A group of 39 former players -- including 32 Hall of Famers -- was scheduled to sign autographs inside the Tunnicliff Inn throughout the weekend. If yesterday was any indication, it will be bedlam until tomorrow morning.
The crowd wasn't dispersing, however, because it had spent good money to get autographs and had to wait until specific players were announced.
"It's been crazy," said Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson, who at one point was signing at the same time as fellow Orioles greats Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and Earl Weaver. Surprisingly, he wasn't overtaken by Orioles fans.
"Honestly, I have seen more New Yorkers than people from Baltimore," Robinson said.
Robinson items were among the more reasonably priced -- with signatures on baseballs and small pictures going for $59 apiece, signatures on large photos, caps and other equipment at $69, and signatures on bats and jerseys at $89.
Murray fetched as much as $149 to sign a bat or jersey, while Weaver was $65 and Palmer $70 for similar signatures.
If you wanted New York Yankees great Reggie Jackson to sign a bat or jersey, it would cost $200 each -- the most expensive on the list.
Waiting for a bat
The sign said it all for Paul Gadke.
"Harry Potter?" it read. "Who did he ever play for? He never even saw Tony or Cal play!"
Gadke was playing off the fact that millions of fans waited in line for the last Potter book a week ago. The Ohio native has kept his own vigil on Cooperstown's Main Street since Wednesday afternoon. He was anticipating the moment at 6:45 this morning when the Hall of Fame will release 740 collector's edition bats commemorating the Cal Ripken Jr.-Tony Gwynn induction.
Gadke has waited in line for commemorative bats every year since 1997, when he traveled to see Nellie Fox inducted. He also has been first in line every year except 1999, when a pair of interlopers beat him to the bat celebrating Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount.
The former Cleveland Indians bat boy usually arrives Friday afternoon on induction weekend but figured he would have to show up earlier this year to beat the expected mobs. His stretchy, nylon chair led a snaking line of dozens of seats along Main Street. To hold his spot, he limited himself to a few bathroom and snack breaks in the wee hours of the morning.
He's fortunate because his good buddy, Rocky Cenneno of Turnersville, N.J., holds the second place in line. They met in the same spot 10 years ago and have kept in touch ever since, phoning to talk family and baseball and meeting up at the head of the line in Cooperstown every summer.
"Baseball really brought two people together," said Cenneno, a Philadelphia Phillies fan.
Cenneno and Gadke once watched a collector buy a bat for $125, walk a few paces away and sell it for $450 to a Nolan Ryan nut who had missed the line.