On Sunday, six new inductees entered Cooperstown in what appears to be the largest living class since 1939, when 11 players (including such names as Cap Anson, Charles Radburn, Al Spalding, and by Special Election, Lou Gehrig) were enshrined in the Hall. Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome, Trevor Hoffman were elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America back in January, while Jack Morris and Alan Trammell were inducted by the Modern Baseball Era Committee in December.
Jones, 46, garnered 92.7 percent of the vote in his first year on the ballot. The switch-hitting third baseman (eight-time All-Star, 1999 NL MVP, 1995 World Series champion) congratulated his fellow inductees and expressed his wish that former teammate Andruw Jones — still up for election in 2019 — makes it into the Hall one day.
Among the anecdotes Jones delivered in his speech, he mentioned a formative meeting with fellow Hall of Famer Willie Stargell while batting in rookie ball. Stargell advised the rookie to get a bigger bat, quipping, “Son, I’ve picked my teeth with bigger pieces of wood than this.”
At the conclusion of his speech, Jones announced that his wife, Taylor, is due to give birth to the couple’s second son on Monday. They’ll name him “Cooper” in honor of Chipper’s enshrinement in Cooperstown.
Thome, 47, was another first-timer on the ballot and received 89.8 percent of the vote. A prolific power hitter and first baseman (five-time All-Star, Silver Slugger winer, 2003 NL home run leader), Thome called Cooperstown the “ultimate fraternity” and thanked the ballot writers and fans for the honor and support as he joined his fellow players in the Hall.
“The Hall is also a place where players and fans come together to celebrate the game that has no borders, no boundaries and will forever be defined by its timeless nature,” he told the crowd. “Even though the cell phone may have replaced the transistor radio and iPads are more common than the sports page, baseball is still played the same way: between the lines.”
He then went on to thank each of the six teams he played for over the course of his 22-year career, as well as many of the staff, players, family and friends who shaped his time with them. “Baseball is beautiful, and I am forever in its service,” he concluded.
Guerrero, 43, got 92.9 percent during his second year on the ballot, making the former right fielder (nine-time All-Star, eight-time Silver Slugger winner, 2004 AL MVP and former leader in career hits by a Dominican-born player) the youngest inductee to enter the Hall of Fame to date. In the briefest speech of the day, he thanked his parents, his hometown of Dan Gregorio, the city of Montreal, Quebec for giving him his first opportunity in Major League Baseball, and sent well wishes to “all the pops” in the Dominican Republic (July 29 is Father’s Day).
Hoffman, 50, nearly made it into the 2017 class, but missed by five votes. This time around, he was ushered into the Hall with 79.9 percent of the vote. The former closer (seven-time All-Star, 1998 and 2006 NL saves leader) singled out his coaches, managers and teammates in recognition of their influence on his career. “There’s no statistic that can quantify what you mean to me,” he said, “but there is a word, and it’s ‘chemistry.'”
Morris and Trammell were elected by the Modern Baseball Era Committee from a pool of nominees that included Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Marvin Miller, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons and Luis Tiant.
Trammell, 60, was inducted by the Modern Era committee after failing to make the Hall after his 15th try on the BBWAA ballot in 2016. The shortstop (six-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner, three-time Silver Slugger winner, and 1984 World Series MVP) took special care to thank former Tigers second baseman Lou Whitaker, who was conspicuously absent from the Modern Era nominees this year: “My whole career, I’ve been linked with one person. For 19 years, Lou Whitaker and I formed the longest-running combination in baseball. I doubt that record will ever be broken. […] For all those years, it was Lou and Tram. Lou, it was an honor and a pleasure to have played alongside you for all those years. It is my hope that someday you’ll be up here as well.”
Morris, 63, also failed to make Cooperstown after falling short by 13.5 percent during his last year of eligibility in 2014. The right-hander (five-time All-Star, four-time World Series champion, and 1991 World Series MVP) revealed the “hardest out” of his career in a detailed recounting of his showdown against Carl Yastrzemski. He then admitted that the moment was “nothing” compared to facing Hall of Fame slugger George Brett for 15 years.
Morris also expressed his gratitude after being inducted in the same class as former teammate Trammell: “We signed together in 1977, spent 13 years together in Detroit and 42 years later, Cooperstown. Wow.”
As Bill noted during the BBWAA’s Hall of Fame announcement earlier this year, 15 players with five to 75 percent of the vote will return for reconsideration on the 2019 ballot: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Fred McGriff, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Gary Sheffield, Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling, Scott Rolen, Sammy Sosa, Omar Vizquel, Larry Walker and Billy Wagner.
The next Hall of Fame induction ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, July 21, 2019.