Baseball Hall of Fame: Looking Back on the Class of 2019
Sunday was the day of speeches for the Baseball Hall of Fame inductees for 2019. Edgar Martinez, Harold Baines, Lee Smith, Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina, and Brandy Halladay, the widow of the late Roy Halladay. Sadly, I do not recall watching Lee Smith or Harold Baines growing up, but did have the privilege of watching the other four Hall of Fame players, especially in their prime. Here are some of my thoughts on each player.
Mariano Rivera was about as clutch as it got if the New York Yankees enjoyed a lead in the closing stages of any game, particularly in a big spot. Listening to him talk, it was easy to root for him. He came across as a very humble person grounded in his faith and family, conducting himself well. Even when the ending went against him, as it did in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, he was classy in defeat. Being a part of four World Series championships in a span of five years at the turn of the Millenium is what helped catapult him toward’s baseball’s summit. It was neat to see the fans wave the Panamanian flag in Cooperstown, New York.
Edgar Martinez had to wait for his turn for the Baseball Hall of Fame, but it was worth it. He was a part of the success of the Seattle Mariners in 1995. He helped them beat the New York Yankees in Game 5 the American League Division Series when the Kingdome was in existence. Major League Baseball commissioner Robert Manfred mentioned that on his plaque, he played from 1987 to 2004 all for the same team. Edgar was also on the 2001 team that won 116 regular-season games, hitting .306, just below where he finished his career. I remember that season as Ichiro Suzuki was on his way to stardom. Martinez played as a designated hitter and third baseman, winning two batting titles during his playing days.
Like many baseball players in today’s era, Lee Smith played for many teams. He was a right-handed pitcher that got voted in by the Veteran’s Committee. He went to Castor High School in Louisiana, then played college at Northwestern State. As hosts Greg Amsinger and Harold Reynolds pointed out during the MLB Network telecast, longevity was the theme. Smith spent eighteen years in the major leagues. He pitched almost 1,300 innings, saving 478 games.
Harold Baines started his career with the Chicago White Sox in 1980, a team he would spend fourteen years with. He went to Saint Michael’s High School in Easton, Maryland and his first big league game was against the Baltimore Orioles. A team he would play for down the road. He batted and threw left-handed. His career finished twenty-one years later where it began, at Comiskey Park. He ended with more than 2,800 hits.
Mike Mussina took the Hall of Fame stage chewing on something in his mouth, but there were no issues whatsoever. I thought it was cool that he resided close to Williamsport, Pennsylvania. He was a part of a national championship team with Stanford. He was on some playoff teams with the Baltimore Orioles in the late nineties before changing to the legendary pinstripe uniform in New York. If memory serves, he was within an out of not allowing a hit at Fenway Park during his four-year stint with the Yankees. I was surprised to find out that he did not win a World Series, but he joined baseball’s most decorated franchise just after their sustained run of the late nineties.
Brandy Halladay did very well under the tough circumstances in giving her speech about her late husband. She did everything in accordance with how she felt Roy would want to be talked about. It is hard to believe that nearly a decade has passed since he threw a rare no-hitter in postseason play. 2010 was really fascinating because of the excitement with the Texas Rangers, where I live, as they eventually made their way to the first of two World Series.
I remember waiting in line at a store to get a signed copy of a book when Game 1 of the National League Division Series took place. Philadelphia went on to sweep Cincinnati before losing to the eventual champion San Francisco Giants. However, it is not every year that a playoff game ends where one team holds another team without a hit. Halladay also had a fine tenure with the Toronto Blue Jays.
I came across a talk show on the radio. The topic being discussed had to do with whether baseball should be played with the ceremonies going on. In hockey, there was activity going on in the NHL a few years back when Hall of Fame speeches were given. The Pro Football Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies has not been held when the annual preseason game is played. I think they should either push all the games back to 3 pm Eastern Time like MLB does on the final day of the regular season after the speeches have been given, or they could start the regular season a day earlier so that Sunday’s speeches are done with no activity on the diamond. It seems odd to have games going on at the same time on a day where the game is being celebrated.
What do you remember about the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2019? Leave a comment below.
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Works cited: YouTube MLB Channel for the speeches of the Class of 2019, https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/SEA/2001.shtml, https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/PHI/PHI201010060.shtml, https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/smithle02.shtml, https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/baineha01.shtml