Final Hall of Fame Game ends tradition

Final Hall of Fame Game ends tradition

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- With all the attention the National Baseball Hall of Fame has heaped on the Padres the past year, it is perfectly fitting that the San Diego club should be one of the participants in the annual and final Hall of Fame Game at 2 p.m. ET Monday at Doubleday Field. The Padres will oppose the Chicago Cubs in a sort of rematch of the 1984 National League Championship Series.

Live coverage on BaseballChannel.TV is scheduled to begin at 1 ET.

Two of the main figures of that San Diego team that reached the World Series that year for the first time in franchise history, manager Dick Williams and relief pitcher Rich "Goose" Gossage, will be inducted into the Hall next month. They will stand on the same stage where a year ago another member of the '84 Padres entered the Hall -- the greatest player in franchise history, Tony Gwynn.

This year's game marks the end of a tradition dating to 1940, when the Cubs beat the Boston Red Sox, 10-9, despite two home runs by Ted Williams. Scheduling problems in recent years have resulted in the end of the series that was an annual pairing of Major League clubs in the traditional birthplace of the sport.

"Given the complexities of the Major League schedule and all its inherent challenges, it has become increasingly difficult in recent years to find a suitable date and make the proper arrangements for two clubs to participate in the Hall of Fame Game during the regular season," MLB president and chief operating officer Bob DuPuy said. "We hope that the wonderful fans of central New York can understand the practical considerations that contributed to this decision. Cooperstown remains a beacon for our national pastime. We will continue to work with the Hall to find ways to promote it and Cooperstown throughout our season."

The historic village and its residents will indeed miss the experience of hosting current big leaguers for a day and watching them take aim at Doubleday Field's short porches. But Hall of Fame chairman Jane Forbes Clark prefers to look ahead.

"We've been extremely fortunate Major League Baseball has gone the extra mile all these years to bring two Major League teams to upstate New York," said Clark. "We'll miss that tradition, but we're now bringing more interesting programs and special events to Cooperstown than ever before. We will continue to be creative and innovative in looking for ways to host new and exciting baseball events for area residents, as well as to attract fans from the region and throughout the country."

One such event accompanies the Hall of Fame Game on Father's Day, as Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins appears in the Museum's popular "Voices of the Game" series at 7 p.m. Tickets for the event are $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12 and are available by calling the Hall's membership department at (607) 547-0397.

The Padres are appearing in the Hall of Fame Game for the third time and seeking their first victory. San Diego lost to the Texas Rangers, 12-5, in 1979 and to the Los Angeles Dodgers, 16-8, in '97.

The Cubs have a 3-2-1 record in six previous appearances, the most recent in 1995, an 8-6 victory over the Detroit Tigers. The '88 game against the Cleveland Indians ended 1-1 with the only Chicago run coming on future Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg's home run.

The Hall of Fame Game festivities kick off at noon with a special parade down Main Street. At 1 p.m., select members of the Padres and Cubs participate in the ever-popular home run derby, with first pitch of the Hall of Fame Game to follow at 2 p.m.

The intimate setting of Doubleday Field, with its capacity of 9,571 and its cramped dugouts, offers an experience like no other for fans and players alike. The game itself is pure spectacle.

Perhaps the most famous meeting ever at Doubleday Field took place on June 12, 1939, as part of baseball's centennial celebration. The Museum opened its doors for the first time that day and inducted its first four classes of Hall of Famers ('36-'39). To coincide with the festivities, inductees Honus Wagner and Eddie Collins managed a gathering of All-Stars in what turned out to be an exhibition for the ages.

"The Wagners" group of National League stars came out on top of the "The Collins" American Leaguers, 4-2. Babe Ruth made an honorary appearance at the age of 44. Other Hall of Fame players to appear in the game included Dizzy Dean, Charlie Gehringer, Joe Medwick, Lloyd Waner, Billy Herman, Mel Ott, Hank Greenberg, Lefty Grove and Arky Vaughn.

There were also exhibition games that summer between the New York Yankees and the Triple-A Newark Bears, and between the Philadelphia Athletics and the Penn Athletic Club.

Later that year at the Winter Meetings, the Major League clubs agreed to arrange for teams to participate annually in an exhibition game in Cooperstown starting in 1940.

Through 1978, the game was scheduled on the same Sunday as the Induction Ceremony, which this year will take place on July 27. From 1979 through 2002, the game was played on the Monday after the Induction, and since then, it has been held on a separate weekend altogether from the Induction.

Hall of Fame Weekend will be held July 25-28 in Cooperstown. The Class of 2008 includes Gossage, elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America, and Veterans Committee electees Barney Dreyfuss, Bowie Kuhn, Walter O'Malley, Billy Southworth and Williams.

The Induction Ceremony will take place at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 27, at the Clark Sports Center. Admission to the event is free. Longtime Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus, winner of the 2008 Ford C. Frick Award, along with the late Larry Whiteside, the 2008 J.G. Taylor Spink Award recipient, will also be honored.

Additionally, the first Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award, named in memory of baseball's great ambassador, will be recognized, with a statue of O'Neil to be unveiled during the weekend.

Jack O'Connell is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.