Abner Doubleday invented the game of baseball sometime in 1839. On the farm field where he and his friends played those first games now stands a turn of the 20th Century feel stadium called Doubleday Field. Nestled in the Town of Cooperstown NY population of 2,000 is the home of that stadium and the National Baseball Hall of fame Classic.
Every summer since 2009 Hall of Famers and baseball heroes of the past assemble for the Hall of Fame Classic game. This all-star-like game that ushers in everything that is good about our national past-time magically transport you back to a time in your life so much simpler than today.
This year’s event was that much more special. It was the first Classic game since 2019 amidst the COVID pandemic. On Saturday, May 28, 2002, 5,000 plus people were transported back to the purest times of their lives. Yours truly as well.
The Teams and the Coaches
This year’s game featured a showdown between team Fergie (named for manager Ferguson Jenkins) and team Ozzie (named for manager Ozzie Smith). The teams are managed and coached by Hall of Famers. The coaches for team Ozzie were Hall of Famers Ted Simmons, Tim Raines, and Allen Trammel.
For team Fergie, the coaches were Hall of Famers Lee Smith and Wade Boggs. The teams were comprised of Baseball heroes of the past although not yet Hall of Famers. Each of these players conjured up both happy and not-so-happy memories of the past for me.
Team Fergie featured Jermaine Long representing the A’s, David Freese representing the Cardinals, Carlos Pena representing the Rays, Alex Avila representing the Tigers, Justin Maxwell representing the Nationals, Carlos Baerga representing the Guardians, Steve Buechele representing the Rangers, Willie Aikens representing the Royals
The pitchers for team Fergie were Bruce Chen representing the Braves, Keith Foulke representing the Red Sox, and Ryan Rowland-Smith representing the Mariners.
Team Ozzie featured Chris Young representing the D-Backs, Nick Swisher representing the Yankees, Carlos Gonzalez representing the Rockies, Matt Wieters representing the Orioles, Garret Jones representing the Pirates, Steve Sax representing the Dodgers, Todd Zeile representing the Mets, Pat Borders representing the Blue Jays, The pitchers for team Ozzie were Jose Contreras representing the White Sox, and Tim Stouffer representing the Padres.
Both teams sported ties to the Phillies. Jose Contreras, and Bruce Chen at one time played for the Phillies. Pat Borders never played for the Phillies but was heavily involved in the Phillies minor league system as a coach from 2015 to 2021.
Home Run Derby
Then of course there was Bobby Abreu. Abreu was part of team Fergie and he of course played nine seasons in Philadelphia. Abreu was mostly the only shiny spot on largely bad Phillies teams. Still talked about, Abreu is still to this day a fan favorite.
What would an All-Star game be without a home run derby? Before the game, the teams designated players to square off against each other. Abreu was part of it but did not fair well going 0-10 and failing to advance into the second round. The contest was won not by but two players, co-winners if you will. Carlos Gonzalez and Justin Maxwell were named winners both finishing with an overall 7-15.
The game featured a 7-inning format and very liberal substitution rules. Team Ozzie got off to a fast start scoring 3 runs in the bottom of the first. Fergie’s team got on the board in the second highlighted by Bobby Abreu’s solo shot with one out. Team Fergie would tie the game in third with Abreu’s second home run of the day, a two-run bomb. It was all Team Ozzie as they would go on to plate seven more runs.
Gerrit Jones would lead the way for Team Ozzie. He finished the day 3 for 3 with 2 HRs and a double. Jones’s performance would lead him to game MVP honors over Abreu who would finish 2 for 2 with 2 HRs and a walk. The final score would be 10-6 for Team Fergie.
Starting in the 4th inning both teams got creative with subs. Men’s League players from the Cooperstown area were given a shot and inserted into the lineup. Two soldiers from Fort Drum NY also were given an opportunity to live out their dream and received ample playing time.
The best move made was made by Team Fergie in the 5th inning. MLB Network analyst AJ Andrews was put into the game and promptly reached base on an infield single. She eventually made her way onto third and was thrown out trying to steal home.
The whole experience was good for the heart as equally good for the soul. The sights, sounds, and smells were healing and pure. In a time when things are very complicated and confusing, I was able if for only 4 hours go back when all that mattered was routing for the home team. Well done, Baseball. What a great event at the Baseball Hall of Fame Classic 2022.
Matt Bednarczyk is your host of Talking Philly Sports With Matty B. He is a proud retired US Army Sergeant First Class, he is also a combat veteran with over 80 months served in Afganistan, and Iraq . Huge Hockey Fan. Matt is a lifelong 4 for 4 Philly sports fan. Born and raised on the Mayfair and Tacony neighborhood lines of Northeast Philly. He brings over 40 years of Philadelphia Sports passion and provides a realistic look at our Major Sports Teams and the most passionate sports fans on the planet. Look for his show live on Edge of Philly Sports.