By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) The Chicago White Sox aren’t known for drawing a crowd.
In fact, they’re often known for not drawing one.
But after this past weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y., perhaps that should change. Because fans of the South Siders showed up in droves Sunday to cheer on favorite son Frank Thomas as he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the much-maligned fan base deserves big kudos for their Big Hurt turnout.
I too spent this past Sunday in Cooperstown, along with my family, soaking in the history – and sunshine after the region’s morning showers blessedly evaporated. Coming into town, however, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in terms of a fan turnout.
With a great induction class of Thomas, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, I was certain that the crowd would be huge – and it certainly was at an estimated 48,000, Cooperstown’s the third largest ever – but I was unsure of how it would be broken down.
Would Braves and Sox fans show up like they should? Just how many from the Cubs’ and Cardinals’ passionate followings would turn out? And was Torre alone a big enough draw to lure in Yankees fans?
As it turned out, Braves boosters – another fan base often maligned for its lack of support – showed up in impressive force to support their two former aces in Maddux and Glavine and ex-manager Cox.
White Sox fans, however, weren’t far behind the Atlanta masses, and their numbers paced well ahead of the contingents wearing Cardinals, Cubs and Yankees apparel, all of which had solid showings.
With the that stellar career that he had, Thomas certainly deserved such strong support from Sox fans – and Sox fans, in turn, deserve to be applauded for giving it.
And with that slap on the back, here are four other thoughts from a nice little Sunday spent in upstate New York.
An indoor induction?
White Sox fans showed up in Cooperstown with great enthusiasm, but at least one of them also packed his gullibility.
Not long after it stopped raining on Sunday morning, my dad and I were standing on the steps outside the National Baseball Hall of Fame while a man in a Sox jersey spoke excitedly into his cell phone beside us.
Upon the end of his conversation, he proceeded to inform us that he’d just been told that the Hall of Fame’s outdoor induction ceremony, scheduled that afternoon on Cooperstown’s enormous lawn one mile south of the museum, had been canceled.
“They already started taking everything down outside this morning,” the breathless Sox fan said. “They’re going to hold it in a gymnasium.”
“A gymnasium?” I said, raising an eyebrow.
“They said everyone will fit,” the Sox fan replied.
“Well, that will have to be one awfully big gymnasium,” I said with a laugh, amused by what I was almost certain had to be faulty information.
It was, of course, as the weather cleared and the ceremony was held outdoors, just like always. And thankfully so, because with nearly 50,000 people in attendance, Cooperstown would have needed the RCA Dome to fit the crowd indoors.
I just hope that poor Sox fan didn’t end up sitting alone inside some cramped gym waiting for Thomas to show up.
Four years ago, I visited Cooperstown when Andre Dawson was ushered into the Hall of Fame. But even though the former Cubs slugger was inducted as a Montreal Expo, I was still able to purchase in town an official Hall of Fame Cubs jersey T-shirt that featured Dawson’s No. 8.
Unfortunately this time around, Cooperstown didn’t give Cubs fans that same respect with Maddux’s induction.
Even though Maddux was inducted into the Hall with no logo – a nod of respect to his lengthy stints in both Atlanta and Chicago – all of the official apparel and memorabilia that was available featuring the pitcher’s name, number or image was designed for Braves fans.
During what was a great induction weekend, that snub of Cubs fans was the lone disappointment, as I can’t imagine it would have been that difficult or costly for the Hall to print some “Maddux 31” Cubs T-shirts.
I’m quite certain that they would have been sold – and appreciated.
Even without much Maddux Cubs gear for sale, it’s not as if fans of the North Siders didn’t get to enjoy themselves in Cooperstown.
While walking along Cooperstown’s Main Street wearing a Maddux jersey on Sunday, one of my favorite experiences was exchanging subtle nods and smiles with other Cubs fans – or even while passing another Maddux fan clad in Braves apparel.
Speaking of which, at our hotel in Albany late on Sunday night, my brother and I were enjoying a local brew in the lounge when a woman wearing a Braves T-shirt walked up, clinked her wine glass against our beer bottles and said, “To Greg Maddux,” before walking away.
Cheers to that.
A Hall of a time
If you’re a baseball fan and have never been to Cooperstown, my advice is simple: “Go.”
The picturesque village of 1,800 truly is perfect small-town Americana coupled with wonderful homages to our national pastime around every corner.
However, before you plan a future trip to Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame, consider exactly what you want out of it. If you desire energy, excitement and star power, go during induction weekend. But if you truly want to explore the Hall of Fame museum and be able to appreciate all of its history, go another time when the town isn’t so packed and every one is so rushed.
But either way, go. Trust me, you won’t regret it.