The Baseball Hall of Fame has seen its share of celebrations over the years but on Friday, the focus was on the fan. Ken Gallinger, a regular visitor for the past 20 years, became a little piece of Hall history. When the Ormstown, Quebec, resident entered the Museum at 3:48 p.m., his annual trip to Cooperstown turned into something special.
Gallinger became the Museum’s 15 millionth visitor since the Cooperstown, N.Y. shring opened its doors on June 12, 1939. He entered with his Museum Membership card in hand, just days before the Museum’s 72nd birthday.
“I was a little worried when I first came in and saw the folks waiting for me,” Gallinger said. “I thought maybe I left my headlights on or something. But – Wow! – this is really cool.”
Gallinger was greeted by Hall of Fame officials, including President Jeff Idelson, who presented him with a Membership upgrade to the President’s Circle level. As a President’s Circle Member, Gallinger will receive two tickets to the premium seating area for the July 24 Hall of Fame Induction. The longtime Toronto Blue Jays fan will be able to watch former Jays star Roberto Alomar and former Toronto general manager Pat Gillick receive their Hall of Fame plaques along with Bert Blyleven, the third member of the Class of 2011 at the Hall of Fame.
“My favorite player was Dave Stieb, but I’ll always remember my first trip to the Hall of Fame for another Canadian team, the Montreal Expos,” Gallinger said. “My first trip to the Museum was (July 28, 1991) – the day Dennis Martinez of the Expos threw a perfect game. Obviously, you never forget something like that.”
Gallinger visited the Museum on Friday with friends Marc Brindle of Mercier, Quebec; Nick Ross of Ormstown and Robert Mahon of Long Sault, Ontario – which is located just over the Canadian border from New York State near Cornwall, Ontario. Gallinger is a native of Long Sault.
Dressed in a Jays pullover and fresh off a round of golf in Cooperstown, Gallinger was already making plans for his return trip to Cooperstown.
“We used to come to the Hall of Fame every year on Opening Day, but now we come a little later so we can play golf too,” Gallinger said. “This is the best Museum in the world.”
Gallinger is the first visitor from Canada to become a “millionth” visitor to the Hall of Fame. It’s one millionth visitor entered in 1956. Hall of Fame Weekend 2011 will be held July 22-25 with the annual Induction Ceremony scheduled to take place at 1:30 p.m. EDT on July 24. Baseball Writers’ Association of America electees Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven will join Expansion Era Committee electee Pat Gillick on the stage at the Clark Sports Center to receive their Hall of Fame plaques.