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Cooperstown will be hopping on Sunday with big New York and Baltimore presence on induction stage

Cooperstown will be hopping on Sunday with big New York and Baltimore presence on induction stage
In this Dec. 10, 2018, file photo, Harold Baines cries during a news conference for the Baseball Hall of Fame during the Major League Baseball winter meetings in Las Vegas. Baines will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday. (John Locher / AP)

The stage will be crowded for Sunday’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, with six new members to be welcomed into baseball’s most elite brotherhood..

The fields around the Clark Sports Center figure to be packed, too, with a fan presence that could challenge the all-time attendance record set when the induction of Cal RIpken Jr. and Tony Gwynn drew an estimated 82,000.

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Here’s why: Of the six inductees -- Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina, Harold Baines, Edgar Martinez, Lee Smith and the late Roy Halladay -- five of them played significant portions of their careers in cities that are within driving distance of Cooperstown.

Factor in the tremendous popularity of Rivera, who holds the all-time saves record and played his entire 19-year career with the Yankees, along with Mussina’s dual fan base in New York and Baltimore and -- weather permitting -- the possibility of a crowd exceeding 80,000 seems very possible.

There is a small chance of thundershowers in the area on Sunday, but fans are more likely to brave high-80s temperatures and humidity, which is not unusual for the late-July induction day.

Halladay, who died when his small plane crashed in the Gulf of Mexico in 2017, split his career between Toronto and Philadelphia, so he also should be represented well.

Half of the inductees have Orioles connections. Mussina played the first 10 years of his career in Baltimore before jumping to the Yankees when he became a free agent in 2000. Harold Baines grew up in St. Michaels on the Eastern Shore and played a total of seven seasons with the Orioles over three separate stays.

Lee Smith, who spent the strike-shortened 1994 season with the Orioles and led the majors that year with 33 saves, held the all-time saves record until Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman broke it in 2006. Hoffman would go on to become the first pitcher to save 600 games before Rivera broke his record in 2011 on the way to the current record of 652.

Rivera, Mussina, Halladay and Martinez were elected by voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Smith and Baines gained induction by vote by the Hall of Fame’s Today’s Era committee after not reaching the 75 percent ballot plateau during their eligibility for the BBWAA election.

Baines’ selection sparked controversy and criticism both on social and in the mainstream media, but he took it in stride after a career as one of the game’s greatest designated hitters during which he overcame gimpy knees to amass 384 home runs, 1,628 RBI and 2,866 hits.

His low vote totals in five BBWAA elections reflect a long-standing bias against players who spent most of their careers in the DH role, which is why Baines said at the time of his selection that he never expected to be a Hall of Famer.

“Everything I hear or read is DH is really not part of the game, I guess, but I disagree,'' he said at the time. “But maybe this will open up the doors for some more DHs.”

Mussina, who gained BBWAA election in his sixth year on the ballot, said during his HOF conference call last week that he felt very lucky to be joining so many former teammates, including the two who will be alongside him on Sunday,

“I’m going into the Hall with -- and there are a bunch of guys that are -- with (Cal) Ripken and (Roberto) Alomar, and now Harold and Lee Smith, who was actually the closer in Baltimore for (one season). I played with Randy Johnson in New York. Joe Torre was my manager... So, it’s kind of neat, and to be in a situation like this with guys you played with is really special.”

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