COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (AP) — The rain, the gloom, the small gathering of fans didn’t matter.
For the families of baseball pioneers Jacob Ruppert Jr., Hank O’Day and James “Deacon” White this was what they had long been waiting for.
All three have been dead for more than seven decades. Now their legacies were secure with their induction Sunday into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
Ruppert, O’Day and White — the Class of 2013 — made the festivities something out of the ordinary. For only the second time in 42 years, baseball writers failed to elect anyone to the Hall of Fame, sending a firm signal that stars of the Steroids Era — including Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens, who didn’t even come close in their first year of eligibility — will be judged in a different light.
Mark McGwire, 10th on the career home run list with 583, has watched his vote totals decrease. He received 24 percent in 2010 — a vote before he acknowledged using steroids and human growth hormone — and received 17 percent this year on his seventh try.
Six years ago, a record crowd of over 70,000 descended on this one-stoplight village for the induction ceremony honoring Ripken and Tony Gwynn. Sunday’s inclement weather — the start of the ceremony was delayed by rain — figured to affect the turnout, and it was sparse— only 32 Hall of Famers returned.
White, a barehanded catcher who grew up in Caton, N.Y., was one of major league baseball’s earliest stars. In fact, he was the first batter in the first professional game on May 4, 1871, and laced a double. An outstanding hitter, White was regarded as the best catcher in baseball before switching to third base later in his nearly 20-year career.
White played for six teams and had a .312 career average. He finished with 2,067 hits, 270 doubles, 98 triples, 24 home runs and 988 RBIs before retiring in 1890.
Ruppert was born in Manhattan in 1867 and instead of college went to work for his father in the family brewing business. He also fashioned a military career, rising to the rank of colonel in the National Guard, and served four terms in Congress from 1899-1907 before becoming president of the Jacob Ruppert Brewing Co. upon the death of his father in 1915.
Ruppert bought the Yankees before the 1915 season for $480,000, then proceeded to transform what had been a perennial also-ran in the American League into a powerhouse.
He hired Miller Huggins as manager, Ed Barrow as his general manager, snared Babe Ruth in a 1919 deal with the Boston Red Sox that changed the dynamics of the sport and built Yankee Stadium in 1923.
When Ruppert died in 1939, his teams had won 10 AL pennants and seven World Series in 18 seasons.
O’Day was born in Chicago in 1859. He apprenticed as a steamfitter while pitching for several local teams.
He turned pro in 1884, but his arm suffered and he retired after leading the New York Giants to the National League pennant in 1889 and pitching a complete game to clinch the 19th century precursor to the modern World Series.
During his playing days, O’Day umpired occasionally and was so proficient he was hired in 1895. After working a season in the minor leagues, he joined the NL in 1897 and went on to umpire more than 4,000 games.