NEW YORK -- They came to honor Yankee Stadium, and in doing so are on the receiving end of one of the biggest honors of their exemplary lives and careers. They turned the Astor Ballroom of Manhattan's Intercontinental Hotel into a temporary shrine on Tuesday morning. One needed sunglasses to block the glare of baseball's greatest. There they were, sitting comfortably behind little desks that ringed the ballroom, Hank Aaron to Dick Williams ... more than three dozen members of the baseball Hall of Fame, one of their biggest gatherings ever outside of Cooperstown.
In a few hours, they would be a featured part of the Big Show, the 79th All-Star Game, in Yankee Stadium.Now, however, they were just a bunch of old friends reminiscing in front of the fireplace of burning memories. An immortal bunch, but a bunch nonetheless. "We talk about the past. Maybe a particular game we were in," said Tony Perez, the first baseman piston of the Big Red Machine. "There are a lot of memories. "It's fun to come back, and to remember. And to be remembered." "This is the greatest fraternity in the world," said Joe Morgan, the second baseman on those same great Cincinnati teams of the '70s. "You can talk about the other halls of fame, but baseball is held to a higher standard. "When we get together, it's always special for me. But this ... the mystique of the Yankees and of New York ... this All-Star Game will be very exciting: It's the first time the venue matches greatness of the players. "You play the All-Star Game in some of the newer parks, and the players are the stars of the show, and rightfully so. Tonight, both the park and the players will be stars." Yesteryear's players will be featured in the poignant opening act. Details of the pre-game tribute that will showcase them were a secret, but the Hall of Famers knew they were in for something extraordinary. "It's always special when this group convenes," said Paul Molitor, who is remembered mainly as a third baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers, but who also excelled for six years as a DH for Toronto and Minnesota. "But when it's Cooperstown ... well, that's where we're expected to be. When you get outside of that venue and have a special event like this ... when we go out on that field tonight, it'll have little power to it. Although, the Boston experience was pretty cool, too." Molitor alluded to the occasion of the 1999 All-Star Game in Fenway Park, the only one which comes close as a precedent to this. On that night, however, baseball "only" celebrated its Team of the Century, of which Hall of Famers were only a part of the cast. Now, the Mythical Mob is the show.
|"You play the All-Star Game in some of the newer parks, and the players are the stars of the show, and rightfully so. Tonight, both the park and the players will be stars."|
|-- Joe Morgan|
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.