Baseball’s Newest Trio Of Hall Of Famers Fondly Reflect And Cautiously Deflect – Forbes
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum held its annual post-election press conference to introduce the Class of 2017 to the media. As the St. Regis Hotel in New York City hosted the hour long press conference in the shadows of Trump Tower, Baseball Writers’ Association of America secretary-treasurer Jack O’Connell couldn’t help himself but partake in some good natured humor pertaining to President-elect Trump. In his opening remarks, O’Connell assured the gathered audience that Russians had nothing to do with the election results and the only Vladimir mentioned in the room was Guerrero. He then went on to compliment the three newest members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum by saying they were the cream of the crop and as legitimate as can be. Some members in the audience actually raised an eyebrow or two expressing their personal disagreement with the statement. Even Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson reaffirmed O’Connell’s earlier comment by saying the ball players made it on their own merits.
As each of the newest inductees shared their opening remarks, the gathered audience obtained some insight as to how the three gentlemen will approach their Hall of Fame Weekend speeches at the Clark Sports Center on July 30th. While the newest inductees were deeply appreciative of the profound honor bestowed upon them, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez were reserved and men of few words while Tim Raines was loquacious and jocular. He poked fun at the baseball writers for finally getting it right and how he actually had hair when his eligibility on the ballot began in 2008. Raines even joked with Bagwell by saying the press conference was the first time that he had actually heard Bagwell’s voice. From Raines’ perspective, Bagwell never uttered a word or exchanged pleasantries with runners while playing first base for the Houston Astros.
Raines’ affection towards Hall of Famer Joe Morgan was quite obvious during the press conference. While they hadn’t spoken in three or four years, Morgan called Raines to congratulate him and you could tell it meant the world to Raines. Originally an athlete with aspirations for a football career, Raines’ mind was forever changed after seeing Morgan win back to back National League Most Valuable Player Awards in 1975 and 1976 for the Cincinnati Reds. Bill Adair, the scout who had signed Raines in the 1977 amateur draft, envisioned Raines becoming the next Joe Morgan. He knew he couldn’t play second base like his idol Morgan due to his “defensive paralysis” for the position, but Raines felt as if the outfield wasn’t as stressful as the infield and it would allow him to focus more on his offense as a leadoff hitter. In the same breath, Raines was quick to point out that he was a decent outfielder who lost a Gold Glove or two to center fielders. Andre Dawson, Garry Maddox, and Dale Murphy were regular Gold Glove Award recipients in the early to mid-1980s.
Usually, the post-election press conference introducing the newest members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum to the media has become synonymous with softball questions. However, the tone of the press conference immediately went from reminiscing about the minor leagues and extended spring training to the usage of performance enhancing substances. One brave baseball writer from the Associated Press (Ronald Blum) decided to broach the topic with Rodriguez as he sat on the dais with MLB Network cameras capturing every syllable. In an exchange that was awkward in every sense of the word, Rodriguez carefully dodged the initial question and expressed how he had worked hard both physically and mentally for twenty-one years. He went on to discuss how his discipline, conditioning, and preparation were keys to his success while playing the game the right way. Rodriguez is the first Puerto Rican player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility . He is also the youngest current Hall of Famer at forty-five.
Bagwell’s own awkward exchange with reporters pertaining to questions regarding performance enhancing substances occurred moments after the conclusion of the press conference. In a small gathering on the side of the dais, Bagwell discussed how the World Series appearance for the Houston Astros in 2005 was weird for him due to his shoulder injury and how he took great joy in the accomplishments of his teammates. Two of Bagwell’s fondest baseball memories are Craig Biggio’s 3,000th hit and Darryl Kile’s no-hitter against the New York Mets in September 1993. Bagwell was truly sincere when he discussed the relationships he has built with teammates throughout the years and various levels of professional baseball. Biggio told Bagwell that he will now build a bonding friendship with his Hall of Fame induction class.