La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.

A weekend in Cooperstown

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: July 28, 2014 - 9:02 AM

COOPERSTOWN, NY - The speeches have ended, the plaques have been unveiled, the stories have been told,

The 75th Hall of Fame class has been presented, the highlight of a thrilling weekend in this town just off Blackbird Bay. The estimated crowd here was 48,000, the third largest ever. And it was a loud and proud group as a chunk of Georgia showed up to cheer Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Bobby Cox from the Braves; Joe Torre, who managed the Braves; and Frank Thomas, who is from Columbus, Ga. 

The speeches were excellent. The funniest story came from Cox, who went to the mound once to address the infield and ask Tom Glavine to consider walking the batter with first base open. The only problem  was that the bases were already loaded - Cox had missed the runner at first.

"If this gets out to the media, I'm fining each you $1,000,'' he said as the place busted up.

Here are other notes from the weekend:

What am I doing here? 

As president of the Baseball Writers Association of America, one duty is to introduce the person who is entering the writer's wing of The Hall. This year it's Roger Angell, the first non-BBWAA member to receive such an honor. Mr. Angell has long been a favorite of ball writers across the country for his incredible essays about the game.

I was nervous as hell, but I pulled off the speech rather well. Johnny Bench even introduced himself to me later and told me he liked it. Angell's speech was wonderful. But the best moment came few minutes before the ceremony began when I asked him how he was feeling.

"I'm in Valhalla,'' he said.

HOF voting change

The Hall on Friday announced a couple changes to the voting procedure. Candidates will spend 10 years on the ballot before being moved to the ERA committee - instead of 15 years - and BBWAA members will have to register, agree to a Code of Conduct of sorts and have their name listed as a voter. 

I really like the last two changes. The Hall makes it clear now that people who give their ballot away will be dealt with. And I like the transparency. We were moving in the direction anyway, as many voters publish their ballots these days.

I was told three players in the last 30-plus years have been voted in after being on the ballot for more than 10 years, so The Hall felt justified in making the change, This will be interesting to see play out. It forces voters to consider candidates in a shorter time frame, instead of taking a few years to change their minds. It attacks those who feel that there should be first-ballot HOFers, then HOFers. Never been a fan of that.

The BBWAA has a committee looking at changes, too, and we hope to make a couple recommendations to The Hall before the the year is over.

The Big Hurt breaks down

The BBWAA president stays at the Otesaga Resort Hotel - where the Hall of Famers stay. I will allow myself to become a fan here briefly and report that it was WAAAAY COOOOOOL!!!!!!

Goose Gossage is staying across the hallway. Bud Selig and Frank Thomas are down the hall. I actually had a conversation with Eddie Murray, who despised the media when he played. Last night was a blast, as I ended up in conversations with Murray and Joe Torre's grandchildren. I also met Don Drysdale's daughter, who sings R&B music at spots around southern California and was three months old when her father passed away.

Rode down the elevator with Frank Thomas and his family this morning. I asked him, "How long is your speech, man?'  He said, " Fourteen minutes.''

"Did you include time for tears?'' I replied as the women in the group laughed.

I just had a feeling....and Thomas already was in trouble because 14 minutes is in the long range. On a day in which there were six speakers, that could rankle some of the members. Dave Winfield's lengthy speech is legendary, with tales of Hank Aaron badgering him to wrap it up.

(now this is good, I'm sitting in a restaurant writing this, when Thomas walks in. So I was able to get more details on his near-blubbering)

Thomas broke down as soon as he got to the podium and choked up during most of his speech, which lasted 18 minutes. Found out later that his mother rarely leaves her home in Columbus, and the sight of her in the audience made him emotional.

Thomas was not ripped for his long speech. The HOFers believe that long speeches are boring, but they saw that Thomas was speaking from the heart.

OTHER STUFF

Everyone is leaving in good shape, I'm pleased to report. But there were moments.

White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf fainted on Friday and had to be rushed to a local hospital. He was back at the hotel Saturday and able to get through the weekend.

Longtime umpire Doug Harvey had difficulty breathing on Saturday and had to be rushed to a local hospital. Was told he was doing well.

