When the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association told me about the “Legends Game” that they were putting together in place of the tired out Hall of Fame Game, I was pretty impressed. Hall of Famers like Paul Molitor, Fergie Jenkins and Bob Feller were going to be there — playing in a game. But I have to admit, there was a lot of dead air on my end of the conversation. Why were they telling ME about this game? I started thinking that maybe they needed an announcer. Nope. They wanted me to PLAY too!
We all know that I’m nothing close to being a legend, but they needed a few guys that were young enough to still run around a little.
So there I was, with guys like Steve Finley—who still wants to play and is in good enough shape to pull it off, Mike Pagliarulo, a happy and smiling Jeff Kent—who won the HR hitting competition, and pitchers Anthony Telford and Ron Robinson.
The Spaceman, Bill Lee was there, and Bobby Grich. I got my first major league hit on a ball that glanced off of Grich’s glove and into center field in 1985.
Mike Timlin got a lot of cheers from all the Red Sox fans in Cooperstown and former Yankee first baseman Kevin Maas was there.
About 8 thousand people lined the streets for a pregame parade through the town and into Doubleday Field and then jammed themselves into a stadium that only seats 7 thousand.
My personal highlight was playing catch with Brooks Robinson and then playing Shortstop next to him on my team.
I played catch with freaking Brooks Robinson!!
90-year-old Bob Feller threw an inning! He and Bobby Doerr are the oldest living HOFers.
I got three hits in the game—one off of Hall of Famer Phill Neikro. I also drove in the tying run and scored the winning run.
Jim Kaat almost drilled me…twice, and our team came from 4 runs down to win it in the 7th and final inning.
Geoff Hixon, the Director of the MLBPAA told us that they wanted the game to be more interactive and more fun for the fans. They didn’t have to tell me twice.
In the first inning I ran out to right field and grabbed a 12-year-old kid with a glove and told him he was coming out to play short with me. He was scared to death but hung right in there.
After giving up a couple runs, with one out and a runner on first, Mike Timlin hit a hot shot to short. My little buddy snagged it, made a perfect feed to Kent at second and then Jeff threw on to first for a double play. The place went nuts!!
I get a little emotional re-living that moment. All I ever wanted to do was extend my 12-year-old days into an entire Major League career, for as long as they’d let me.
Later, the tour of the Hall of Fame was so cool. Now I know why baseball freaks from everywhere make that pilgrimage to Cooperstown.
I got to hold a Babe Ruth bat. It had 28 notches grooved in the bat, around the label to mark the 28 home runs he hit with that bat. One of only two known bats in existence that he notched.
The plaques, and balls and bats—and photos that send you back in time through the history of baseball humbled me.
I even saw my print and photographic file. So yes, I am in the Hall of Fame—along with every other of the nearly 17,000 players all time.
I’m not a Hall of Famer. But with all that happend that day—playing catch with Brooksy, the parade, a few hits, making a kids day and holding Babe’s bat…I felt like one.
— Steve Lyons