Mr. 100% and his fellow new members of the Hall of Fame gathered in Manhattan on Wednesday to meet the media as they basked in the glow of their new status as immortals from the baseball field.
The glass barrier has been broken as Mariano Rivera elicited the full support of the 425 members of the BBWAA who submitted ballots for this year’s class. A total of 428 ballots were issued, but three members chose not to turn them in, thus allowing Rivera to reach that 100%. Had those ballots showed up in the mail (members had until Dec. 31st to submit them), perhaps Rivera might not have set a new precedent.
Rivera, Mike Mussina (who garnered 76.7% of the votes), and Edgar Martinez (who reached 85.4% of the vote in his last year of eligibility) were of course humbled by the proceedings and what was yet to come.
“Thank you for the great honor,” Martinez summed up in a brief acknowledgement.
“I’m a little surprised I’m even here,” said Mussina. “Thank you to the writers for their support, and I thank the 20% support to those guys my first year (of eligibility). We all appreciate it, especially me and Edgar, who have been on the ballot a few years. I’m thrilled to be who I’m sitting with (Mo and Martinez). And congratulations to the Halladay family.”
Roy Halladay, who passed away tragically while piloting an aircraft in 2017, also accrued the necessary support with 85.4% of the vote and will be inducted posthumously along with Rivera, Mussina, and Martinez in Cooperstown on Sunday, July 21.
Rivera, of course, was particularly jovial, and as always, extremely humbled by the recognition.
“To my wife and family and the baseball writers, you guys are the best,” he said with his broad infectious smile.
“Coming from a small fishing village in Panama, speaking about the Hall of Fame is something very special you can’t comprehend.”
Mo joked with his new Cooperstown “teammate” about the success that DH from Seattle enjoyed against him, batting over .500 in those crucial at-bats.
“Edgar, you owe me dinner.”
When a writer asked Martinez about batting .579 against Rivera, Mo jumped the response with a proper dose of sarcasm: “Why do you have to say that? Don’t say that number!”
Martinez admitted it was never a comfortable at-bat against Rivera, despite his success.
“When you got a hit off Mo, it didn’t feel like you got a hit. He threw me a sinker, his first sinker…weak fly ball to left field. We go home (referring to the Yankees’ success against Seattle in the 2000 ALCS). I want to trade all my hits just for that at-bat.”
When asked for their favorite or best moments, Martinez recalled the time Seattle beat the Yankees in a postseason matchup, the ‘95 ALDS. The longtime DH got the hit that scored Ken Griffey, Jr. to send the Yankees packing – double to left off Jack McDowell in the 9th.
“We didn’t know if we were going to move to Tampa or stay in Seattle,” said Martinez, when the Mariners franchise was said to be considering a new location. “I think (my hit) was one of the reasons the team is still in Seattle.”
It was, and is, Edgar.
Mussina recalled the time he came out of the bullpen, of all places, to save the day – Game 7, 2003 ALCS against Boston, the game current Yankees manager Aaron Boone had his moment with a game-winning home run off Tim Wakefield in the bottom of the 11th to send the Yankees to the World Series. Mussina relieved Roger Clemens and threw three innings with three strikeouts and no runs.
“I was never asked to do that before (relieve),” said Mussina. “The place is packed, Yankee Stadium, normally I go to the mound from the dugout, not the bullpen, and got a key ground out to get out of the inning.”
His other favorite moment also involved the Red Sox, winning his 20th on the last day of the season, knowing it was the last day of his career in 2008.
“The day before was rained out. We were going to play a split game double header. Joe (Torre) asked me which game I wanted to pitch. It looked like it was going to rain, so I said if we’re only going to get one in, I wanted the first one.”
For Mariano, everyday was special. “I just wanted the opportunity to play. My biggest moment was wearing the uniform, wearing the pinstripes day in and day out all those years. I wanted to represent the organization with class and dignity.”
You sure did, Mo. You sure did.
It’s going to be a crowded stage in July. The newly elected will also be joined by Lee Smith and Harold Baines, who were elected from last December’s special veteran’s committee labeled the Today’s Game Era. A group of 16 specially selected writers, executives, Hall of Famers and other baseball analysts voted on ten candidates, and as with the BBWAA vote, 75% support In this case, at least 12 votes) was required for election. Smith was named on all 16 ballots. Baines hit on 12.
There will now be 329 members of the Hall of Fame, 232 former players, 30 executives, 35 former negro league players, 22 managers, and 10 umpires. Interestingly, the BBWAA has elected just 132 of the players, while various Veteran’s Committees have elected the rest.
There are now currently 80 living Hall of Famers, with Tommy Lasorda, now 91, the oldest living Hall of Famer.
The scene up at Cooperstown this summer should be one of enormous controlled chaos, with a record crowd expected to attend. The current record holder Induction Ceremony was held in 2007, when Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn inspired over 75,000 fans to be on hand for the ceremony. It might not be an exaggeration to believe that some 100,000 or more will descend upon the quaint little upstate village where the myth lives that baseball was born in a cow pasture in 1839.
Spoiler alert – it didn’t exactly happen that way, but like believing in Santa Claus, the myth endures.
For those who’ve never been, the Induction Ceremony is a free event to the public, layed out across a large grassy field on the edge of town next to a large gymnasium complex. Baseball’s “Woodstock” is a fun event, attended by some 50-60 or more of the living Hall of Famers in addition to the newbies, so if you’d like to go, start making plans now, and good luck finding accommodations.