As I talked with Peter Gammons on Saturday behind the stage before the awards presentation at Doubleday Field, Gaylord Perry, 75,  took a wrong step and tumbled to the ground. He was helped up to a nearby seat. Once it determined he was OK, Carlton Fisk yells, "This is NOT the time to practice headfirst slides!!"

A great weekend. I'll never be this close to the action like I was here this year. So I wanted to share with you some stories......

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Tennessee 10 3rd Qtr 10:45
Jacksonville 7
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
New York 74 4th Qtr 11:38
Chicago 75
New Orleans 58 3rd Qtr 6:29
Houston 54
Milwaukee 9:00 PM
Sacramento
Oklahoma City 9:30 PM
Golden State
Florida 2 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 1
Colorado 0 FINAL(OT)
Pittsburgh 1
Toronto 1 FINAL
Carolina 4
Washington 5 FINAL(OT)
Columbus 4
Anaheim 1 2nd Prd 8:58
Montreal 0
St. Louis 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Edmonton 9:30 PM
San Jose
St Thomas (TX) 61 FINAL
Rice 72
Stony Brook 59 FINAL
Canisius 60
Temple 82 FINAL
Delaware 62
FIU 58 FINAL
Long Island 69
Lehigh 65 FINAL
Quinnipiac 80
South Alabama 54 FINAL
Richmond 65
Seton Hall 89 FINAL
South Florida 69
Ga Southern 76 FINAL
Stetson 67
Yale 57 FINAL
Vermont 56
Cleveland State 54 FINAL
Virginia 70
Wright State 69 FINAL
Western Carolina 56
Nicholls 54 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 79
Morgan State 48 FINAL
Rider 62
Idaho State 72 FINAL
South Dakota St 75
Oakland City 52 FINAL
Austin Peay 76
Eureka 38 FINAL
Bradley 80
Appalachian St 65 FINAL
Charlotte 75
Connecticut 53 2nd Half 2:08
Duke 62
Southern Miss 46 FINAL
Jackson State 66
Coastal Carolina 68 FINAL
Ole Miss 71
Montana State 37 2nd Half 7:57
South Dakota 41
LSU 35 2nd Half 19:05
UAB 39
Ohio 38 2nd Half
Evansville 36
CS-Dominguez 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Walla Walla 9:00 PM
Idaho
DePaul 9:00 PM
Oregon State
Nevada 9:00 PM
Pacific
Portland State 9:00 PM
San Francisco
CS-Bakersfield 9:15 PM
Utah State
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Niagara 76 FINAL
Cleveland State 58
High Point 59 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 81
Towson 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 74
Presbyterian 50 FINAL
Charlotte 66
Chicago State 62 FINAL
Bradley 59
Northwestern Coll 58 FINAL
Drake 102
Vanderbilt 67 FINAL
Marquette 80
Temple 78 FINAL
Howard 48
Southern Miss 66 FINAL
Ole Miss 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Rider 67
Miami-Florida 74 FINAL
UCLA 67
St Mary-KS 51 FINAL
South Dakota 115
William & Mary 71 FINAL
Wofford 51
Troy 82 FINAL
Evansville 94
Loyola Marymount 54 FINAL
USC 96
St Francis-PA 52 FINAL
Duquesne 92
Indiana-Southeast 45 FINAL
IUPUI 95
Delaware State 52 FINAL
Detroit 74
Tenn Temple 48 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 68
West Virginia St 58 FINAL
Radford 52
Fairfield 47 FINAL
Seton Hall 79
Dartmouth 44 FINAL
New Hampshire 60
Ball State 47 FINAL
Pittsburgh 59
Jacksonville 61 FINAL
Tennessee St 64
Trine 45 FINAL
Western Mich 81
Tenn Tech 53 FINAL
Lipscomb 72
New Orleans 55 FINAL
Tulsa 78
Ark-Little Rock 42 FINAL
South Dakota St 67
Samford 34 2nd Half 11:01
Tulane 41
Incarnate Word 48 2nd Half 2:08
TX-Pan American 54
CS-Northridge 54 2nd Half 11:39
Northern Ariz 55
Santa Clara 35 2nd Half
Oregon 34
(19) Oklahoma St 30 2nd Half
Weber State 19
Washington 26 2nd Half
San Diego State 22
Cal Poly 36 2nd Half
New Mexico 37
(10) Louisville 32 2nd Half
Grand Canyon 24
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