Thunderstorms nix Hall of Fame Game

Storms drench Cooperstown game

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- The National Baseball Hall of Fame, the village of Cooperstown and the local chamber of commerce did their best to put on a memorable show for the 69th and final Hall of Fame Game, but the temperamental weather of central New York did not cooperate. A series of afternoon rain showers and heavy thunderstorms drenched Doubleday Field and ultimately washed out Monday's exhibition game, featuring the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres, before a single pitch could be thrown.

At 2:37 p.m. ET, more than a half hour after the first pitch was scheduled to be thrown, Hall of Fame manager of programs Amanda Pinney announced that "today's game has been canceled" and that full refunds would be given to each of the 9,571 fans in attendance. The rainout brings to an official end the Hall of Fame Game, which was first played in 1940 by the Cubs and the Boston Red Sox.

Major League Baseball officials announced in January that this would be the last Hall of Fame Game because of scheduling problems.

The day started promisingly, with sunny skies throughout the morning. The skies turned overcast shortly before the staging of the Hall of Fame Game Day parade, which began at 12:30 p.m. The 40-minute parade, which proceeded down Main Street, included an array of modern and vintage vehicles that carried such dignitaries as Mayor Carol Waller, and members of the local VFW, the Cooperstown Police and Fire Department. There were also two bagpipe bands, floats for the local Fenimore Art Museum and Farmers' Museum, and representatives from the New York State troopers. The parade concluded with four vintage trolleys that carried current players from both the Cubs and Padres, along with several Minor Leaguers who had been brought to Cooperstown specifically to play in the game.

In addition, several representatives of "Save The Fame Game" marched in the parade. The organization involves a grass-roots campaign, headed up by Cooperstown native Kristian Connolly, that is attempting to revive the game and prolong it for years to come.

A crowd estimated at about 3,500 fans, featuring a smattering of Cubs blue and red, lined the sidewalks of Main Street, with some fans streaming onto the street itself. After the parade, many of the fans made their way from Main Street to Doubleday Field, where a partial infield tarp covered up the basepaths, the pitching mound, and home plate, but left the rest of the infield uncovered. Fans and players were soon greeted by intermittent rain showers, which began at 1:20 p.m. The rain forced postponement of the annual Home Run Derby, normally the highlight of pregame festivities.

At 1:45 p.m, a public address announcement urged fans to leave the ballpark and seek out shelter "due to imminent severe weather." A heavy downpour, along with lightning, heavy winds, and even hail, followed a few minutes after the announcement. During past games, such a storm would have likely canceled the game immediately, but Hall officials, with permission from both the Cubs and Padres, tried to wait out the weather.

The rain stopped at approximately 2, giving the Doubleday Field grounds crew an opportunity to clear the tarp and work on the field. The break in the weather allowed Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins, along with longtime Cooperstown residents Homer Osterhaudt, Howard Talbot, and Catherine Walker, to throw out ceremonial first pitches. Osterhaudt, Talbot, and Walker all attended the first Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 1939.

Shortly thereafter, a second heavy downpour ensued. Given the heaviness of the rain and the condition of the outfield and infield grass, Hall officials finally called the game, bringing to an end a tradition that had started one year after the Hall's grand opening and one year before the onset of World War II.

News and notes: Ticket holders can acquire a full refund by mailing their ticket stub, along with their name and address, to Cooperstown Baseball Committee, P.O. Box 590, Cooperstown, N.Y., 13326. Refunds will be issued by check and should arrive within four to six weeks. ... Prior to this year, the Cubs had forged a record of 3-2-1 in Hall of Fame Game appearances. Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg clubbed a home run for Chicago in the 1988 game, which ended in a 1-1 tie. Other Cubs Hall of Famers who have participated in the game over the years include Ernie Banks and managers Gabby Hartnett, Lou Boudreau, and Leo Durocher. ... The Padres had lost their two prior Hall of Fame Game appearances, falling to the Rangers in 1979 and the Dodgers in 1997. Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith and Dave Winfield participated for the Padres in the 1979 game. ... The Cubs and Padres both have considerable connections to this year's Hall of Fame class. Rich "Goose" Gossage pitched for both teams, while Dick Williams led the Padres to their memorable 1984 World Series appearance. Gossage and Williams headline this year's induction ceremony, which will take place on Sunday, July 27. Other inductees include Veterans Committee selections Barney Dreyfuss, Bowie Kuhn, Walter O'Malley, and Billy Southworth, all of whom are deceased.

Bruce Markusen is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.