Raines ready to take his place in Hall of Fame
Former Expos’ star recalls significance of Opening Day 1981
Tim Raines played in the major leagues for more than two decades, and yet one at-bat still sticks in his mind.
Nervous about making the Montreal Expos’ roster after two brief call-ups that didn’t work out so well (one hit in 20 at-bats), his performance on Opening Day 1981 in Pittsburgh erased any doubt.
Raines led off the game with a walk, stole second on the first pitch to the next batter and scored after the errant throw to second eluded the outfielders. A star was born.
“I think that was the beginning of the type of player Tim Raines could be,” Raines recalled. “It kind of got me going. I think if I would have struck out and not do anything offensively that game, I’m not sure what would have happened to my career. I hadn’t really proven to anyone what type of player that I was. It kind of just took off from there.”
His baseball journey ends Sunday in Cooperstown, when the 57-year-old Raines will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Joining him are Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez, along with former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, both elected by a veterans committee.
Raines received 86 per cent of the vote by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to easily top the 75 per cent threshold needed.
That tally came on his final year on the ballot, an oversight that’s difficult to fathom in retrospect.
The switch-hitting Raines batted .294 and had a .385 onbase percentage in his 23-year career, finishing with 2,605 hits, 1,571 runs and 808 stolen bases. The stolen bases is the fifth-highest total in major league history and includes 70 or more steals in each season from 1981-86, a streak that stands alone in baseball history.
Take a closer look at his accomplishments on the basepaths, and they are quite remarkable – his 84.7 per cent success rate tops the list among players with at least 400 steal attempts.
Raines credits his fortune to the increasing popularity of sabermetrics, advanced statistics that give greater insight into a player’s worth.
Tim Raines throws out the ceremonial first pitch prior to an interleague in Toronto on April 11.