Ceremony an emotional time for newest class of inductees
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.