Six players were inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, marking the 78th such class of inductees in MLB history. Following their election to the Hall in December and January, Mike Mussina, Harold Baines, Edgar Martinez, Lee Smith, and Mariano Rivera accepted the honor among an impressive gathering of their peers, while Brandy Halladay accepted the award on behalf of her late husband, Roy.
Mussina, 50, received 76.7% of the votes needed for induction in his sixth year on the ballot. Over an 18-year career split between the Orioles and Yankees, the right-hander was decorated with five All-Star designations and seven Gold Gloves, and led the league with 19 pitching wins in 1995. He capped his lengthy list of accomplishments in 2008, finishing with a career 270-153 record and a 3.68 ERA, 2,813 strikeouts, and 82.8 WAR.
During his induction speech, Mussina reminisced about his childhood memories of whiffle ball and Little League before launching into a few anecdotes from his career in Baltimore and New York.
“Since I received the incredible and surprising news of my election to the Hall of Fame back in January, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my journey to Cooperstown,” he concluded. “How did a kid from a small town in rural PA play enough whiffle ball to make it to the major leagues and pitch there for 18 years? I was never fortunate enough to win a Cy Young Award or be a World Series champion. I didn’t win 300 games or strike out 3,000 batters. And while my opportunities for those achievements are in the past, I get to become a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Maybe I was saving up from all of those almost-achievements for one last push, and this time I made it.”
Mussina chose not to select a team affiliation for his plaque in the Hall, as he told reporters he had too many fond memories with both the Orioles and Yankees to choose between them.
Halladay was just 40 years old when he was killed in a plane crash in November 2017. He was elected to the Hall in his first year of eligibility with 85.4% of the vote, an appropriate decoration for the late two-time Cy Young Award winner and eight-time All-Star. Over 16 years with the Blue Jays and Phillies, the right-hander consistently led the league in wins, complete games, and innings pitched. By the time he entered retirement in 2013, he carried a lifetime 203-105 record with a 3.38 ERA, 67 complete games, 20 shutouts, 2,117 strikeouts, and 65.4 WAR. Most impressive of all, however, were the two no-hitters he pitched for the Phillies in 2010: the first, a 1-0 perfect game against the Marlins, and the second, a 4-0 no-hitter against the Reds that marked just the second no-no to be tossed in postseason history.
In an emotional speech from Halladay’s wife, Brandy, she spoke to Roy’s dedication to his team and his family.
“I think that Roy would want everyone to know that people are not perfect,” she said. “We are all imperfect and flawed in one way or another. We all struggle, but with hard work, humility, and dedication, imperfect people can still have perfect moments. Roy was blessed in his life and in his career, and had some perfect moments, but I believe they were only possible because of the man he strived to be, the teammate that he was, and the people he was so blessed to be on the field with.”
Like Mussina, Halladay’s plaque will not feature a team designation, either. Instead, as mentioned several months ago, his family wants him to be remembered simply as a ‘Major League Baseball player’.
Baines, 60, missed his chance for election to the Hall through conventional voting procedures when he was dropped from the ballot in 2011, but was later selected by the Today’s Game Era Ballot in December 2018. A designated hitter and right fielder for a plethora of teams over the course of his 22-year career — including the White Sox, Rangers, Athletics, Orioles, and Indians — Baines earned consideration for the MVP award on four separate occasions and was named to the All-Star team six times. His multi-decade run petered out with the White Sox during his age-42 season in 2001, by which point he’d racked up a lifetime .289/.356/.465 batting line with 384 home runs, 1,628 RBI, and 38.7 WAR.
During his induction speech, Baines included a moving tribute to his late father. “So in the end, when you ask me why I’ve never been outspoken or said very much, think of my dad and the lesson he passed on to me many years ago, often when we played catch in the yard,” Baines told the crowd. “As he told me, ‘Words are easy, deeds are hard.’ Words can be empty. Deeds speak volumes, and sometimes they echo forever.”
Baines will enter the Hall as a member of the White Sox, the team for which he played 14 of his 22 years in the majors and helped to a World Series title in 2005.
