Baines, Smith awed by election to Hall of Fame
The duo, among the sport’s top players of the 1980s and ‘90s, learned on Sunday, Dec. 9, that they had been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame via the 10-person Today’s Game Era ballot that was voted upon by a 16-member electorate at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.
Baines and Smith will be honored at Hall of Fame Weekend July 19-22 in Cooperstown.
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“It’s a very special day. A lot of my friends are here. I’m just honored to be a part of this great fraternity that I’m joining. But I wasn’t waiting to get a call. I didn’t play the game for the Hall of Fame. I played the game to have a job and try and win championships.”
About memories spending the strike-shortened 1994 season together with the O’s, Baines joked he’d remember, “Watching Lee take a nap.” – in reference to Smith’s habit of napping during games prior to entering the contest.
According to Smith, he really enjoyed playing Baltimore. “Every day you would come out of the house and someone wanted to see if they could get tickets to the game. That’s a good feeling as a player. It means you have a sellout crowd for the rest of the season. That let you know what kind of product the organization was putting on the field that year. I really loved playing and wish I could have played there longer.”
The Windy City legends both got their big league starts and established their baseball credentials playing in Chicago in the 1980s – Baines with the White Sox and Smith as a Cub.
“(Chicago) means a lot to me,” Baines said. “They treated me like I was a Chicagoan. I’m not, but they always treated me with a lot of love. Even after I stopped playing they always respected the way I played the game.”
“(Chicago’s) home for me. Other than Louisiana,” said Smith, who lives outside of Shreveport, La. “If I have a choice about somewhere I want to be it definitely would be Chicago. The fans there have always, always pulled for me. No matter what ups and down the organization or team is going through, the Cubs fans always think of some fun and great memories there. Any chance I get to go back to that ballpark, it’s unbelievable.”
With bronze plaques awaiting them in the summer, Smith and Baines will be inducted in Cooperstown on July 21, 2019, along with any electees who emerge from the BBWAA election, to be announced on Jan. 22, 2019.
Bill Francis is the senior research and writing specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum