ROCK AND ROLE MODELS: INDUCTION A FAMILY AFFAIR
Before the start of Sunday’s National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, there were some fathers and sons playing catch near the back of the field behind the Clark Sports Center, far from the stage.
It’s the way baseball dreams start for young boys. Jeff Chitwood recalls playing catch as a boy in his backyard in New Franklin, Mo., and asking his father Jack if there was a really good player — a fast player — in the major leagues. His father, a diehard St. Louis Cardinals fan, said Tim Raines of the Montreal Expos.
“Of course, we grew up around (Cardinals star) Lou Brock, so this was after that,” Jack recalled before the start of Sunday’s ceremony, saying Jeff was about four years old at the time. “He said: ‘OK, I’m Tim Raines.’ So from then on, when we played in the yard, he was always Tim Raines.”
On Sunday, Jeff got to see his favourite player inducted into the Hall of Fame. He brought his father, wife Pam and two daughters — Josie, 6, and Callie, 8. While Jack was wearing a Cardinals shirt, everyone else in the family was wearing Expos jerseys.
“Playing in the backyard, I was always Tim Raines,” Jeff said. “I remember being out back playing and always pretending I was him … wearing a Montreal Expos helmet.
“I always said the first time I would come up here to Cooperstown was when Raines would be inducted.”
During his induction speech, Raines said his love for baseball started by watching his father Ned play for the semi-pro Sanford Giants in Florida.
“I was a proud little three- or four-year-old kid watching my dad roam in centre field,” Raines said. “He showed me baseball for the first time.”
Raines also recalled his father coming home after working 10-hour days in construction, ready to race against him and his four brothers.
“My dad was a pretty fast runner back in his day,” Raines said. “Tommy, Levi, Ned Jr. and myself and Sam used to go out on the side of the house and we would commence to race to see who could beat Pops. It took us a while … well, it took them a while. Finally, that one day came I had my mind made up that he wasn’t going to beat me today and, sure enough, we took off and I was able finally to beat my dad in a race. That was the last time he raced us. He taught me to compete.”
Raines also remembered his mother Florence always being there to watch him compete, whether it was in baseball, football, basketball or track.
“She pushed me … not in a way by saying do this or do that,” Raines said. “But she always made me smile and that smile made me go out and do the things that I was able to do.”
Four busloads of Expos fans made the trip from Montreal Sunday for Raines’s induction ceremony, but they weren’t the only ones cheering for him.
Jody Yerdon, who is from Watertown, N.Y., was also in attendance wearing an Expos jersey with Raines on the back.
“When I was a child, my parents took me to Canada’s Wonderland and I just associated Canada as a fun place,” Yerdon said. “I was 3 or 4 at the time. The Blue Jays became my American League team and the Expos were my National League team. Growing up, Tim Raines was always a favourite of mine and I know as far as the Expos go this could be our last inductee. So I didn’t want to miss this and I wanted to share it with my son today.”
Son Emmett, 6, was wearing a Washington Nationals jersey with Strasburg on the back. Emmett’s favourite player is ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg and he roots for the Nationals, the team the Expos became when they left Montreal after the 2004 season.
“Just because the laundry changed doesn’t mean we have to,” Yerdon said about his son’s jersey.
In his new book, Rock Solid: My Life in Baseball’s Fast Lane, Raines wrote: “My dad wanted more than anything for his children to have opportunities he had missed out on during a lifetime of working his fingers to the bone. He knew that sports represented a path to a better life, and while he realized that making it as a pro athlete was far from guaranteed, he thought his sons should at least have the chance to pursue that goal.”
One son is now a hall of famer.
I always said the first time I would come up here to Cooperstown was when Raines would be inducted.
Tim Raines gives his speech at the National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Sunday in Cooperstown, N.Y.