If I was a member of the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce or on the board of the Baseball Hall of Fame or a relative or descendant of one of the three men the Veterans Committee voted into the Hall this year or just a fan who’d planned my summer vacation around Induction Day, I’d have been furious with those sanctimonious baseball writers who refused to put Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens in the Hall this year for ruining the weekend.
But the Hall of Fame seems to have saved the day in some measure by itself. At least 30 baseball greats with plaques of their own showed up to help make the day special, including Dennis Eckersley, Cal Ripken, Barry Larkin, Carlton Fisk, Juan Marichal, Hank Aaron, and Sandy Koufax. And they appear to have drawn a good-sized and enthusiastic crowd to cheer the inductions of Deacon White, Hank O’Day, and Jacob Ruppert.
White was one of the best players of the 1870s and 80s and, according to his plaque, a “consummate gentleman”---a man of character in an era full of characters, many of them bad characters.
O’Day was a longtime umpire who began his career in the days when games were called by a single umpire out there all on his own who had only as much power to enforce his decisions as his courage gave him and the players and crowds allowed. “Kill the umpire” wasn’t just something fans yelled to vent their frustration.
Ruppert owned the New York Yankees during the Ruth and Gehrig eras. His plaque credits him with turning a perennial second division ball club into the now nearly 100 years old dynasty we know and loathe today.
Of course, a key to that transformation was the signing of Babe Ruth, and as Boston Red Sox fans will be all to glad to tell you, that wasn’t so much the result of Ruppert’s acumen as Sox owner Harry Frazee’s infatuation with show biz.
Things aren’t put quite that way on Ruppert’s plaque though. It doesn’t say, “Addlepated Boston owner Harry Frazee, desperate to finance his Broadway show No, No, Nanette, offered his team’s star player and pitcher to the richest fellow owner he knew and Ruppert, no dope, snapped him up.”
Wouldn’t have been seemly and besides it would have been the case of the legend having become the fact, imprinting the legend.
What it says is that Ruppert “procured” Babe Ruth.
Unfortunate word choice, I think, spiked with unintentional irony.
But I’m guessing whoever wrote the inscription rejected “bought” and “purchased” as sounding too much like what it was, a human being being sold as property.
The right word---as in the proper baseball as business cliche---is “acquired,” but that’s used in the very next clause.
Again, old-time Red Sox fans, for whom 2004 and 2007 make up for nothing, will be happy to suggest their own word for what Ruppert did with regards to Ruth.
A Non-fan's notes: Interesting biographical essay on Deacon White by his great-grandson, James B. Jackson, at Slate, The Hall of Famer.