Fame Weekend all the time?” I explained Cooperstown is nestled between two mountain ranges – the Catskills and Adirondacks – and situated at the base of nine mile-long Otesgo Lake, making weather somewhat unpredictable. “Why don’t you move Hall of Fame Weekend to a different one when it’s not raining?” he said. I scratched my head, had a sip of coffee, and scratched my head again. End of conversation.

Mother Nature has a pretty good streak of being kind to us. Sure, we get some serious snow in the winter and spring can be cool. But when the chips are down (Hall of Fame Weekend), she is as interested in seeing the stars shine as much as we do. We’ve not had to move ceremony inside since 1990.

This year, it rained most of Friday, but Mother Nature gave us windows of decent weather when it mattered most, allowing us to stage our two Doubleday Field events – Play Ball with Ozzie Smith in the morning, and our Legends for Youth Skills Clinic.  

7-29-09-Idelson_Boggs.jpgSaturday was beautiful all day – cool and dry. The Hall of Fame golf tournament proceeded seamlessly, the annual New York-Penn League game was played without a hint of delay, and fans could leisurely walk Main Street and enjoy all the village of Cooperstown has to offer. It sprinkled for just a few minutes before our version of Hollywood’s Walk of Fame – the annual Red Carpet Ceremony where the game’s living legends arrive at the Hall of Fame by trolley for an evening reception.

Sunday, on the other hand, was dicey, as rain clouds threatened from the minute I woke at 7 a.m.  By 11 a.m, we were monitoring Doppler Radar and beginning to run through the various “what if” scenarios. 

Each year we prepare four versions of the Induction Ceremony with the ultimate goal, to stay outdoors for every fan to enjoy. The versions include (1) regular run of show; (2) delay; (3) reverse order with elements cut, and; (4) indoors. The final version, not needed since 1990, only comes into play when the weather dictates the potential for disaster, such as lightening or hail.

The forecast looked ominous at 12:30 p.m, as Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Clark, security chief Evan Chase and I looked at the various forecasts. The weather was OK enough to not have to go indoors, but it was going to deteriorate as the day progressed, so going to a delay was not an option either. We made the decision to go with the “reverse order” ceremony, which is why we started with the inductees and ended with the award winners. Thankfully, our new broadcast partner, the MLB Network, was able to air the ceremony live, in its entirety.

7-29-09-Idelson_HendersonRice.jpgAs we boarded buses at 1 p.m to head from the Otesaga Resort Hotel to the Clark Sports Center, we knew we might get pelted with rain. The forecast was showing a large rain cell in Binghamton, N.Y., south and west of Cooperstown, and heading directly toward us. We knew there was a good chance of a soaking rain around 2 p.m, but with the unpredictability of central New York weather, there was reason to hope.

Well, Mother Nature must not be a very good bowler, as she delivered a 7-10 split.  The winds starting howling and some light rain ensued, but the storm split, as it does sometimes, going north and south of us and leaving us dry for the Ceremony.

We were able to complete the Induction, but as I looked out the window from the Hall of Fame members’ dinner that evening, I saw sheets of rain streaming down on the lake. I was glad we made the right call.

Mother Nature got it out of her system. Monday was gorgeous as the Weekend concluded with our annual Legends Series event with our new inductees, Rickey and Jim.

And for the 19th consecutive year, Mother Nature did her part. Maybe we should give her a plaque.

Jeff Idelson is president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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