Class of 2019 inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (AP) — Relievers Mariano Rivera and Lee Smith, starters Mike Mussina and the late Roy Halladay and designated hitters Edgar Martinez and Harold Baines were feted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday.
Rivera is the first player in history to be unanimously voted into the Hall of Fame.
More than 50 Hall of Famers were on the dais to honor the Class of 2019.
Former New York Yankees star Bernie Williams performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” outside Clark Music Center in Cooperstown.
Williams played on four World Series championship teams for the Yankees and was a teammate of new inductees Mike Mussina and Mariano Rivera. Williams is a jazz guitarist who was nominated for a Latin Grammy Award for his 2009 album “Moving Forward.” He discovered his passion for music at an early age in his native Puerto Rico.
Taking the podium last as he predicted, the former New York Yankees star reliever had to wait for the chants of his name to stop before he began a speech that included a brief thank you to his native Panama and the fans there.
“You’re special for me,” said Rivera, the all-time saves leader with 652. “Thank you for your help. Latin American fans, thank you. Thank you for loving me. I’m so humbled and blessed to receive this incredible honor. God bless you all.”
Part of a core with shortstop Derek Jeter, left-hander Andy Pettitte and catcher Jorge Posada, all of whom were in the audience, Rivera helped lead the Yankees to five World Series titles from 1996-2009. He posted 42 saves and a 0.70 ERA over 16 postseasons, including 11 saves in the World Series.
Rivera, the first unanimous pick by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, pitched 19 seasons in the big leagues, all with the Yankees, retiring with 952 games finished, also a record. A 13-time All-Star, Rivera helped the Yankees win five World Series titles and seven American League pennants. He led the AL in saves three times and finished with 40 or more saves nine times, a record he shares with Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman.
Rivera, who joins Rod Carew as the only Panama natives in the Hall of Fame, left home at age 20 in 1990 not knowing what lay ahead.
“I don’t know what I was expecting, but God guided me through,” Rivera said.
Among those he thanked were his parents, his wife, Marla, and their four children, the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, and former Yankees manager Joe Torre, who made Rivera his closer in 1997.
“That’s what I wanted to hear and my career took off,” Rivera said.
Smiling from beginning to end, Smith congratulated his new classmates before crediting his family and hometown of Castor, Louisiana, for much of his success.
“It’s been my family. They’re the main reason I’m standing here today,” Smith said. “To my mom and dad. Your support has meant everything to me.”
Smith pitched 18 seasons for the Cubs, Red Sox, Cardinals, Yankees, Orioles, Angels, Reds and Expos and retired as MLB’s all-time saves leader with 478, a title he held for 13 seasons. That total ranks third all-time, as do his 802 games finished.
A seven-time All-Star, Smith led his league in saves four times and reached the 30-save mark in 10 seasons. And he was a workhorse — of Smith’s 478 saves, 169 required at least four outs and 94 required two or more innings.
The 6-foot-6 Smith was convinced to give up his love for basketball and chose baseball as his sport.
“I was 14 years old and I thought my future was basketball,” said Smith, the first reliever to record 30 saves in 10 different seasons. “It wasn’t just my arm that got me here. It’s the whole community of Castor. I thank you.”
Smith and Baines were elected in December by a veterans committee.
A seven-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger Award winner for Seattle, where he spent his entire 18-year career, Martinez delivered the first part of his speech in Spanish before congratulating the other five inductees.
“I am honored and humbled to be standing here,” who was born in New York and grew up in Puerto Rico. “It is hard to believe that a dream that started when I was 10 years old (ended here). The first time I saw Roberto Clemente all I wanted to do was play the game. What an honor to have my plaque in the Hall alongside his.”
Martinez won two AL batting titles and led the league in on-base percentage three times and was named the outstanding designated hitter five times, an award that now bears his name. When he retired, Martinez was one of only six players in history with a .300 batting average, .400 on-base percentage, .500 slugging percentage, 500 doubles and 300 home runs.
