COOPERSTOWN, N.Y., AUG. 6 -- Rain fell for a second straight day, so Jim Palmer and Joe Morgan were inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame today in the Cooperstown High School auditorium. Only a few hundred of the thousands who had made the pilgrimage to this remote baseball shrine actually got to see the ceremony.
Many stood under umbrellas outside the school and listened to the festivities over a loudspeaker. Others visited the Hall of Fame, or passed time along the village's Main Street. Still others had left for home after Hall of Fame officials announced Sunday's postponement.
Byrum Saam, 75, a longtime voice of the Philadelphia Phillies and A's who received the Ford Frick Award given annually to a broadcaster, took the opportunity to suggest to Cooperstown officials to get a "canopy" to avoid rain-marred weekends in the future.
"Even if we had a tent that protected the Hall-of-Famers, the rain would have made it miserable for the fans," Hall of Fame associate director Bill Guilfoile told reporters.
But most fans already were so wet from the near-record rainfall by Sunday's 2:30 starting time that they would have preferred to proceed in the rain. This was the first year since 1976 that weather forced the ceremony to be moved from the Hall of Fame's library porch, which overlooks Cooper Park, where fans gather to watch.
If the ceremony was dampened and the induction site unusual, it was also a long weekend wait for the inductees.
"I'm just happy to be part of the biggest league of all," said Morgan, the two-time National League most valuable player when he was the second baseman on Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine."
He was pointing to Hall-of-Famers on the school stage behind him. A record 32 had assembled Sunday, but only 20 could stay over the extra day. Palmer teammate Brooks Robinson couldn't stay, but such regulars as Ted Williams and Stan Musial were able to hang around.
Today's exhibition game between the Orioles and Montreal was canceled. But that was nothing compared with the disappointment for many who journeyed here and never got a look at Palmer or Morgan.
Both players expressed regret over the fans' inconvenience after they finally were given their plaques by Commissioner Fay Vincent.
Palmer attributed his fortune mostly to playing 19 seasons for Baltimore, six times in the World Series during his career. He thanked scores of people who had been a part of his life, introducing his stepfather, Max, who waved to others in the audience, and remembering the late Baltimore trainer, Ralph Salvon.
Palmer not only praised former Orioles manager Earl Weaver, with whom he often quarreled, but urged his induction into the Hall. Weaver, who had been around the village for several days, had to leave on Sunday.
"The toughest thing for a pitcher to do is get a tough hitter out a fourth time in a game," Palmer said. "Earl usually gave me the ball."
Palmer kept a handkerchief handy on the podium in case he broke down emotionally during his speech, as he had feared he might. But he got through his remarks as he pitched -- making it look easier than it was. For the Orioles he won 268 games, including eight 20-win seasons.
He recalled the late owner, Edward Bennett Williams, eloquently urging the team on in a clubhouse speech during a losing streak. According to Palmer, Williams told the players that he had "problems with losing" as a lawyer and that he was sure they felt the same way about their play, but that a "total commitment -- spiritually, emotionally, physically" -- would enable them to leave the ballpark with their heads up no matter what the scoreboard said.
Both Palmer and Morgan indicated they shared that sort of "commitment" to the game, which enabled them to enjoy long, productive careers. "If you had a good season, you had to prove it wasn't a fluke," said Morgan, who played 22 major league seasons. "If you had a bad one, you had to prove it was a fluke. That's how I went to spring training every season."
Morgan offered good advice generally when he said, "I always tried to do my best -- and the important thing was to have a little fun as well every day when I went to the park."
Being only 5 feet 7, Morgan said he "had to try a little harder." One of his idols, he said, was the late Chicago White Sox second baseman, Nellie Fox, who helped him along when they were together on the Houston Astros.
Morgan said he would like to see Fox in the Hall of Fame. "The only thing that could make me happier than today was if Nellie Fox were here and Jackie Robinson were here," Morgan said. "They were both second basemen and they were winners."
Perhaps the most touching moment in the ceremony came when the Chicago Tribune's Jerome Holtzman, who received the J.G. Taylor Spink Award honoring baseball writers, mentioned the death of his daughter, Catherine Ellen, six months ago from cancer. Holtzman, the author of "No Cheering in the Press Box," said he always wanted to be a baseball writer. He is credited with inventing the "save" statistic for relief pitchers.
While the 1990 induction ceremony may be remembered for rain, it is a year that produced two similar inductees who epitomize the essence of a Hall-of-Famer. Both broadcasters, both articulate in their acceptance speeches, Morgan and Palmer on the field were consistent over long periods, playing every game to win.
It was their luck to have the opportunity to do it on outstanding teams.
"To me, numbers weren't the thing," Palmer said. "It was winning."