Cooperstown, N.Y., will become Baseball Town USA once again this weekend in an annual rite of passage that this year has a special double dose of talent coming out of left field. The National Baseball Hall of Fame is holding another coming-in party, and this year's inductees figure to bring a buzz to the otherwise sleepy New York town to celebrate not only the great players being honored, but the game itself. Red Sox Nation no doubt will be out in force to support Jim Rice, a longtime candidate and inductee at last. So, too, will be Rickey World, the legion of fans of the A's, Yankees, Padres and teams in between who love the inimitable leadoff hitter Rickey Henderson's first-ballot entry.
Joe Gordon, the former second baseman for the Yankees and Indians honored posthumously by the Veterans' Committee, also will gain entrance to the Hall of Fame. Yankees and national broadcaster Tony Kubek and longtime Giants beat reporter Nick Peters will be honored for their contributions to the game as well. And 51 current members of the Hall of Fame will be on hand to welcome the newest honorees of baseball's most hallowed hall. Come Sunday, those Hall of Famers will take the stage with the newest members, and thousands of fans will make their way to the Clark Sports Center. The crowd is anticipated to exceed last year's 14,000, when Rich "Goose" Gossage and Dick Williams were inducted, but the attendance won't remotely reach 2007's record turnout of 75,000 for Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn. For the first time ever, the entire ceremony will be broadcast exclusively on MLB Network, starting at 12:30 p.m. ET. That broadcast will be streamed live on MLB.com in its entirety. The crowd gathered in Cooperstown and watching from everywhere else will be hoping to take in one of the more anticipated speeches in some time once Henderson takes the podium. "You know, speech and me don't even get along sometimes and, you know, I (wasn't) a doctor or professor," Henderson explained last week. "I'm going to try to be creative," he continued, "I'm going to try to be, you know, just me, myself, you know, see this as a compliment, this achievement, it's a great honor." Rice, who was elected on his 15th and final year on the writers ballot, has his wish -- and the longtime wish of many fans who watched his power carry the Red Sox for years. "I wish I could've gone in on the first ballot or the second ballot, not the last ballot. But the key thing is I'm in and other guys are still out there," Rice said. The buildup to Sunday's ceremony and speeches is half the fun, and it all starts Friday. The first day's activities will include Play Ball with Ozzie Smith, an interactive baseball experience that puts fans on the same field with Hall of famers like Smith, Harmon Killebrew, Eddie Murray and Wade Boggs. Saturday will start with a star-studded golf tournament, include a press conference for the inductees and finish off with a lavish red carpet arrival for Hall of Famers. Sunday is the big day, with all eyes -- and ears -- trained on the induction ceremony, slated for 1:30 p.m. ET. By the end of the day, the new plaques honoring Henderson, Rice and Gordon will be installed at the Hall of Fame and Museum, making the weekend's events truly official.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.