By DAVE SCHEIBER and MARC TOPKIN
Published July 31, 2005
[Times photo: Dirk Shadd]
Marlene Fasco of Montclair, N.J., camps out early Saturday morning in hopes of snagging one of 500 limited edition signed bats that went on sale at 7:30.
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. - Actor Bill Murray strolled up to a crowd of Hall of Famers at just past 8 a.m. Saturday, ready to join in the annual golf invitational.
New inductee Wade Boggs rushed over to say hello and a crowd soon formed around Murray, before he headed off in a cart defining Lost in Translation with partner Yogi Berra.
Hob-nobbing with a Hollywood star?
It's just part of the life that Hall of Famers enjoy once they earn membership into the exclusive club. All agree that being enshrined changes their world, from how they feel to how they are perceived to how many new opportunities that arise.
"People want to be in your company a little bit more, want to get your autograph more, and treat you a little differently," ex-Cubs outfielder Billy Williams said. "It gives you the feeling that you've reached the pinnacle."
Johnny Bench, the ex-Reds catcher, concurs: "It's more of an inside feeling. Because I don't think there's anything greater than your achievements. So for most of us, being here is just the realization that you're in with Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron and Ted Williams. And it's the realization that all of those hours and all of those Little League games, all of those rocks you hit out of the driveway, and all those years you competed against your big brother to reach a higher standard paid off."
Still, there's no denying the monetary benefits. At one busy autograph spot on Main Street, Berra was getting $50 for balls, $75 for equipment, $125 for bats, and Harmon Killebrew, $40, $60 and $150. Next to them, Paul Blair, who enjoyed a standout career in Baltimore but is a Hall long shot, did brisk business at far different prices: $15 for balls, $20 for equipment.
Ex-Yankee ace Whitey Ford felt the Hall's impact.
"I'll tell ya, when Mickey and I got in here in '74, we were almost broke," he said. "Mickey's salary was $100,000, mine was $78,000 and that was top salary for a pitcher, they said. We weren't living the way we wanted to, but all of a sudden the (autograph) shows came and endorsements and everything started to work out great."
Then again, retired pitchers Jim Bunning of the Phillies and Jim Palmer of the Orioles did fine before the Hall beckoned: Bunning, now a U.S. Senator from Kentucky, was elected to Congress in 1986, and Palmer made plenty of money in TV ads.
"The biggest factor for me was the recognition that I had done something when I played, and this great fraternity I'm now a part of," Bunning said.
Palmer knows players can fare better in the memorabilia biz but says Hall status is not about cashing in or perks: "It's more of a stamp of approval by the highest order."
NIGHT LINE: As midnight arrived, the lines on the sidewalk were finally gone. Except for one: a group of souvenir die-hards who'd camped out all day Friday in lawn chairs, waiting for 7:30 a.m. today.
That's when 500 of 1,000 commemorative Hall bats - with facsimile signatures of Boggs and Ryne Sandberg - would be sold at $125 each. Dave Stark, 39, of New Jersey sat near the front, making his 14th straight pilgrimage to the all-night line. "It's tradition," he said, flanked by friend Pat Miller and kids each had brought along. "I wouldn't sell it for $1,000."
HOT SHOT: Boggs spent Saturday playing golf with four friends from Tampa - T.J. Ferlita, Lou Fusco, Mark Leonard and Reggie Holt - and couldn't have had a better time.
Even better given his superstitious nature, they tied for first in the Hall of Fame Invitational. "I brought all my goombahs from Tampa," Boggs said. "They're pretty good golfers and we had a great time today."
INTERESTING CHOICE: Asked who he would like to see join him in the Hall, Boggs said: "There's a guy with over 4,000 hits that deserves to be in the Hall of Fame ,too, that's Pete Rose." He also mentioned Jim Rice, Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith and Rich Gossage.
HALL OF FAME
WHEN/WHERE: 1:30 p.m. Sunday; Cooperstown, N.Y.
COVERAGE: ESPN Classic and ESPN radio live, with 1-hour replay at 9 p.m. Monday on ESPN2; audiocast at baseballhalloffame.org and mlb.com.
OTHER INDUCTEES: Ryne Sandberg, Peter Gammons (writers wing), Jerry Coleman (broadcasters wing).