COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (WKTV) - The members of the Class of 2013 waited for more than a century before earning their place in Cooperstown. So an extra 53 minutes – thanks to a summer shower rain delay – proved no problem for the family members of Hank O’Day, Jacob Ruppert and Deacon White on Sunday at the annual National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Baseball’s most exclusive club welcomed its newest members, with the biggest names the game has ever known right there to see it. Almost three dozen Hall of Famers returned to the Clark Sports Center stage in Cooperstown on Sunday to welcome this year’s inductees, in front of a cheering crowd and a nation of supporters watching from home on MLB Network.
The Class of 2013 featured three pioneers from baseball’s earliest days: Umpire Hank O’Day, who called the first World Series in 1903 and was the ruling arbiter in the 1908 game between the Giants and Cubs where Fred Merkle’s base running mistake cost the Giants a walk-off win; former Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, who purchased the contract of Babe Ruth from the Red Sox and built Yankee Stadium; and Deacon White, a brilliant bare-handed catcher from the 19th century. The Hall of Fame now features 300 inducted members.
“Recognition will come,” said Dennis McNamara, Hank O’Day’s grandnephew who spoke on his behalf on Sunday. “You may not know when, but it will come.”
The family members who delivered the speeches for the Class of 2013 – Anne Vernon, the great grandniece of Jacob Ruppert; and Jerry Watkins, the great grandson of Deacon White; and McNamara fought back cracking voices and tears as they honored the memory of their famous family.
“This was an incredible experience that I will never forget,” Anne Vernon said. “It was a privilege to be here to help my family – and the Hall of Fame – honor Jacob Ruppert.”
For Jerry Watkins, Sunday’s induction meant the realization of a family dream.
“My father kept Deacon White’s memory alive in our family, and he always thought he should be a Hall of Famer,” Watkins said. “He also was a huge Cubs fan and wanted to see a World Series winner. Well, Dad, we got one of them.
Sunday’s Induction Ceremony also included the official induction of Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby and the entire Class of 1945, none of whom experienced an Induction Ceremony due to wartime travel restrictions and – in the case of Gehrig – illness. Returning Hall of Famers honored the wartime electees by reading their Hall of Fame plaques.
Other highlights from Sunday included:
**The 2013 Award Winners were honored on the Induction Ceremony stage, as J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Paul Hagen (honored for writing) acknowledged the crowd along with Shirley Cheek, wife of the late Tom Cheek – the Ford C. Frick Award winner (honored for broadcasting). The award winners accepted their honors and delivered their speeches on Saturday during the third annual Hall of Fame Awards Presentation at Doubleday Field. Dr. Frank Jobe, pioneer of the procedure known as “Tommy John Surgery”, and Legendary Entertainment CEO Thomas Tull, who produced the Jackie Robinson biopic “42”, were also honored at Saturday’s Awards Presentation and received a warm ovation from the fans at Sunday’s Induction Ceremony.
**The 2,500 fans in attendance rose as one to sing along with a 1997 video recording of Hall of Famer Stan Musial playing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on his harmonica midway through the Induction Ceremony.
**Haley Swindal, the granddaughter of former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, performed a powerful rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
**During the introduction of returning Hall of Famers, thunderous standing ovations came for several Hall of Famers, including Henry Aaron and Cal Ripken Jr. Thirty-two Hall of Famers returned to Cooperstown to participate in the Induction Ceremony.