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Craig makes the trip to Cooperstown

Craig makes the trip to Cooperstown

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Former National Football League running back Roger Craig had a memorable first trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Not only was it on Hall of Fame Weekend, but he came to Cooperstown to see his friend Ryne Sandberg be inducted with Wade Boggs into baseball's most elite fraternity.

"I'm so happy for him, this is way overdue," Craig said. "He should have been here a long time ago. It couldn't happen to a better person on this planet. He's such a humble individual and great guy."

The connection between Craig and Sandberg stems from having the same financial advisor, which has led to a relationship developing between the two. When Sandberg's son went to UCLA on a college visit, Craig's daughter showed him around.

Sandberg has been a guest of Craig's at golf tournaments and they did a fantasy camp in Chicago where Sandberg coached baseball, Craig did football and Bill Walton did basketball.

"I just got in Saturday night. I couldn't do much. I was traveling from another city, so I missed the festivities," said Craig, who got to the induction site 90 minutes before the ceremony began. "I'm here to support him and I told him I was going to come and he was really excited about it. I'm just glad it happened."

Craig's love for the national pastime has developed through the years as he wasn't a big fan during his childhood. He brought up the appreciation of the way a Major Leaguer survives the 162-game grind and how a player makes it through the march not only physically, but mentally.

His developing love for the game and talking about not only the past stars, but the game's current superstars, revealed a youthful side of Craig.

"As a kid growing up, you hear about Babe Ruth, Willie Mays -- I was too young at the time [to appreciate it]. I wasn't into baseball like I am now," the 11-year NFL veteran said. "Some of these guys out there now are incredible. From Bonds on down to Pedro Martinez, this is awesome to watch these guys perform. Alex Rodriguez is another awesome player I kind of follow. Then you have the Rocket [Roger Clemens]. I like him too.

"I like all those guys who are out to get you and keep coming every time. They find a way to win."

Craig knows a thing or two about winning, being on three Super Bowl championship teams in San Francisco -- 1985, 1989 and 1990. Identified with the Bay Area after spending eight seasons with the 49ers, Craig has to support the hometown team. However, there's something about winning that keeps clawing at Craig.

"I'm from the Bay Area so I have to pull for the Giants, but I'm a Yankees guy," Craig said with a laugh. "Being involved in a dynasty with the 49ers in the 80's, I kind of pull for the Yankees when they make it to the pennant or World Series. I want to see that streak keep going. I love history."

The 11-year NFL veteran played in four Pro Bowls, became the first player in NFL history to gain 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season and led the NFL in receptions with 92 in 1985.

Combining those individual accolades with his career numbers -- 8,189 rushing yards, 73 touchdowns and 566 receptions -- makes a case for Craig to be in his sport's Hall of Fame.

Like Sandberg, who got the call in his third year of eligibility, Craig has had to wait out his potential enshrinement.

"I'm waiting for my opportunity," he said. "I'm going into the same type of situation [as Sandberg]. Hopefully it will happen soon."

But this weekend was about Sandberg and Craig coming to the heartland of baseball, supporting his friend and taking something away Craig will have for the rest of his life.

"That's why you come to these events, for memories," he said. "It can be a memorable moment in my life where I can say I went to the Baseball Hall of Fame, met some of the greatest players in the game and then witnessed the Hall of Fame induction of my good friend Ryne."

"I can then say that I did it. It's pretty awesome."

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