Lack of new star power hurting baseball Hall

January, 9, 2013
1/09/13
2:16
PM ET
CooperstownAP Photo/Mike GrollFolks just aren't flocking to the Hall of Fame like they once did -- and there's a reason why.

The paper in Cooperstown, N.Y., is called the Cooperstown Crier.

The name goes back to the days of yore when a town crier would make public announcements in the streets.

But it has taken on a different meaning of late, as in a town that is shedding tears for its economy.

After 12 straight years of having more than 300,000 fans visit the Hall of Fame, 2012 will likely be the fourth straight year in which it didn't reach that number. The institution likely will also lose money again. Losses have averaged about $2 million a year over the past five years, according to public filings.

Take out an average induction weekend crowd, and you get about 700 people attending a day.

That's not exactly a ringing endorsement for the Baseball Hall of Fame being a "must see" attraction.

Facts are facts: The best players who were eligible for the first time this year -- Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa -- as well as Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, who are still on the ballot, are all connected to performance-enhancing drugs.

Taking out these players and even players who are looped into the discussion, like Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell, and all you have are steady players who consistently put up good stats, but don't exactly inspire people to travel to the relatively remote location in upstate New York.

Were we really hoping that Jack Morris and Craig Biggio would save us from not having a single player elected on the baseball writer's ballot?

Performance-enhancing drugs didn't kill the game of baseball. They didn't stop fans from attending games. But they did kill the sleepy old town that has the Hall of Fame by taking their marquee names essentially out of the equation.

[+] EnlargeLarkin
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesBarry Larkin is certainly a deserving hall-of-famer, but he's not someone who attracts a large audience.
We've seen the numbers. Fans don't show up in droves for Barry Larkin and Roberto Alomar. Bert Blyleven and Andre Dawson don't make Twins and Cubs fans pack up the car in the middle of summer to see the newly forged plaques.

Those who visit Cooperstown don't have a hard time falling in love with the small, quaint town, but that's also the problem.

The town might be where baseball started (and that's heavily disputed), but it's certainly not where it is the most popular. It can't be. Cooperstown has fewer than 1,000 households in its limits.

Other sport Halls of Fame have the same problem. They're not in the most ideal place for year-round visitors. Canton, Ohio? Springfield, Massachusetts?

Cleveland makes sense for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, so too does Nashville for the Country Music Hall of Fame (which drew more than 500,000 visitors in 2011). NASCAR's Hall of Fame is better off in Charlotte than, say, Daytona. And though South Bend might have seemed like a natural for the College Football Hall of Fame, there's a reason it's moving to Atlanta.

I remember my first and only visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame. It was the third week of July in 1990. I remember this because I vividly recall walking in and hearing the voice of Mel Allen of "This Week In Baseball" talking about the debut of Ozzie Canseco, Jose's twin brother.

I remember marveling at the plaques of the 1989 inductees, Johnny Bench and Carl Yastrzemski.

I can't imagine being as excited as I was that day if I went today. And for the Hall of Fame, that's the new reality they'll have to live with.

Luckily, next year, there are some intriguing marketable combinations that are eligible for the Hall -- How about Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Bobby Cox?

Darren Rovell | email

ESPN.com Sports Business reporter

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?