Chicago Cubs outfielder Jim Edmonds didn't get to play in the final Hall of Fame Game. He was more than happy to make the trip, though.
"I got an unbelievable tour of the Hall of Fame. I'm blown away," Edmonds said Monday just before severe thunderstorms pelted historic Doubleday Field with a drenching rain and hail, forcing cancellation of the game. "I think all the anticipation of having a rough day of travel in the middle of the season _ it's all worth it once you get here.
"It would be nice if you could enjoy it more, be here on an off-day or a complete week," Edmonds said. "It's still special."
Despite a determined effort to play the game between the Cubs and San Diego Padres, the storms packed too much rain and more storms were predicted later in the afternoon.
Hall of Fame officials canceled the game shortly after 2:30 p.m., just after a moment of silence for NBC political journalist Tim Russert, who died of a heart attack on Friday while preparing for his weekly "Meet the Press" show. Russert was a member of the Hall's board of directors.
The sellout crowd of nearly 10,000 was eligible for a full refund. This was to be the final edition of a tradition that began in 1940.
"The game is a good thing," said San Diego ace Greg Maddux, a certain Hall of Famer once he retires. "When you look at the schedule back in spring training, you're like, 'Oh, that's a day we don't want to go.' But once you're here, you're kind of glad you're here. For me, it's a great place to spend an off-day. I think the older you get and the more you play, the more you appreciate it."
Major League Baseball announced in late January that the Hall of Fame Game was ending because of scheduling problems. It was the last remaining exhibition game on the major league schedule.
The unpopular decision was still fresh on the mind of Rich and Lou Aspell of San Diego, who made their first trip to Cooperstown just for the game.
"I think it's great for baseball," said Rich, a batboy for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1960s. "I don't think they should discontinue it. I understand that it doesn't count in the standings and the guys are worried about getting injured. But by the same token, it's good for baseball."
Puffy white clouds and blue skies preceded the storms, and thousands turned out for the traditional parade before the game, jamming the sidewalks of Main Street eight deep in front of the Hall of Fame.
They came to soak in the moment, be a part of something that has been very special.
"It's a great tradition they've had for so many years," said 44-year-old Rich Bolin of St. Joseph's, Mich., who was with his three siblings on a baseball trip, including brother Ron, who portrayed Babe Ruth in the parade. "They should keep it going _ baseball, hot dogs, apple pie."
Cooperstown native Kristian Connolly drew the loudest cheers from the crowd along the parade route. Connolly was helping tote a giant banner emblazoned with Savethefamegame.com, the Web site he created to spur a grassroots effort to convince Major League Baseball to reconsider.
"It's a great day for baseball, a great day for Cooperstown," Connolly said with a big smile. "I'm absolutely optimistic."
The players' union negotiated the elimination of the game in the most recent basic agreement. Although the Cubs didn't arrive in Cooperstown from Toronto until early Monday afternoon, the Padres were in town Sunday and some players made a beeline for the Hall of Fame.
Padres infielder Tony Clark said he only realized en route from Cleveland that this was the last major league exhibition game, so he made sure to tour the Hall of Fame.
"Even from the standpoint of just coming up and having an opportunity to go to Cooperstown, the game itself is a bonus," Clark said. "For every ballplayer, having the opportunity to come through and realize all the guys that paved the way to give you the opportunity that you have I think is crucial. To not have that happen going forward means that guys are going to have to take it upon themselves to come up here, and I'm hopeful that they do that."