New Hall of Famers reflect on journey at Legends of the Game Roundtable

Written by: Aaron McCoy

Less than 24 hours after a whirlwind Induction Weekend, the newest members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame sat down for some reflection and relaxation at the annual Legends of the Game Roundtable.

Fred McGriff and Scott Rolen completed their momentous visit to Cooperstown on Monday morning, chatting with MLB Network’s Jon Morosi in front of an excited crowd at historic Doubleday Field. Welcomed with cheers and congratulations, the pair of inductees arrived moments after viewing their plaques on display in the Museum for the first time.

Hall of Fame Membership

There is no simpler, and more essential, way to demonstrate your support than to sign on as a Museum Member.

Official Hall of Fame Merchandise

Hall of Fame Members receive 10% off and FREE standard shipping on all Hall of Fame online store purchases.

“It was beautiful,” McGriff said of his seeing his bronze plaque on display after Sunday evening’s installation. “And better than that, yesterday, my older brother (Dexter McGriff) put in the (mounting) screws and everything, and so it was great for him to be able to have that opportunity. This morning, to go in there and for my family to take pictures with it – it was beautiful.”

Family has been a major theme throughout the weekend for both inductees.

“My dad (Ed Rolen) was able to go in with my family last night and turn the last screw on the plaque,” Rolen added. “That means the world to him and to our family for sure.”

Looking back on their careers, McGriff and Rolen each reflected back upon game some game-changing moments. For “Crime Dog,” it was his first-pitch home run off Cleveland’s Orel Hershiser in his first World Series at-bat that Morosi said “is still flying somewhere over Atlanta.”

“I’m usually an aggressive hitter,” McGriff said as he relived the moment that sparked the Braves’ championship series victory. “My first World Series appearance – you’ve got your butterflies. So the best way to get rid of butterflies is to swing at that first pitch. It was a huge moment.”

Finishing his career with 493 home runs, McGriff had 10 seasons with at least 30 long balls and was the first player in history to record a 30-homer season for five different franchises.

In Game 7 of the 2004 National League Championship Series, Rolen lit a fire of his own, tagging Houston’s Roger Clemens with a two-out, two-run big fly in the bottom of the sixth to clinch the NL pennant for the St. Louis Cardinals. Replaying the scenario, Rolen took the audience through his approach in late stage of the game.

“I was on deck and I was coming up. The (Astros manager) came out and they had a little meeting and they talked to Clemens,” the usually reserved Rolen began.  “I said to myself at the time, ‘If you leave him in, you lost.’ First pitch fastball and there it was. I could’ve popped it up to the catcher, who knows? But it worked out pretty well.”

Rolen’s reliability at the plate and in the field helped earn him seven All-Star Game appearances and eight Gold Glove Awards over his 17-year career.

The Class of 2023 had plenty of advice to impart on audiences and young baseball players this weekend, but simplicity and consistency stood out as major keys to their success. In an age where advanced metrics and analytics are often used to better one’s game, these Hall of Famers stressed the importance of going back to the basics.

“Simplicity is always the key,” Rolen said. “But there’s nothing simple about [baseball]. And to compound it and make it harder doesn’t make any sense to us because we’re always trying to make it as simple as we can. What’s wrong with a ground ball up the middle? Nothing!”

During the event, the relaxed atmosphere gave McGriff and Rolen time to answer some fun questions submitted by the audience at Doubleday Field, such as ‘who was the biggest prankster you played with?’

“Greg Maddux,” McGriff answered instantly. “You always had to keep your eye on him. Yesterday, I’m talking to somebody, and I feel someone trying to snatch my binder with my speech, and it was Maddux.”

“He tried to steal my binder yesterday and I didn’t even play with him,” Rolen added.

One Pennsylvania native asked Rolen about his time playing in the minors for the Phillies in Reading, Pa.

“That’s down home baseball right there,” Rolen answered, remembering the sights, sounds and smells of his days at a minor league ballpark. “We had some really good teams. I loved Reading.”

McGriff, who became the fifth member of the World Champion 1995 Atlanta Braves to enter the Hall of Fame, was asked how he developed his iconic helicopter swing.

“It started the first couple years in the bigs,” McGriff replied. “Hitting that little baseball is hard, and it’s probably the toughest thing to do in all of sports. You’re constantly making changes, so it developed through the years.”

In a busy weekend, this year’s inductees still had the chance to meet some new faces, as Rolen was excited to meet Class of 2007’s Cal Ripken Jr. and Class of 2018’s Jim Thome, while McGriff was able to have some great conversations with Class of 2001’s Dave Winfield.

With the weekend behind them and the rest of their lives to spend as members of baseball’s greatest teams, Rolen and McGriff look forward to spending time with family and relaxing for the rest of the summer.

“I’m looking forward to getting some sleep now,” McGriff laughed. “I got a big birthday coming up in October, so we’re going to take a little trip. It’s a beautiful thing.”

The Legends of the Game Roundtable closed the book on Hall of Fame Weekend 2023. The 2024 Induction Ceremony is scheduled for July 21.

Aaron McCoy is the 2023 public relations intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Leadership Development

Related Stories

McGriff, Rolen savor induction in Cooperstown

The Hall of Fame welcomed its two newest members Sunday as Fred McGriff and Scott Rolen were inducted.

McGriff’s 1994 All-Star Game homer was height of season

A month before the strike, Fred McGriff highlighted the 1994 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh.

Induction Eve brings smiles to Class of 2023

Golf, media availability and the 2023 Awards Ceremony highlighted the Saturday of Induction Weekend.

Induction Weekend begins with Ozzie Smith’s Turn Two

Ozzie Smith's Turn Two event and the arrival of more baseball royalty in Cooperstown highlighted Friday of 2023 Induction Weekend.

Legends arrive in Cooperstown to honor the Class of 2023

Three days before the 2023 Induction Ceremony, Hall of Famers begin gathering in Cooperstown for the weekend-long celebration.