The very first Baseball Hall of Fame Induction ceremony was held in Cooperstown in 1939.
One local man recalls members of the first four Hall of Fame classes joining together in the first Induction Weekend. Not only that, but he also went to nearly every induction that followed.
Cooperstown resident Homer Osterhoudt, 94, calls himself a baseball fan. And lucky for him, he was raised near the “home of baseball” and got many opportunities to see the legends of the diamond.
Osterhoudt said he missed just three ceremonies, and that was only because he was serving in the Army Air Corps as an airplane mechanic.
During the summers when the athletes visited for the annual induction ceremony, the longtime mail carrier was waiting on Main Street with his camera. Osterhoudt said he was excited to get a snapshot of the stars of the diamond.
“It was not always like it is now. During the earlier years you could really get close and interact with them,” he said.
“I would sometimes take a photo of someone one year, and then get it developed to have it signed the following year,” Osterhoudt added.
Over the years, Osterhoudt said, he has collected the autographs of baseball greats such as Cy Young, Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller and Dizzy Dean, to name a few. He didn’t realize it at the time, but he was capturing unforgettable images that would be shared in a book. Ten of his photos are immortalized in “Baseball Fantography: A Celebration in Snapshots and Stories From the Fans,” (Abrams Image, 2012), the first in a series of books that focuses on the cherished memories of the amateur baseball photographer.
It is a collection of never-before-seen snapshots and first-person anecdotes from fans from across the country and across generations.
Osterhoudt is not the only one with local connections who contributed to the book. Others include village librarian David Kent, Cooperstown Mayor Jeff Katz, Director of Research at Baseball Hall of Fame Tim Wiles, Hall of Fame Director of Education and Museum Programs Jeff Arnett and past Hall of Fame President Dale Petrosky.
Osterhoudt said he has been to just about every Hall of Fame Game as well, and was one of three people selected to throw the ceremonial pitch in what was supposed to be the very last game in 2008. However, the 70-year tradition came to an end earlier than expected because of rain.
“In between showers I was able to throw out the first ball,” Osterhoudt said. “I got the ball signed by Ferguson Jenkins.” The day was special not only because of the wonderful opportunity, but also because it marked his 62nd wedding anniversary to his wife, Marion, Osterhoudt said.
The Hall of Fame Game was replaced with the Father’s Day Classic, which features former major leaguers instead of two current teams.
Osterhoudt said he does not have a favorite baseball team, but tries to keep up with the Yankees and Mets because they play in New York. He said one of the highlights of his life was being able to caddie for a Yankee.
Interviewed last year by the Major League Baseball Network before the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
“They made a DVD,” he said. “The first day we met at the Hall and went through all my pictures. The second day they video taped me walking on Main Street and heading to Doubleday Field. They would zoom in on a photo, then show me talking about it. I would try to recall the moment when I took the photo and give some background.”
This year’s Induction Weekend will be held July 20 through 23. Sunday’s 1:30 p.m. ceremony at the Clark Sports Center will feature the inductions of Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin and Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo. The ceremony will be broadcast live on the MLB Network. More than 40 Hall of Famers are expected to return to Cooperstown to celebrate the enshrinement of the class of 2012.
Larkin, who played his entire 19-year big league career with the Reds, is was named on 86.4 percent of ballots cast on his third try on the BBWAA ballot Jan. 9. He received 495 votes, reflecting a 24.3 percent gain from the 2011 ballot. Larkin’s jump is the largest for any Hall of Fame election in which at least 400 ballots were cast. Larkin,a 12-time All-Star, nine-time Silver Slugger Award winner, and he ranks among the game’s greatest shortstops.
Santo, who was named to nine All-Star Games in his 15 big league seasons, received 15 of 16 votes from the Golden Era Committee members at the winter meetings in December. Five times Santo won five Gold Glove Awards and becomes the 12th former major league third baseman elected to the Hall of Fame and just the 15th overall (including Negro leagues players). Santo died Dec. 2, 2010.
There are now 297 Hall of Fame members, 65 living.
2012 Award winners Tim McCarver and Bob Elliott will receive their recognition and deliver brief speeches during an awards presentation at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Doubleday Field. As part of the event, the Hall of Fame will also salute three generations of St. Louis Cardinals managers who guided the club to World Series titles: Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst, who led the 1967 club; Hall of Famer Whitey Herzog, who guided the 1982 team; and Tony La Russa, who retired following his 2011 managerial title. The World Series trophy will be present in Cooperstown for the event.
The awards presentation will be followed at 6 p.m. by the Parade of Legends, as Hall of Fame members ride down Main Street in trucks provided by Ford Motor Company, concluding with their arrival on the museum steps as Hall of Fame members make their way to the museum for a private reception.
For a full schedule of events, visit www.baseballhall.org.
The very first Baseball Hall of Fame Induction ceremony was held in Cooperstown in 1939.
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