Wednesday the Baseball Hall of Fame held their annual event to announce which former stars were selected by The Baseball Writers of America. The result was no one. A combination of the first “class” of retired stars from the steroid era mixed with a split voye over deserving players like Craig Biggio and Jack Morris gave the Hall no new attendees for their annual midsummer event. While there will be players put in by the Veterans Committee and members of the media being enshrined, the lack of a bright star is not just a reminder to the sports world of the controversy surrounding a past that continues to cause issues with the game, it deals another cruel blow to the small town of Cooperstown, New York, which needs a vibrant weekend to help local businesses grow in a time where mega-malls and lack of disposable income make the trip an issue for families and others going through Upstate New York.
Now it is not the first time that the BBWAA has delivered no inductees, it is the eighth, and the Hall itself as well as the area has continued to find new and interesting ways and events to draw traffic to Cooperstown, but not having an inductee for 2013 creates a halo effect that will have some people decide to not make the trip this summer. Sure it will probably be an anomaly, with the legendary Greg Maddux at least coming up for election next year, but in a time where dollars are tight and many smalltown stores sometimes are month to month, the lack of election could not have come at a worse time. The system for election is set, that is true, and the Hall does operate independently of MLB for the most part, but maybe there are things that can take place to still make that weekend a special celebration of baseball.
While many Hall of Famers do return every year, perhaps there is a way, with a brand partner, to get EVERY living member back for the weekend, with even more special events designed to lure fans who may not have made the trip. can MLB, with its large sponsor inventory, create special activation platforms at the consumer level to get more people interested in going for Hall of Fame Weekend? Would MLB consider a special celebration of two hall of Famers in particular, Roberto Clemente (on the 30th anniversary of his death) and Jackie Robinson (in conjunction with the movie “42” due out this spring) to get more Latino fans and fans of color to the Hall that weekend? Can the BBWAA, who certainly do not have to make excuses for the voting anomaly, suggest other ways that membership can create media opportunities about the Hall designed to inspire trips to the village. Could MLB and/or the MLBPA see if there is a way to have CURRENT players participate in hall events around holes in the schedule in order to help boost attendance to offset the loss of the weekend. Could Minor League Baseball use the weekend to bring even more the future stars of the game to Cooperstown for a special weekend?
Baseball is a multi-million dollar business, and the Hall of Fame is its shrine, and Cooperstown is its Vatican City. The steroid era has created enough collateral damage for the sport and MLB and the MLBPA have gone a long way to help clean up the game for the future. Hopefully smart business minds can come up with a way to help support the small town with a series of fun and effective promotions that draw interest and traffic, and make this last wrong for the sport into a right.