My latest Chicago Tribune column is on Peter Gammons anticipating a much different Hall of Fame weekend than what he encountered last year.
You also can access the column via my Twitter feed at @ShermanReport.
From the column:
Peter Gammons was on the road Thursday, making one of his favorite drives: His annual trek from his home in New England to Cooperstown, N.Y., for the Baseball Hall of Fame induction weekend.
His anticipation level is considerably different than last year when the steroids-backlash produced an empty ceremony that featured no living player, manager or executive. It gave the long-time baseball writer and TV analyst new appreciation for what he was missing.
“It was so unusual,” Gammons said. “For all the years I’ve gone there, it’s the only time it seemed strange. There’s usually such a buzz with all the stores and people. And it wasn’t there.”
The buzz will be there this year, with a considerable portion coming from Chicago. Gammons will be part of MLB Network’s extensive coverage of Sunday’s festivities, beginning at 11 a.m. with a pre-ceremony show featuring Bob Costas interviews with all six inductees, including Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, and Tony La Russa. Then at 12:30 p.m., MLB Network will air the full ceremony with the induction speeches. Joining Gammons will be Greg Amsinger, Harold Reynolds and John Smoltz, who could take his place in the Hall next year.
Gammons and many others are counting on this weekend to knock out the bad taste from last year’s event.
“This is going to fun,” Gammons said. “I heard estimates that close to 100,000 people could be here. There’s going to be a great Chicago contingent and people from Atlanta (for Maddux, Tom Glavine and Bobby Cox). Very cool.”
Gammons has vivid memories regarding the Chicago connection. As the Red Sox beat writer for the Boston Globe, he first connected with La Russa when he was a young coach for the White Sox in 1978.
“Tony hadn’t learned how to hit a fungo,” Gammons said. “I always used to work out before the game and I shagged popups from him. I always told him if he ever gets into the Hall of Fame, he owes me.”