Second Largest Hall of Fame Crowd in History Welcomes Cooperstown's 5 Inductees
Fom the desk of Jon Shestakofsky
Baseball Hall of Fame
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – The induction of the five newest members of the Ball Hall of Fame on Sunday featured the largest gathering of Hall of Famers in history.
Fifty-three returning Hall of Famers were on hand for the induction of Harold Baines, Colorado native Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera and Lee Smith were inducted with 53 returning Hall of Famers in Cooperstown on Sunday, bringing the total number of Hall of Famers in town to a record 58.
The estimated crowd of 55,000 fans was the second-largest in history, trailing only the 82,000 fans that attended the 2007 induction of Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken.
Mussina opened the ceremony on a steamy 84-degree day by recognizing all the friends who brought him to this point.
“I’m standing up here with the best who ever played the game,” Mussina said. “So the obvious question are: What am I doing up here, and how did this happen? I need to thank everyone who was on this journey with me. You’re all a part of a giant jigsaw puzzle.”
Brandy Halladay represented her husband on the stage and received the same standing ovation as the other members of the Class of 2019 when she was announced.
“Anyone who thinks that baseball isn’t truly a family hasn’t been involved in baseball,” said Brandy, who was overcome with emotion during her seven-minute speech. “The thank yous could and should go on for days.”
Harold Baines was also filled with emotion at the podium, speaking for 10 minutes – mostly about his family and Maryland home.
“I’m not an emotional man, except when it comes to family,” Baines said. “Somewhere, some place in my career, I acquired a reputation for not saying much. Well, my father told me: Words are easy. Deeds are hard.”
A huge crowd of Mariners fans welcomed Edgar Martinez to the Hall of Fame, celebrating the Puerto Rican’s induction into the Hall of Fame.
“Seattle fans, thank you for being there for me,” Martinez said. “This is a day I could have never imagined happening when I was growing up in Puerto Rico or in the minor leagues.”
Smith, who held the all-time saves record for 13 years, served as the Ceremony set-up man and shared the secret of his success.
“No matter where I pitched, I wanted to embody two traits: Loyalty and dependability,” Smith said. “I truly believe in all walks of life, if you work hard, and you are loyal and dependable, you can find success.
Rivera closed the Ceremony with a reference to his legendary ability to finish games.
“What I want to know is why I always have to be last,” said Rivera, the all-time saves leader who was a part of five World Series winners with the Yankees. “But I guess it all worked out OK.”
Other highlights from Sunday included:
**The 2019 Award Winners were acknowledged on the Induction Ceremony stage: J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Jayson Stark of The Athletic and the late Al Helfer, who was named the 2019 Ford C. Frick Award winner for broadcasters. Former Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson, who retired after 25 years of service to the Hall of Fame, was also honored*.*
**Sunday’s estimated crowd of 55,000 fans at the Clark Sports Center marked the second-largest crowd in Induction Ceremony history behind only the record 82,000 fans who attended the 2007 Induction Ceremony – and the second straight year that a crowd of more than 50,000 fans attended the Induction Ceremony. In five of the last six years, at least 45,000 fans have attended the Induction Ceremony.
**Yankees legend Bernie Williams gave a jazzy guitar rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner and Take Me Out to the Ballgame, with a few notes of Metallica’s Enter Sandman thrown in to honor his former teammate Mariano Rivera, who entered games to that song.
**For the second straight year, the Hall of Famers paid a stirring tribute to their compatriot Henry Aaron with a standing ovation as he took the Induction Stage with Class of 2018 inductee Jim Thome. A record 58 Hall of Famers – including the Class of 2019 – were in Cooperstown to participate in the Induction Ceremony. The previous record of Hall of Famers in town for an Induction Ceremony was 57 in 2019.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2020 Induction Weekend will take place July 24-27, with the Induction Ceremony scheduled for July 26.