Rain might wash out Fame Game
Griffey to appear five days after coming off DL
NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME: 60TH ANNUAL HALL OF FAME GAME
By P.J. Harmer / Staff Writer
It’s Mother Nature vs. Cooperstown.
The Cincinnati Reds are scheduled to play the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 60th annual National Baseball Hall of Fame Game at 2 p.m. today at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown.
Ken Griffey Jr. highlights Cincinnati’s 37-man roster for the event, which is likely to be played under cloudy skies. The National Weather Service is calling for a high of 57 degrees, with rain showers expected to start by noon. According to the NWS website, there’s a 70 percent chance of precipitation, and a tenth to a quarter of an inch of rain could fall today.
"We’re hoping the skies hold for a couple of hours on Monday," said Brad Horn, the Hall’s communications director. "With the Hall of Fame Game and the induction ceremonies, we’ve had several near-misses the past couple of years, so we’re hoping for the best."
Griffey, who came off the Reds’ 15-day disabled list Thursday (strained right-knee tendon), has amassed 539 home runs and 1,547 RBIs during his 18-year Major League Baseball career.
Today will mark his second Hall of Fame Game appearance as Griffey played in Cooperstown for Seattle in 1994. The Mariners, who also featured New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez that year, defeated the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-3.
"It’s unique to have Major League Baseball in Cooperstown," said Jeff Idelson, the Hall’s vice president of communications and education. "Where else in central New York can you go 20 minutes and see the world’s best baseball players?
"It’s great for the teams, too," Idelson continued. "When it was coupled with the Induction Ceremony, they didn’t get to see Cooperstown."
The Hall of Fame Game will be played independent of the Induction Ceremony for the fourth straight year, and rain hasn’t been a factor since well before the split.
The last Hall of Fame Game rainout came in 1993, when the Cleveland Indians were scheduled to play the Los Angeles Dodgers. Rain also caused cancellations in 1944 (Detroit Tigers vs. New York Giants); 1962 (New York Yankees vs. Milwaukee Braves) and 1990 (Baltimore Orioles vs. Montreal Expos).
According to the Reds’ website, left-hander Eric Milton is expected to start today’s game as part of his rehabilitation for a surgically repaired knee. As of Sunday, Pittsburgh has not announced its starter.
The Reds are 23-15 this season under manager Jerry Narron. Cincinnati, which has lost three straight, is second in the National League Central Division, one game behind the St. Louis Cardinals.
Heavy hitting outfielder Adam Dunn (13 homers this season), outfielder Ryan Freel and recently acquired catcher David Ross will represent the Reds in the annual home run derby, which starts at 1 p.m. today at Doubleday. Right-hander Bronson Arroyo, traded from the Boston Red Sox to Cincinnati this season, is visiting Cooperstown for the second straight season as a member of a Hall of Fame Game team. Arroyo came last season with the Red Sox, who fell, 6-4, to the Detroit Tigers.
The Reds last appeared in a Hall of Fame Game in 1967, falling, 3-0, to Baltimore. Cincinnati is 1-3 in Hall of Fame games, but hasn’t made its last two scheduled trips. In 1989, airplane problems kept the Reds from meeting the Red Sox. A player’s strike in 1981 prevented Cincinnati from playing the Oakland A’s.
The Pirates, managed by Jim Tracy, own the second-worst record in the majors. Pittsburgh is 11-27, last in the NL Central. At 10-25, the Kansas City Royals have the worst major league record.
Outfielder Jason Bay, the 2004 NL Rookie of the Year, leads a Pirates team that looks to improve on a 1-3-1 Fame Game record. Pittsburgh lost, 11-8, to the Chicago White Sox in their last Fame Game appearance, in 1980.
Infielders Jose Castillo and Jose Hernandez join catcher Craig Wilson as Pittsburgh’s representatives for the derby. Following the derby, Pittsburgh will sit in the first-base dugout as the home team for this year’s game.
"(The Hall of Fame Game) is one of baseball’s great traditions," Horn said. "You see the player’s expressions when they walk into Doubleday. They almost chuckle at the size of it. I think this is the same field Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth and Steve Carlton all played on. If, for a brief moment of time, (players) understand the significance the history of the game, it’s all worth it."
Noticeably absent from Pittsburgh’s roster is Oneonta High graduate Mike Connolly, a lefty who pitches for the Pirates’ Double-A affiliate, the Altoona Curve of the Eastern League.
Connolly, The Daily Star’s Player of the Year in 1999 and 2000, earned a victory Saturday against the visiting Binghamton Mets. Connolly struck out three, walked three and allowed five hits in 5 2/3 scoreless innings of Altoona’s 5-0 victory. Connolly is 3-3 with a 4.99 ERA this season. Connolly also went 1-for-1 with a run.
Tickets for today’s game are sold out, but Horn said if any become available, they’ll go on sale at 9 a.m. at Doubleday.
Horn added that if the game is rained out, tickets can be refunded for face value. The same holds true if poor weather stops the game before it’s considered complete (4½ innings if home team is winning, or five innings if visiting team is ahead).