Martinez, 56, was on the cusp of losing his ballot position when he was finally elected to the Hall with 85.4% of the vote. A prolific hitter by most standards, Martinez’s election caused no shortage of debates among voters who believed his designation as a lifelong DH hampered his eligibility for enshrinement. Those arguments were finally put to rest in January, making Martinez the sixth Mariners player to enter the Hall behind Gaylord Perry, Goose Gossage, Rickey Henderson, Randy Johnson, and Ken Griffey Jr. (though he’ll be just the second with Seattle’s logo on his plaque).
Over 18 years for the Mariners, Martinez was named an All-Star seven times, earned a Silver Slugger award five times, and was an instrumental part of the Mariners’ postseason efforts in 1995, 1997, 2000, and 2001. Having developed a fearsome reputation against some of the game’s best pitchers, he finished his campaign with Seattle sporting a .312/.418/.515 batting line, 309 home runs, 514 doubles, 1,261 RBI, and 68.4 WAR.
Martinez thanked many of his former teammates by name and made special mention of the fans who supported his Hall of Fame campaign over the last decade.
“I am so fortunate to have two homes, Puerto Rico and Seattle,” Martinez said. “Seattle fans, thank you for always being there for me. Since 1987, you gave me your unconditional support, and it was even more prevalent in the last ten years. The support you gave me over the social media really helped get me here today. […] This is a day I never could have ever imagined happening when I was growing up in Puerto Rico or when I was in the minor leagues wondering when my chance would come, and honestly, there were times over the last ten years I wasn’t sure it was going to happen. So thank you once again to everyone along the way who made this dream come true. “
Smith, 61, was unanimously elected to the Hall via Today’s Game Era Ballot last December after falling off the BBWAA ballot in 2017. A celebrated closer for the Cubs, Red Sox, Cardinals, Yankees, Angels, Reds, and Expos, the righty held the all-time saves record for 13 years — a mark that wasn’t surpassed until he passed the torch to fellow Hall of Fame inductee Trevor Hoffman in 2006. He hung up his cap in 1997, rounding out his 18 years with seven All-Star honors, 478 career saves, a 3.03 ERA, 1,251 strikeouts, and 29.3 WAR.
“No matter where I pitched, I always wanted to embody two traits,” Smith said, “loyalty, to the team and my teammates (I never wanted to disgrace the uniform), and dependability, as a teammate and as a pitcher. It didn’t matter when I was given the ball — seventh, eighth, or ninth inning — no mater how many innings I pitched, as long as I could unpack the game and help my team. I truly believe from all walks of life, if you work hard and if you are loyal and dependable you can really find success.”
Given his eight-year track in Chicago, Smith will enter the Hall with a Cubs designation on his plaque.
Rivera, 49, had the well-deserved honor of garnering the first-ever unanimous vote from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America during his first year on the ballot. A Yankee from his rookie season in 1995 through his final year in 2013, Rivera was a powerhouse closer, touting an MLB-record 952 games with 652 saves and a 205 ERA+ and pitching to a career 2.21 ERA, 1,173 strikeouts, and 56.3 WAR over 19 years in the majors. He was named to the AL All-Star team 13 times and helped the Yankees to five World Series titles, earning multiple postseason MVP awards in 1999 and 2003. While he never netted a Cy Young or MVP award during the regular season — despite placing among the top vote-getters on 15 separate occasions — he was honored as a Rolaids Relief Man Award winner five times and an MLB Delivery Man Award winner three times. The AL MLB Reliever of the Year Award is currently named for him as well.
“First of all, I don’t understand why I always have to be the last,” Rivera joked as he took the podium. “I kept saying that for the last 17 years of my career: ‘Why do I have to be the last one?’ I guess being the last one was special.”
After thanking his family, teammates, the Yankees organization, and the fans, Rivera ruminated on his long journey to the majors and the development of the cutter that made him so effective in New York.
“The Lord gave me the best pitch in baseball,” he told the crowd. “I was playing catch with Ramiro Mendoza, and I didn’t know what to do. Imagine a closer that doesn’t know where the ball is going to go. […] I told Mel [Stottlemyre], ‘You know, Mel, leave it like this, because whatever’s going to happen is going to happen.’ And I learned how to use that pitch. I used that pitch for 17 years, and I used it well.”
Rivera, naturally, will enter the Hall with the Yankees’ logo on his plaque.