By Rob Centorani
COPPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Dale Petroskey's sometimes controversial reign as president of the Baseball Hall of Fame came to a shocking and sudden end Tuesday when he resigned.
“The resignation is the result of our finding that Dale Petroskey failed to exercise proper fiduciary responsibility and it follows other business judgments that were not in the best interest of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum,” a press release issued by the Hall of Fame's executive committee said.
The only addendum to the release came from Hall director of communications Brad Horn. He said Petroskey’s actions were not criminal in nature and that Petroskey did not benefit from them.
Petroskey, 52, also made national news April 19, 2003, when he cancelled plans to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the movie “Bull Durham.” Two of the films co-stars, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, were outspoken against the Iraq war, which started March 19, 2003.
Petroskey sent a letter to Robbins and Sarandon, some of which read: “We believe your very public criticism of President Bush at this important - and sensitive - time in our nation’s history helps undermine the U.S. position, which ultimately could put our troops in even more danger. As an institution, we stand behind our president and our troops in this conflict.
“As a result, we have decided to cancel the April 26-27 programs in Cooperstown commemorating the 15th anniversary of Bull Durham.”
Robbins replied with a letter to Petroskey.
Part of it read: “As an American and as a baseball fan, I was dismayed to read your letter canceling my appearance at the Baseball Hall of Fame due to my public criticism of President Bush. I had been unaware that baseball was a Republican sport. I was looking forward to a weekend away from politics and war to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Bull Durham. I am sorry that you have chosen to use baseball and your position at the Hall of Fame to make a political statement.”
Petroskey had held the post for about nine years and was paid $305,000, according to IRS reports.
In a statement released to reporters, Petroskey said: “The Hall of Fame is a world-class institution, and I am proud of all we have accomplished through vision, hard work, and teamwork. I serve at the pleasure of the Board, and accept the judgment of the Executive Committee.”
The Hall’s five-member executive committee of two-time National League MVP Joe Morgan, "Meet the Press" managing editor Tim Russert, Hall of Fame chairwoman Jane Forbes Clark, Edward Stack and Paul Beeston accepted Petroskey’s resignation Tuesday afternoon.
Employees were notified of Petroskey’s resignation shortly before 4:30 p.m., Horn said, declining to say who made the announcement.
Jeff Idelson, an employee at the Hall since 1994 and the museum’s vice president of communications and education since 1999, will serve as acting president while the Hall searches for Petroskey’s replacement. Idelson, 43, becomes the Hall’s sixth president.
Petroskey began working at the Hall on July 19, 1999, succeeding Donald Marr. Before taking the job, Petroskey worked as assistant press secretary under President Reagan and spent 11 years at the National Geographic Society.
Also during Petroskey’s tenure, The Hall of Fame Game, which was baseball’s last remaining in-season exhibition and was held annually at Cooperstown’s Doubleday Field, underwent a major change before it was announced the game would no longer be played after this year.
The game had coincided with the Induction Ceremony, normally being played the Monday after the Sunday ceremony. That changed in 2003, when the game moved to a spring date and the Induction Ceremony remained in late July.
On Jan. 29, Major League Baseball announced the game would be discontinued after the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres play June 16 at Doubleday Field.
“We’re disappointed and sad and it’s been a great tradition,” Petroskey said Jan. 29. “But we also understand the realities of major league scheduling now. ... It gets increasingly difficult for them to squeeze in exhibition games. We’ve been putting our finger in the dike the past few years trying to save this game. We understand, but it’s still sad for us.”
Idelson served as assistant vice president and senior press officer for World Cup 1994, the committee charged with staging the soccer World Cup in America, before joining the Hall. He also served as director of media relations and publicity for the New York Yankees from 1989-1993.
A native of New Newton, Mass., Idelson graduated from Connecticut College in 1986. He began his career as a public relations intern for the Red Sox in 1986.
Rob Centorani writes for The Daily Star in in Oneonta, N.Y.