Cooperstown, New York was the center of the baseball world again this weekend when six players were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Ever since these new enshrinees heard they were being elected, they have been popular personalities on the sports speaking circuit.
They certainly showed off their prowess as speakers on Sunday. Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez, Harold Baines, Lee Smith and the late Roy Halladay's wife, Brandy, gave memorable presentations that will be thought of for years to come.
Mussina got 76.7 percent of the votes needed after an 18-year career that saw him win 270 wins. He was a five-time All-Star who split his entire career between the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees.
Mussina opened the lineup of speakers and he was in awe of the moment as he stood on the stage.
"I was never fortunate enough to win a Cy Young Award or be a World Series champion," said Mussina. "I didn’t win 300 games or strike out 3,000 batters. And while my opportunities for those achievements are in the past, I get to become a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Maybe I was saving up from all of those almost-achievements for one last push, and this time I made it.”
Baines entered the Hall by unconventional means, being selected by the Today's Game Era committee. His 22 years in the game, 384 home runs, and six All-Star appearances were enough to garner respect from the voters.
Baines took the moment in front of the crowd to speak about a different kind of reverence, the one he has for his late father.
“So in the end, when you ask me why I’ve never been outspoken or said very much, think of my dad and the lesson he passed on to me many years ago, often when we played catch in the yard,” Baines said. “As he told me, ‘Words are easy, deeds are hard.’ Words can be empty. Deeds speak volumes, and sometimes they echo forever.”
Martinez is considered by many to be the greatest designated hitter in baseball history, making him worthy of the 85.4% of the vote he received. He was a seven-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger Award winner who helped usher in an era of success for the Mariners.
Martinez recounted his long-winding journey to getting a plaque from the Hall.
“I think from here, I’ll reflect back on how I got here, which is something that can be very rewarding, because it wasn’t easy,” Martinez said. “Coming out of Puerto Rico, where I grew up, speaking no English. By myself, basically, as a young kid. Going through the minor leagues, fighting through it, the ups and downs, and playing finally in the big leagues and having success."
Smith was another Today's Game Era Ballot selection after racking up 478 saves. He held the all-time saves record for 13 years and also compiled a 3.03 ERA.
Smith used his speech as an opportunity to explain the mentality he had as a professional baseball pitcher for 18 seasons.
“No matter where I pitched, I always wanted to embody two traits,” Smith said, “loyalty, to the team and my teammates (I never wanted to disgrace the uniform), and dependability, as a teammate and as a pitcher. It didn’t matter when I was given the ball — seventh, eighth, or ninth inning — no matter how many innings I pitched, as long as I could unpack the game and help my team. I truly believe from all walks of life, if you work hard and if you are loyal and dependable you can really find success.”
It ended up being fitting that the man who currently holds the all-time saves record closed out the ceremony. Rivera became the first player to ever receive 100% of the vote for the Hall from the baseball writers, getting unprecedented respect 652 saves and five World Series titles with the New York Yankees.
Rivera addressed many topics, including his legendary cutter that many attribute his success to.
“The Lord gave me the best pitch in baseball,” Rivera said. “I was playing catch with Ramiro Mendoza, and I didn’t know what to do. Imagine a closer that doesn’t know where the ball is going to go. […] I told Mel [Stottlemyre], ‘You know, Mel, leave it like this, because whatever’s going to happen is going to happen.’ And I learned how to use that pitch. I used that pitch for 17 years, and I used it well.”
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