Hall legends Play Ball for fundraiser
More than $150,000 raised for educational programs
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- You could barely tell the sun had already risen on an overcast and misty morning at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown. That didn't really matter on Friday, though, as there were plenty of stars to brighten the mood.
Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith, Eddie Murray, Wade Boggs and Harmon Killebrew starred in Play Ball, Smith's fundraiser for the Hall of Fame's educational programs. Started by Smith, the event is in its seventh year of operation and has raised more than $150,000. The man known as the Wizard is now the Hall of Fame's Educational Ambassador.
Fans from as far as Texas and donning jerseys ranging from Smith's old powder blue Cardinals jerseys to Yankees' ones of Derek Jeter, Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle, came for the chance to share the field with some of the game's greatest infielders.
"It's pretty incredible hearing these guys talk about the feats they accomplished," said Brian Pfeiffer, a 21-year-old from Spring Lake, Mich. "It's great to be out on the field where supposedly the first baseball game took place, thinking about playing in the same place that Ted Williams and Babe Ruth played."
Pfeiffer made the trip from Michigan with his father and his brother for the second consecutive year.
"We're trying to make it an every-year thing to spend time with my dad and my brother," Pfeiffer said. "It's a great opportunity to talk about baseball the whole weekend."
During the two-hour event, the Hall of Famers dished out instruction, advice and anecdotes, all while helping the fans turn double plays on the field. The small groups, with six or seven fans per Hall of Famer, allowed the fans to ask specific questions and get in-depth answers.
Play Ball aptly opened Induction Weekend in Cooperstown, serving as a kind of salutatory, with the valedictory speeches of Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice anxiously awaited on Sunday.
"People are going to be very interested in listening to Rickey," Smith said. "He's one of those colorful players. He's got a certain way of saying things, not to mention he was a great player."
Smith said one thing both Henderson and Rice can expect is a wave of modesty come Sunday.
"That's what this place does to you: It brings out the humility," Smith said. "You walk in here and you see guys who have done the things you've done. Everybody here is here because they've been great."
Murray, meanwhile, said the one thing he didn't expect upon induction was to be back on the bottom of the totem pole.
"I got a 'Rook' real early when I came here," Murray recalled. "One of the guys said, 'Hey, Rook' and I went 'Wow, we're starting over again.'"
Murray added that it gets easier after that busy first weekend.
"I've already told both of them that this is a tough week," Murray said. "You have to get through some of the things they've got planned for you. But after that, the next year and the next year, it's big fun."
Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.