- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 21, 2003

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — It isn’t the spectacle of Induction Day weekend, but a holiday atmosphere permeates baseball’s self-proclaimed hometown during the World Series.

Main Street, if not quite bustling, was still abuzz, even in the late afternoon Saturday. Later that evening, a bipartisan crowd of approximately 250 filled the Grandstand and Bullpen Theaters at the National Baseball Hall of Fame to watch Game1 between the Florida Marlins and New York Yankees at the seventh annual World Series Gala.

The Hall usually is a place of quiet reflection, but cheering and regular ballpark banter pierced the movie theater — a little surprising so close to New York — when Marlins leadoff man Juan Pierre bunted for a single and later came around to score on Ivan Rodriguez’s sacrifice fly.

Tickets to watch the game in either of the Hall’s theaters — the Grandstand seats 200, while the Bullpen holds 55 — were less than the price of a movie and, hence, were sold out. While beer was not available, hot dogs, peanuts, Cracker Jacks and soft drinks were included with the price of admission. Between innings, prizes from the Hall’s gift shop were awarded for answering trivia questions, and door prizes, including a pair of tickets to Game7, were distributed throughout the game.

Among those who won a raffle was Ben Jones, the former U.S. Congressman from Georgia who played the part of “Cooter” in “The Dukes of Hazzard.” Earlier in the afternoon, the character actor performed a spirited one-man show on the life of pitcher Dizzy Dean in the same theater. Jones, a lifelong baseball fan and memorabilia collector, was genuinely excited when his number was called as the winner of an Induction Day souvenir bat.

People came from 11 states, including one man from California. Florida was represented by Jeff Ryter, who found out he would be making his first visit to Cooperstown a week ago.

“I was praying the Marlins would make it,” said Ryter, a Marlins fan from Daytona who feared the Fish were an endangered species as recently as last year.

The celebrations a day later were not so spirited, perhaps reduced by the cool, damp autumn evening that evoked images of the “chill rains” former baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti wrote of in his oft-recited end-of-season soliloquy.

The few watching at the half-dozen bars in Cooperstown predominantly were Yankees fans, including an unruly mob of conventioneer school administrators at the Hawkeye Grill at the Otesaga Hotel. The bartender there, Bob, has an incredible memory for faces he sees only once every couple of years.

Five patrons occupied the stools at the Doubleday cafe, and when a lone Marlins fan cheered from one of the restaurant tables, the small group spoke of removing him from the premises. Violence had struck the Doubleday only last week, when a fight broke out between a Yankees fan and a Red Sox fan during the dramatic seventh game of the American League Championship Series.

Whether there’s many or few, Cooperstown never fails to supply fervor for the national pastime.

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