Esposito – A Six Pack Worth Celebrating for the Hall of Fame

COOPERSTOWN, NY – Unanimous will be the theme tomorrow at the Hall of Fame, as everyone agrees whole heartedly the BBWAA got it right inducting its first 100% approval entrant, Mariano Rivera.

Joining Mo on the stage in Cooperstown will be “rookies” Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez, Lee Smith, and Harold Baines. The late Roy Halladay also will be inducted, represented by his wife and family.

The ancient former movie theater in town, Smalley’s, long since converted into a baseball memorabilia shop, dedicated its marquee to baseball’s all-time saves leader (652) with the message: Enter Sandman: 100% Unanimous.

A record 59 of the 79 living Hall of Famers – including the newbies – are expected on hand to honor their fraternity, grandfathered by the current oldest living Hall of Famer, Tommy Lasorda, still friendly and simultaneously feisty at 91.

In a ceremony on Saturday at legendary Doubleday Field, longtime baseball writer Jayson Stark was feted with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing. Stark became the 70th writer to be so honored. The award began in 1962, with Spink, the publisher of The Sporting News commencing in 1914, as its first recipient, recognized shortly after his passing.

Baseball broadcasting pioneer Al Helfer was posthumously celebrated with the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting. Helfer, whose broadcasting career began in 1933, first recreating games of the Pittsburgh Pirates, became the 43rd broadcaster to receive the award.

Mel Allen and Red Barber were the first recipients, both in 1978.

Prior to these ultimate “graduation” ceremonies, the new Hall of Famers thoroughly enjoyed the prep and proceedings, a golf tournament, and the chance to be “rookies” again.

“They made sure they treat me like a rookie,” admitted an ebullient Rivera. “I say, ‘Rodney, can I do that?’ He say, ‘No, you can’t do that.’”

The Rodney that Rivera was referring to was fellow Panamanian and Hall of Famer Rod Carew.

Rivera was the proverbial kid-in-a-candy-store admiring his new “teammates.”

“I was sitting with Johnny Bench to my left and Rod Carew to my right, and I’m like, ‘Wow!’ It’s a blessing and I just want to soak it in.”

When asked to define his career, Rivera was succinct with what made him a great pitcher.

“Love, passion and determination to compete. That’s all I have when it comes to baseball. Just to give all I have. Respect the game, respect the other team, continue to go forward.”

He remembered the occasion of the 2013 All Star Game at Citi Field, of all places, as a moment of great satisfaction, when he was asked to close the game and the AL squad purposely had him take the mound without anyone else on the field to absorb the fan’s adoration solo.

“That was the greatest compliment that I got from my peers,” Rivera said. “That I give them my respect and they gave me the same respect back. The ovation that I go from both teams standing and applauding was amazing. I always say when you respect others, someway, somehow, you will get it back.”

Mussina embraced his new status with his usual smiles and quips.

“When you get to meet some of the guys who have been in the Hall a long time you start to get a sense of what it means. It’s a new experience. Right now it’s happening so fast, it’s hard to get a good feel for what’s happening.

“I’m just going to enjoy the moment. I got advice from all the guys on the speech. Don’t go too long. Don’t ramble. There’s a lot of guys talking tomorrow but I want to thank the people I need to thank and say what I want to say.”

Bernie Williams is expected to play the National Anthem on his guitar to kick off the ceremony.

Notable guests in the audience are expected to include: Joe Torre, Brian Cashman, Andy Pettitte, Joe Girardi, Lou Piniella, Hal Steinbrener, Lonn Trost, Robin Ventura, Ruben Amaro, Jay Buhner, Gene Clines, Jerry DiPoto, John Gibbons, Troy Glaus, Ozzie Guillen, Charlie Manuel, Jamie Moyer, and a former infielder who is projected to be seated on the stage one year from now – Derek Jeter.

The ceremony starts at 1:30 and will be broadcast on MLB-TV.

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