Excitement Builds for New Hall of Famers
Bobby Cox, Tom Glavine, Tony La Russa, Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and Joe Torre excited for July 25-28 Hall of Fame Weekend
With the anticipation building for Hall of Fame Weekend, the Class of 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame electees made it clear on individual conference call on Friday afternoon that they were ready for the big day.
With this year’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony scheduled for Sunday, July 27, the ledger of honored Cooperstown greats will rise with the inclusion of Bobby Cox, Tom Glavine, Tony La Russa, Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and Joe Torre.
“Since that morning in December it’s been sort of a whirlwind for me,” said former player and manager Torre, who happened to be also celebrating his 74th birthday on Friday. “I never allowed myself to think about the Hall of Fame very much. You always knew what the Hall of Fame represented, and it always got my attention when I was in the company of a Hall of Famer, and then all of a sudden, in a short period of time, I get a phone call and all of a sudden I’m in a different place. It’s been hard to describe.”
Torre not only totaled 2,342 hits in 18 big league seasons, but in 29 seasons as a manager, he led the Yankees to six pennants and became one of only five skippers to win at least four World Series titles (1996, 1998-2000). He finished with a record of 2,326-1,997, the win total ranking fifth all time. In his final 15 seasons as a manager, he led his clubs to the postseason 14 times.
“I’ve had so many well-wishers,” Torre said. “Of course my wife has put herself in charge of making sure all of our family members were alerted to the weekend, next weekend, and she hasn’t had any no’s. Everybody has said yes. So we’re going to have quite a group up in Cooperstown.
“The one thing I have to keep reminding myself, because if I think about it too much I get stressed out, but I have to make sure I just take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and just drink it all in and enjoy every bit of it.”
As for his induction speech, Torre claimed he had no clue how it was going to start but had a feeling by the time Sunday rolls around he’ll have a pretty good idea.
“There are so many people that were instrumental in being a part of what took place. And the acknowledgment of those people without having people think you are just reading names is so important to me,” Torre said. “I think it’s going to be a pretty nervous time for me. I think it’s probably going to be more nervous leading up to it than when I get up there to do it. I’m hoping that’s the case anyway because I don’t want to make a complete fool of myself and not really be able to deliver a message that I think is necessary.
“I think anything that means a great deal to you, there’s always a lot of anxiety attached to it, and then when the time comes you hope that you can speak from the heart.”
For Thomas, with the induction less than two weeks away, it still all feels like a dream.
“I don’t think anything is going to hit me until I get there next week,” Thomas said. “I’ve put a lot of thought into getting family prepared and getting a speech prepared and just going to have a great celebration being inducted into the Hall of Fame. My family is ecstatic.
“I’ve really been working hard during the baseball season with commentating nowadays, so I’ve kind of kept my mind off of this huge event. With a little more than a week out now, it’s a reality and I must be prepared and I’m getting prepared.”
In a career spent mainly with the White Sox, the powerful first baseman/designed hitter, the only player ever to string together seven straight seasons with at least 20 homers, 100 RBI, 100 walks and a .300 batting average, would capture back-to-back American League MVP awards (1993-94). The five-time All-Star ended his impressive career in 2008 with 521 homers, 1,704 RBI, a .301 career batting average, and a .419 on-base percentage.
“To be going in with this class with two 300-game winners and three of the most iconic managers ever, I’m really honored,” Thomas said. “I feel very fortunate going in with this class. I’m looking for a big crowd out there because it’s three great players and three great managers. I’m looking for a huge day – and that’s something that you can’t understand when you’re writing a speech. When you look out and see all those people out there, it could be something very special and it’s something very touching.
“When you get out there and the whole world is watching, the cameras are in your face, and this is your last hurrah, basically, as a player. I’m sure it’s going to be nerve-wracking,” Thomas added. “Guys come in with a huge speech and some of them can’t even finish the speech because they are so overwhelmed with emotions. I’m just going to continue to practice my speech so I can get through this thing because, yeah, there will be some moments there that will be tough for me.”
Glavine hopes some cooperation from longtime Braves teammate Maddux will allow him to extend the approximately 10 minutes he said all the Hall of Fame inductees are allotted for their speeches.
“I’m in the editing process now,” Glavine joked. “Of course, maybe Greg’s speech will be like his pitching and it will real quick so I will have extra time.”
Glavine spent the majority of his career with the Braves where he not only came away with the 1995 World Series MVP but also captured a pair of National League Cy Young awards (1991, 1998). The 10-time All-Star and five-time 20-game winner ended his big league career in 2008 with a 305-203 won-loss record, a 3.54 ERA and 2,607 strikeouts.
As for the rapidly approaching day of induction, Glavine admits the whole thing is starting to sink in a little bit more.
“Certainly excited about next weekend and the opportunity to get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame officially,” Glavine said. “I’m looking forward to a fun weekend and I’m sure more emotions than I can count on right now.”
Glavine’s manager with the Braves, Bobby Cox, was ready to respond when asked to comment on the upcoming celebration.
“I’m so excited I can’t put it into words to be honest with you,” Cox said. “I’m looking forward to it. I’m a little nervous right now. We’ve got the last things under way with all the kids, the grandkids, family, friends, and fans that are coming to Cooperstown. I think it’s going to be a little bit hectic for everybody, but I think it’s going to be one they can remember and cherish forever.”
The one-time infielder’s greatest accomplishments came during his second stint with the Braves, when, starting in 1991, he led the franchise to a string of 14 consecutive division crowns, five National League pennants (1991, 1992, 1995, 1996 and 1999) and a World Series title in 1995. After 29 seasons as a big league skipper, Cox retired in 2010. His 2,504 wins rank fifth all-time and include a franchise-best 2,149 victories with the Braves.
“As Tom Lasorda says, ‘You’re on top of the mountain now. You can’t go any higher,’” Cox said. “And that’s finally starting to sink in with me.”
Bill Francis is a Library Associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum