COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (WKTV) - It's the weekend baseball fans all over the country have waited for a long time. 2014 Hall of Fame Induction weekend is here and fans from all over the country are in Cooperstown as we speak, to celebrate the national pastime in the birthplace of baseball.
Whether out on Main Street, or in shops like Paterno Brothers, where former pitcher Denny McLain was camped out, fans got the chance to rub elbows with the greats of the game.
Down the street, at Safe at Home, baseball's hit king, Pete Rose, returned as he does every year, despite his ongoing ban from the sport and the Hall's Plaque Gallery. Even so, "Charlie Hustle" loves coming out to Cooperstown every year to meet his fans and pay his respects to the inductees.
"It's fun to be here, because whether you're in the HOF or not or just a baseball fan, this is baseball's week," Rose told NEWSChannel 2 Sports Director Mike Levin on Friday. "It honors the best players in the history of baseball. Those guys that are 100 yds down the street earned to be down there, they worked hard, busted their chops, entertained people for a long time. It's nice for me to come here and see some of those guys I've played against."
There's also the 13th Annual "Play Ball with Ozzie Smith" event, which raises money for the Hall of Fame's educational programs. The Cardinals legend was joined by fellow Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt, Bert Blyleven and Johnn Bench, who all spoke of how magical Induction Weekend is for everyone.
"It's like what Norman Rockwell painted in the old days," said Bench, who was Inducted back in 1989. "It's a sweet little town, so pristeen and it brings together so many people. The love of baseball, these are the fans that sit it the second deck, they are fans."
"It's surreal," added Ozzie, a 2002 Inductee. "Everybody's dream was Joe Carter's dream of '93, being at the plate in the bottom of the 9th, to get the big hit and win the ballgame. That's the real dream. Making it here surpasses all of that, because it puts you in the game's elite."
Blyleven was inducted just three short years ago and this was the first time he was a part of Ozzie's event, so he enjoyed being there and having the chance to return again to Cooperstown. "It ought to be exciting, I'm happy for the town," Blyleven said. "It's such a quaint little town and to all the people that have stores here and rely on their financial income, they look forward to this time. It's a great class coming in, the people are flocking in, which is great for the economy."