Monday, May 15, 2006

Hall of Fame memories

The debate still rages as to whether the founding of our National Pastime occured in or near the sleepy village of Cooperstown, NY. In fact, much evidence exists to the contrary.

Regardless, most people who visit Cooperstown, which lies on the shores of Otsego Lake in picturesque upstate New York, will tell you there isn't a more appropriate location for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I last visited Cooperstown in 2000 when I was assigned to cover the Hall of Fame induction of Tony Perez, Sparky Anderson and Marty Brennaman.

One impromptu interview I conducted that weekend will always stick in my memory.

While strolling down historic Main Street in Cooperstown, I happened upon Hall of Fame hurler Bob Gibson. The Cardinals great had just completed an autopgraph session and was standing alone. I seized the opportunity for a one-on-one Q&A.

Gibson, who still carries his reputation as one of the most intimidating pitchers in baseball history, was more than accommodating.

"What do you remember most about facing Tony Perez?" I asked.

He responded with a stare similar to the one which had struck fear in so many batters during his playing career.

"If Tony Perez had faced me every day," Gibson said. "He wouldn't have been inducted in the Hall of Fame".

Gibson's expression was so serious I wasn't sure whether his comment was meant to be a joke or the ramblings of a bitter old ballplayer.

Later that afternoon, I got my answer.

During his induction speech, Perez acknowledged the Hall of Famers seated on stage behind him. When he got around to Gibson, Perez said,

"I know that if it were not for Bob Gibson ... I would have been here earlier than today".

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