New York, NY—The four baseball legends, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martínez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio, who are the newest elected members of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York were at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City on Wednesday morning for the Hall’s annual press conference for its newest members.
Four is the largest number newly elected members since 1955 when Joe DiMaggio, Gabby Hartnett, Ted Lyons and Dazzy Vance were chosen. The three pitchers were chosen in their first year on the ballot is a new record. It is obvious after evaluating each of the players’ careers in its entirety, that each member of the Class of 2015 deserved the honor he has been given.
The press conference on January 7 was very upbeat as each of the elected was in high spirits and drew many laughs from those assembled in the Jade Room. Three of the four greats are connected to the New York metropolitan area.
Randy Johnson’s accomplishments earned him a vote of 97.3%, the eighth highest total in HOF voting history. The lefty had a career mark of 303-166 and an ERA of 3.29 with 4,875 strikeouts, second only to Nolan Ryan. During his lengthy big league career, 1988-2009, there were numerous impressive achievements in individual games and single seasons as well.
The 6’10” hurler was a 10-time All-Star, 9-time strikeout leader and 4-time ERA leader. He was a 5-time Cy Young winner, 4 years in succession (1999-2002). He is the oldest pitcher to throw a perfect game.
In January 2005, the Diamondbacks traded him to the Yankees. He played two seasons in the Bronx before being traded back to the Diamondbacks in January 2007. Johnson spoke with delight of playing in Yankee Stadium, “As a visiting player for 9 ½ years, there was no greater place to come to than old Yankee Stadium. I wanted to come to New York and be thrown in the fire. I loved every minute. I loved New York.” He spoke of Old Timers’ Days, when he was able to speak to Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra and Reggie Jackson and added, “Who wouldn’t love that.”
Johnson also talked of the controversy of those two years, “I maybe didn’t pitch as well as people wanted…Playing for the Yankees was at the end of my career [He began with NY at the age of 41.] I gave it everything I had [He pitched with a herniated disc in his back in 2006].” Johnson had a mark of 17-8 and 17-11 in his two seasons in the Bronx.
The irrepressible Martínez, who pitched at Yankee Stadium with its biggest rivals, the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets, quickly and humorously responded to Johnson, “You’re lucky Randy. Having to face the Yankees as a visiting player with the Red Sox, the Yankees fans wanted to intimidate you, but they recognized greatness.”
The four year veteran of the Mets, 2005-2008, contrasted the fans of the two New York clubs, “In Queens, they are wild and happy. They settle for what they have, but Yankee fans cannot-[it’s] win or nothing.”
Martínez then spoke more seriously of his feelings of playing in New York, “I really enjoyed the time in New York. I learned a lot. I have no complaints about being in New York. I loved it here.”
Johnson and Martínez played in New York, but Craig Biggio was born on Long Island. He told the media on Wednesday, “I grew up an hour and 20 minutes from here in Kings Park, New York.” Biggio, whose entire career in the majors was in Houston, attended school in Kings Park, where he was a versatile and talented athlete. The high school football star was given a baseball scholarship to Seton Hall. At the college he was a teammate of future major leaguers Mo Vaughan and John Valentin.
Biggio was drafted by the Astros in 1987 and began his HOF career in the majors in 1988. Biggio’s 3,060 base hits ranks 21st in major league history. He was the only player to be chosen an All-star as a catcher and as a second baseman. In his third year on the ballot, he was elected with 82.7% of the votes.
The quartet will be inducted in Cooperstown, New York on July 26.