Martinez’s walk-off double to win the 1995 AL Division Series endeared him forever to the fans in the Pacific Northwest.
“Fans, I am so fortunate,” Martinez said. “Thank you for always being there for me. The support you gave me really helped me get here today. I am so glad I stayed with you until the end of my career.
“This is a day I could never imagine happening when I was growing up in Puerto Rico. Honestly, there were times over the last 10 years I wasn’t sure it was going to happen. I am so grateful and proud,” he said.
The soft-spoken Baines never displayed much emotion in his 22-year career, but his voice cracked throughout his speech.
“Somehow I acquired a reputation for not saying much. I’m not sure why,” he deadpanned at the start. “From teachers to coaches who showed me kindness and discipline, I thank you all for what you’ve done for me. If I can leave you with one message, it’s to give back to your community. I stand here very humbled. It has taken time to sink in.”
Baines, the first overall pick in the 1977 draft by the White Sox, played 22 seasons for the White Sox, Rangers, Athletics, Orioles and Indians, was a six-time All-Star, and twice won the Outstanding Designated Hitter Award. An eight-time .300 hitter who reached the 20-homer mark in 11 seasons, Baines drove in at least 90 runs eight times and ranks 34th on the all-time list with 1,628 RBIs. He retired with 2,866 hits and 1,628 RBIs, one of only 17 players in MLB history to have reached both 2,800 hits and 1,600 RBIs.
Baines saved his last moments to pay tribute to the White Sox and to his family, thanking his mom and dad and wife Marla, who also had to hold back tears.
“You are the true Hall of Famer of our family,” Baines said as he looked out at his wife. “The game has given us a lot of shared moments, memories like today. Your presence here today makes my journey complete.”
The 40-year-old Halladay was killed in a plane crash in November 2017. The widow, Brandy, delivered the speech and fought back tears as she spoke.
“I knew I was going to cry at some point. It’s overwhelming the amount of people here today,” she said. “I’m so grateful you’re here. I can’t tell you how many hugs I’ve gotten. They have extended so much love and friendship. I’m so grateful.
“The thank-yous should and could go on for days. There are not enough words to thank you. I say it a lot, but it takes a village.”
Halladay amassed a 203-105 record and a 3.38 ERA and 2,117 strikeouts over 416 regular-season games and was 3-2 with a 2.37 ERA through five postseason starts, all with Philadelphia. He spent his last four seasons with the Phils and 12 seasons with the Blue Jays from 1998-2009 and became just the second pitcher in major league history to throw a no-hitter in the postseason, opening the 2010 NL Division Series with one against the Cincinnati Reds in the first playoff start of his career. He also pitched a perfect game that season.
The family decided that there would be no logo on his plaque because both organizations meant a lot to Halladay.
“He was a true competitor ready to do whatever it took to give his team the best chance to win,” Brandy said. “I think Roy would rather be remembered who he was, not how he performed on the field. I am so humbled to say thank you to all of you on Roy’s behalf.”
Mussina, a right-hander who starred in college for Stanford, pitched for 18 major league seasons and spent his entire career in the high-scoring AL East with the Orioles and Yankees. A five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove winner, he posted a record of 270-153, pitching 3,362 2/3 innings with 2,813 strikeouts, 785 walks and an ERA of 3.68. He also had 57 complete games in 536 starts and was the first AL pitcher to win at least 10 games 17 times.
Mussina thanked his wife and family, his mom, dad and brother Mark and the coaches who guided his career through the years.
“I spent a lot of time reflecting on my time in baseball,” said Mussina, the oldest first-time 20-game winner in MLB history when he reached the milestone at age 39 in 2008, his final season in the majors. “I was never fortunate to win a Cy Young Award or be a World Series champion, win 300 games or strike out 3,000 hitters. My opportunities for those achievements are in the past. Today, I get to become a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. This time I made it.”
The late Frank Robinson and Willie McCovey were honored with a moment of silence before Mussina was introduced. The two Hall of Famers died since last year’s induction ceremony.