MLB.com Columnist

Marty Noble

Cooperstown offers more than HOF weekend

Noble: HOF Classic is "time well spent"

Cooperstown offers more than HOF weekend
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- The second-best weekend of the year here just happened. No inductions, no news, little ceremony, nothing recognized as a real speech aside from the extended and casual orations of Carlton Fisk that routinely are as entertaining and insightful as they are lengthy. In place of all the carefully staged and formal proceedings this charming burg will present late next month was the Hall of Fame Classic, a series of mostly informal events that are pleasant, spontaneous, entertaining and instructional. The second-best weekend for sure, but pretty good anyway.

It unquestionably falls under the heading of "time well spent."

Only a handful of fellas from my business attended, so the crush of media that regularly interferes with good story telling wasn't an issue. The weekend was personal interaction among professionals who have one common component, an abiding appreciation for the game and the folks involved in it. These, then, are personal observations, subjective analyses and opinions based on feelings as much as fact.

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Enjoyed reconnecting with Jack Lazorko, late of the Brewers, Mariners, Tigers and Angels. Knew him as a third baseman -- not as a pitcher -- and a running back for River Dell High School in New Jersey in the early '70s. He played hockey then, too. His defense on the mound was reminiscent of Jacque Plante sans mask. Lazorko was an engaging and personable kid and big league player.

Now he serves as president of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni association. No surprise there. He was/is a likeable sort with a personality well suited for someone who deals with so many. He lives outside Dallas and runs into Pat Summerall from time to time. Lazorko dated Summerall's daughter back when he was scoring touchdowns.

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Spent some quality time with Desi Relaford, a go-to guy for me when he played with the Mets in 2001 and -- too bad -- no longer. He had a more sophisticated sense of the game and the players. He spoke with knowledge, candor and a smirk. After the Marlins had performed dreadfully for nine innings in early September 2001, enabling the Mets the extend their too-little-too-late push, Relaford offered this observation: "They must have been watching for the last four months."

Reporters don't forget such comments.

Desi works as a nutritionist now. He was quite impressed by the new look of Dmitri Young, who has lost 80 pounds to counter his status as a diabetic. Young won the home run derby for the Classic Game on Saturday, he won it last year, too, when he was the Most Valuable Player in the game.

Desi was the MVP Saturday.

He hit the final-inning, two-run single, which was decisive in the Knucksies' 5-4 victory against the Wizards (The teams were managed by Phil Niekro and Ozzie Smith). The game was approaching its two-hour limit when Relaford ended it. It was either an out or a two-run hit, because, as he said, "No one wanted a tie for Father's Day."

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Get me rewrite: No surprise here; much of Cooperstown has been dipped in nostalgia and trivia, much like the game itself. A menu at T.J.'s Place on Main Street must be updated. It's been caught in the switches because of A-Rod's grand slam last week. Lou Gehrig no longer is the grandest slammer.

More than a few folks are uncomfortable with the change in that record -- Gehrig and A-Rod have 23 each. And that discomfort has little to do with A-Rod and much more to do with Gehrig. His two primary records, slams and consecutive games, have been taken from him. He still can bat fourth in any all-time order. His nickname, cool for its time and now, lives on. And his rank, first Yankees captain, and serial number, first No. 4 retired, are forever unique. The Iron Horse is second to none at first.

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Retire it, for crying out loud: If only I had come equipped with a camera. A young man wore a Knicks' No. 17 shirt, the residue of Lin-sanity. Nearby was a fella with a Mets' 17 with "Hernandez" across the back. The surnames of Luis Lopez, Wilson Delgado, Jeff McKnight, Brent Mayne, Dae-Sung Koo, the late Jose Lima and the others who have been assigned that Mets number since Keith Hernandez wore it were listed on a piece of oak tag. And crossed out.

There's a message in that.

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Two sides to this story: Nicely done was the hybrid Fisk uni shirt one American League schizo wore. The right side of the shirt was red with a Red Sox logo, the left side was white with a Chicago White Sox logo. The back had the word "Carlton" with No. 27 under it, and on the other side, "Pudge" and No. 72. Nice job.

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Superfluous information: A man wore a quite unofficial Yankees uniform top with No. 8 on the back. The name Berra was across the shoulders because that's what the manufacturers of quite unofficial Yankees uniform tops believe is necessary. But was a "Y" before Berra necessary? Was it to make sure the Berra was for Yogi and not Merrill T. Berra of Franklinton, N.C.

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Yankees numerology: One fella wore a Yankees road jersey, No. 27. No name, of course, because the official Yankees' jerseys don't have names. So, was he celebrating Mel Hall, Neil Allen, Jackie Jensen, Todd Zeile, Johnny James, 27 World Series championships or the '27 Yankees?

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Best photo in town: Available for $250 in one store was a photo that included Mike Schmidt, Jeff Bagwell and former National League president Len Coleman. They were the "others" in a picture of the center of the dais taken at the 1995 dinner staged by the New York Chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The three guests of honor were Willie, Mickey and the Duke. A Hall of Fame Classic indeed.

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.