One of the 53 Hall of Famers will ask them to sit down, ask what they’d like to drink and rush off to the bar like an out-of-work actor serving a producer, in the market to hire an actor to play a waiter.
“Oh guys will be busting their chops, we’ll be giving them all the business,” said Tony Gwynn, sounding a little like a character on Leave it To Beaver.
(Kids, it’s an old black-and-white TV show, Wally tells his parents — Ward and June — how guys at school were mistreating his little brother, The Beaver, by “giving him the business.”)
Sharp, acid-filled senses of humour inside a big-league clubhouse? Nothing compared to Hall of Famers.
Johnny Bench teased Gwynn so much, so often and so ruthlessly that Gwynn, considered one of the nicest, even-tempered athletes ever to play the game, had had enough in 2007. He told a friend he was so stressed he was going to tell Bench where he could go ... and it wasn’t to Oklahoma or Cincinnati.
“Then we get finished on Sunday, Johnny brought Cal Ripken and I over, and sat us down,” Gwynn said. “He rushed off to get us a drink and when he came back he told us of the Hall of Fame familiarity, explained what had been going on, it was a surreal moment.
“That moment was awesome.”
The way Gwynn explained it the class of 2011 are like new kids arriving half-way through the school year or how rookies are tormented by big league vets.
“Certain guys like Ozzie Smith, Rod Carew and Billy Williams put their arm around me and said ‘it will be OK,’” said Gwynn, who claims he has adopted a similar role. “But there were times (in 2007) I was sweating though my clothes.”
At the Sunday night dinner 300-game winners sit at one table inside the Otesaga dining room where Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and everyone else sat.
Sluggers with 500 homers will sit at another.
The late Kirby Puckett (2,304 hits, 207 career homers) established the “Punch and Judy” table for himself and other “light” hitters.
“Kirby told me before I got in I was Punch and Judy table material, (now) where will Robbie, Bert and Gillick sit?” Gwynn said. “Our table keeps getting bigger and bigger, with Jim Rice, Rickey Henderson, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Lou Brock and Carew.
“We added Andrew Dawson last year.”
How successful were HOFers teasing Dawson?
“They tried, but that stare Andre has, backed a few people off.”
Gwynn said he wishes fans could hear the stories, see and hear the byplay between tables.
“Some of these guys think they retired just last year,” Gwynn laughed. “Pitchers will come over to our table and say ‘I’m here because I got you guys out so often.’
“We’ll say ‘no, no, the reason we’re here is because of all the hits we got off you.’ We have the time of our lives.”
Dick Williams had looked after a young Gwynn, at age 22, with the 1982 Padres. Two years later Rich Gossage arrived.
Williams and Gossage were inducted in 2008, a year after Gwynn.
“Dick and Goose were petrified,” Gwynn said, prompting him to ask: “Isn’t it ironic how you guys once taught me the ropes?”
And Alomar, Blyleven and Gillick will probably be told between their Wednesday arrivals and walking onto the podium Sunday afternoon to “keep the speech short” about 100 times.
Maybe more as the heat wave hits the Catskills.
Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Bill Mazerozki gave the best speech ever in 2001 according to most HOFers.
He said a few words, broke down in tears looking at the large crowd, and said “I can’t do this,” muttered “thanks” and sat down to a standing ovation.
“The best part is the way they treat you after,” Gwynn said.