Cer­e­mony an emo­tional time for new­est class of in­ductees

The Denver Post - - OFF & RUNNING - By John Kekis

COOP­ER­STOWN, N.Y.» Ivan “Pudge” Ro­driguez stared out at his fa­ther, wip­ing away tears as he spoke.

“I love you with all of my heart,” Ro­driguez said. “If I’m a Hall of Famer, you’re a Hall of Famer — dou­ble.”

Those words punc­tu­ated Ro­driguez’s speech as he was in­ducted Sun­day into the Base­ball Hall of Fame. Jeff Bag­well and Tim Raines, along with for­mer com­mis­sioner Bud Selig and for­mer front-of­fice ex­ec­u­tive John Schuer­holz, also were in­ducted in front of more than 27,000 fans.

“This is such an in­cred­i­ble honor for me,” Ro­driguez said. “A lit­tle kid from Puerto Rico with a big dream. Never let them take your dream away from you.”

Ro­driguez, 45, holds ma­jor­league records for games caught (2,427) and putouts by a catcher (12,376). He hit 311 homers and bat­ted .296 in his ca­reer. He’s also only the sec­ond catcher elected on the first bal­lot, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of his child­hood idol, Cincin­nati Reds star Johnny Bench, who was seated on the dais be­hind him.

Bag­well, who played his en­tire 15-year ca­reer in Hous­ton, came to the dais draw­ing ex­tended ap­plause from the Astros fans who made the trip.

“You know I don’t like at­ten­tion,” Bag­well said with a tinge of ner­vous­ness. “I’m so hum­bled to be here. I’m just re­ally try­ing to fig­ure out what’s go­ing on.”

The 48-year-old Bag­well was one-third of the famed “Killer B’s” of the Astros, along with Hall of Famer Craig Big­gio and Lance Berk­man. Bag­well is the only first base­man in his­tory with 400 ca­reer home runs and 200 stolen bases.

Bag­well ended his ca­reer with 449 home runs and from 1996-2001 had at least 30 home runs, 100 runs scored and 100 RBIs per sea­son, only the sixth player in ma­jor-league his­tory to reach those marks in at least six con­sec­u­tive years.

Raines was greeted by scores of fans from Canada, many of whom came aboard sev­eral buses. He fo­cused on Hall of Famer An­dre Daw­son, his team­mate with the Mon­treal Ex­pos when he broke into the ma­jor leagues dur­ing the early 1980s.

“With­out An­dre Daw­son, there’s no telling where I’d be,” said Raines, who fought co­caine prob­lems early in his ca­reer. “I wanted to kind of be like you, and he fi­nally ac­cepted and I fol­lowed. Thank you so much for mak­ing me the player I be­came.”

The 57-year-old Raines, a switch hit­ter, bat­ted .294 and had a .385 on-base per­cent­age in his 23-year ca­reer, fin­ish­ing with 2,605 hits, 1,571 runs and 808 stolen bases. His stolen base to­tal is the fifth-high­est in ma­jor-league his­tory and in­cluded 70 or more steals in each sea­son from 1981-86, a streak that stands alone in base­ball his­tory. And his 84.7 per­cent suc­cess rate tops the list among play­ers with at least 400 steal at­tempts.

For Selig, who was cel­e­brat­ing his 83rd birth­day, it was a re­ver­sal of roles. For more than two decades, he gave out the Hall of Fame plaques on in­duc­tion day.

In 26 years as a gen­eral man­ager for the Kansas City Roy­als and At­lanta Braves, Schuer­holz stood alone. His teams won 16 di­vi­sion ti­tles, six pen­nants and two World Se­ries — one in each league, a first. He cred­ited di­vine prov­i­dence and fate for his good for­tune, start­ing with a case of Ger­man measles that left him deaf in his right ear at age 5, which he said forced him to be more at­ten­tive.

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