Photo credit: espn.com
By: Amaury Pi-González
In Cooperstown, New York this weekend six players will have the weekend of their lives with their families, friends and fans as their names will be engraved into immortality in alphabetical order: Harold Baines, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martínez, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera and Lee Smith.
Cooperstown is a beautiful small town that’s best known as the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
For the greatest Hall of Fame in all American sports, this is their World Series, their Superbowl, their Olympics and their World Cup altogether. Dozens of living inductees will be on hand to welcome the new class of six. The last time I visited Cooperstown, it was part of a vacation to the east coast in November 2009. From the Bay Area by plane to Miami and then up to New York, where I bordered a train from Penn Station to Albany, NY. There, in Albany, I had a rental car awaiting and from there I drove to Cooperstown, driving through beautiful green rolling hills country. The whole trip takes about 5 hours and I recommend to anybody that has the time to do it. It is truly a nice relaxing trip. Cooperstown reminds me of the movie “Back to the Future” with old brick buildings and where you feel it is 1952 all over again.
Two of the six players that will be inducted have a direct connection with the Bay Area. Harold Baines, who played with the Oakland A’s from 1990 to 1992, played a total of 22 years for various clubs, ending with 2,830 games, 2,886 hits, 1,628 runs batted in, 384 home runs and a solid .289 batting average. A designated hitter for a great part of that stellar career.
Mike Mussina attended Stanford University where he pitched for three years. He was one of the most consistent pitchers in the majors for 18 years (10 with the Yankees and eight with the Orioles). He won 270 and lost 153 with a 3.58 ERA, 2,813 strikeouts and 57 games completed in 3,562 innings pitched.
The other four will be Roy Halladay, whose family will be accepting in his behalf. He died on November 2017 as his small private plane crashed in the Gulf of Mexico. Halladay won two Cy Young Awards hurled a perfect game plus a no-hitter during playoffs with Philadelphia. 16 years with Toronto and Philadelphia, won-lost 203-105 with a 3.38 ERA who also completed 67 games. Roy “Doc” Halladay was one of the last pitchers that everybody expected to complete the game he started. I can only imagine if he was with us, what would Doc say about the new craziness by some teams to use an “opener” which is a man that would be scheduled to pitch only the first inning.
Edgar Martínez is one of only two players inducted this year that played their whole career with the same team. The Seattle Mariners from 1987 to 2004. He originally was a third-baseman, but became one of the best pure hitters of his generation as a DH. 2.056 games, 2,247 hits, 309 home runs and 1,261 runs batted in and a combined .312 average. He hit over .300 in 11 of his 18 seasons and he had the eye of an eagle, struck out only 1,202 times in 8,674 trips to the plate. I used to call him “el oportuno” (translation: “the clutch one”) because he was the type of hitter you want with the winning run on base, he will not disappoint.
Lee Smith. About time! This man should have been inducted many years ago. He was a great reliever. During 18 years saved 478 and pitched for Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, NY Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, California Angels, Cincinnati Reds and Montreal Expos.
Mariano Rivera. Born in Panamá, the land of the great Hall of Famer Rod Carew, Rivera was the greatest closer in the history in this position. With a cutter from heaven he saved an incredible 652 games with a 2.21 ERA in 1,115 games,1,283 innings pitched with 1,173 strikeouts. It would be safe to say that this save record is safe and might not be broken during mine, yours, your kids and their kids years unless if baseball invents another crazy rule. Rivera only played for one club, the New York Yankees, from 1995 to 2013. He is a wonderful man who is truly an idol in his native Panamá. Also, a real gentleman. Every time I interviewed Rivera, he conducted himself with great professionalism. We were truly privileged to have witnessed his career.
Congratulations to all! They represent the best of the best.