Baseball notables cheer on inductees
Former players highlight crowd in attendance at Cooperstown
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Although they were unable to stay for the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, the appearance on Saturday by former manager Chuck Tanner and former National League Rookie of the Year and American League Most Valuable Player Dick Allen was a special moment for inductee Rich "Goose" Gossage.
Allen drove Tanner here from Newcastle, Pa., to visit Gossage. They originally had intended to attend the ceremony, but Tanner is recovering from recent carotid artery surgery and was unable to stay more than one day.
Gossage credited Tanner with making him a relief pitcher with the Chicago White Sox in the early 1970s and later pushed to trade for him after Tanner went to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Allen, who won the MVP Award in 1972 with the White Sox, befriended Gossage in those years. Gossage said over the weekend that Allen helped him develop as a pitcher more than any hitter he ever knew.
"Just for Chuck to make that drive with Dick and come here after what he has been through really meant a lot to me," Gossage said. "I knew they couldn't stay, but it was great to see them."
This year's ceremonies featured the largest collection of returning Hall of Famers, 54 in all. Hank Aaron received the loudest ovation from the crowd, with popular Yankees legend Yogi Berra a close second. The group included four players managed by Dick Williams: Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Gary Carter and Tony Gwynn. Fingers, Bruce Sutter and Dennis Eckersley were former closers on hand with Gossage.
Bobby Doerr, 90, and Bob Feller, 89, were the oldest returning Hall of Famers. Former Dodgers who were part of the Walter O'Malley era on stage included Sandy Koufax, Don Suttton and Tommy Lasorda. Johnny Bench did an entertaining impersonation of the late broadcaster Harry Caray and was accompanied by Ernie Banks on a duet of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."
Banks asked Commissioner Bud Selig if he could be placed on the Cubs' roster on Aug. 31 to qualify for postseason play and finally get a chance to reach the World Series.
"There are some things the Commissioner can do, and there are some things he can't do," Selig told the audience. "This is one of the things he can't do."
Back at the Otesaga Hotel, where the Hall of Famers were gathered awaiting transportation to the ceremony, returnee Ryne Sandberg took note of Gossage wolfing down a sandwich, this after the Goose had a large breakfast.
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"I was so nervous the day I was inducted, I couldn't eat a thing," Ryno said.
Not surprisingly, a strong Yankees contingent made the trip upstate, including chief operating officer Lonn Trost, general manager Brian Cashman, former general manager Gene Michael, former Cy Young Award winner David Cone of the YES Network, senior adviser Arthur Richman and former teammates Ron Guidry, the 1978 AL Cy Young Award winner, and Jim Beattie, now an executive of the Baltimore Orioles.
Roland Hemond, who was the White Sox general manager when Gossage broke into the Major Leagues and is also a member of the Veterans Committee on Managers and Umpires that elected Dick Williams and Billy Southworth, was in attendance.
Other baseball notables taking in the ceremonies were Arizona Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall, former A's outfielder Joe Rudi, former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca, former NL Cy Young Award winner Dwight Gooden and Della Britton Baeza, chief operating officer of the Jackie Robinson Foundation that had a large group in attendance on behalf of the Walter O'Malley family.
Jack O'Connell is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.