BBWAA Class of 2019 overwhelmed by Hall Call

Written by: Bill Francis

The whirlwind journey for the men elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America as the Hall of Fame Class of 2019 – including the first-ever unanimous electee – is just beginning.

But the emotions following that highly anticipated phone call were those of players who spent much of Tuesday night looking back at their incredible careers.

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Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera and the late Roy Halladay were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday, Jan. 22. The results of the 75th BBWAA Hall of Fame election were revealed live on MLB Network, with Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson announcing the results to a nationwide audience.

“Thanks to the Baseball Writers, the Hall of Fame just diversified and bolstered its roster in a very big way,” Idelson said. “And over time, the Hall of Fame Class of 2019 will be remembered as one defined by pure hitting and dominating pitching.” The Class of 2019 will be inducted during the July 19-22 Hall of Fame Weekend in Cooperstown.

For Rivera, the longtime closer for the New York Yankees, it was his first year on ballot, and he became the first BBWAA electee to receive 100 percent of the vote; Halladay, the polished and precise right pitcher, was also in his first year on the ballot and received 85.4 percent; Martinez, the righty-swinging Seattle Mariners masher who spent most of his time as designated hitter, received 85.4 percent in his 10th-and-final year on the ballot; and Mike Mussina, the consistent and reliable starting pitcher with 270 victories, received 76.7 percent in his sixth year on the ballot.

Rivera’s and Halladay’s election brings the total of first-year BBWAA inductees to 56 and marks the sixth straight year with at least one first-ballot inductee. Rivera and Martinez also become the 53rd and 54th Hall of Famers who spent their entire big league careers with one team.

The four newest Hall of Famers, who increase the total number of electees to 329, all played at least a portion of their careers in the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century, and totaled 33 All-Star Game selections.

Others on the 2019 BBWAA ballot who received votes on more than 50 percent of the ballots included Curt Schilling (60.9%; 6th year), Roger Clemens (59.5%, 7th year), Barry Bonds (59.1%; 7th year) and Larry Walker (54.6%; 9th year).

Within hours of learning of the life-changing news, the three living electees shared their thoughts during a series of media conference calls.

Rivera became the first player elected unanimously by the BBWAA. The highest percentage received by any candidate in the previous BBWAA elections was Ken Griffey Jr., who received 99.3 percent of the vote in 2016 when he was on 437 of 440 ballots.

“Being the first player to be unanimous is amazing. It’s hard to put into words how I feel,” Rivera said. “I wasn’t expecting to be a Hall of Famer when I was playing baseball. I was just happy to be in the big leagues and give the New York Yankees as many championships as I could.

“After my career I was thinking I had a good shot to be a Hall of Famer. But this is beyond my imagination. I was amazed. This is the pinnacle for anyone who played the game of baseball. Just to be considered a Hall of Famer is quite an honor, but being unanimous is just amazing.”

Rivera, 49, the relief ace born in Panama who spent all 19 of his major league seasons with the Yankees, retired after 2013 with a record 652 saves, surpassing the previous mark of 601 saves set by 2018 inductee Trevor Hoffman. A 13-time All-Star, he helped the Yankees win five World Series titles and seven American League pennants. Using his famed cut fastball, he led the AL in saves three times and finished with 40-or-more saves nine times, a record he shares with Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman. His career ERA of 2.21 is the lowest of any Live Ball Era pitcher with at least 1,000 innings pitched. In 96 postseason appearances, Rivera was 8-1 with 42 saves and a 0.70 ERA, winning World Series MVP honors in 1999 and ALCS MVP honors in 2003.

Halladay, who died in November 2017 at the age of 40, retired after the 2013 campaign because of back injuries. He pitched 16 seasons for the Blue Jays and Phillies while compiling a career record of 203-105 and a 3.38 ERA. Capturing Cy Young Awards in 2003 and 2010, the eight-time All-Star led his league in complete games seven times, the most of any pitcher whose career started after World War II. A three-time 20-game winner, “Doc” led his league in innings pitched four times, shutouts four times and victories twice.

In a statement released by Brandy Halladay, Roy Halladay’s widow, she said: “Being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame is every boy’s dream. To stand on that stage in Cooperstown and deliver your acceptance speech in front of baseball’s most enthusiastic fans is something that every baseball player aspires to achieve, and Roy was no exception. But that was not Roy’s goal. It was not his goal to have those three letters after his signature. His goal was to be successful every single day of his 16-year career. Tonight’s announcement is the end result of that effort. If only Roy were here to personally express his gratitude for this honor, what an even more amazing day this would be. I would like to extend special thanks to the baseball writers for the overwhelming percentage of votes that Roy received in his first year on the ballot. It means so much to me, Braden and Ryan (Halladay’s sons).”

Halladay threw two no-hitters for the Phillies during the 2010 season, the first a perfect game against the Marlins on May 29 and then a no-hitter against the Reds in Game 1 of the NLDS, making Halladay the second pitcher in postseason history to throw a no-hitter following Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series.

Martinez, who called Seattle home for all 18 of his big league seasons, was a seven-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger Award. A two-time American League batting champion, he led the AL in on-base percentage three times, topped the 20-homer mark in eight seasons and drove in 100-or-more runs six times. Batting .300 in 10 different seasons, he finished his career with 2,247 hits, 309 home runs, 514 doubles and a .312 batting average.

“Thank you to all the writers for the support through the last 10 years, especially this year. I’m grateful for your support,” said Martinez, who turned 56 on Jan. 2. “I really appreciate it very much.”

The converted third baseman was named the AL’s outstanding designated hitter five times, an award that is now named after him. When he retired, Martinez was one of only six players with a .300 batting average, .400 on-base percentage, .500 slugging percentage, 500 doubles and 300 home runs.

“I think not only mine, but Harold Baines’ career and David Ortiz’s career have really helped the future of the DH (regarding the Hall of Fame),” Martinez said. “The DH can help the team like any other position. The fact that Harold Baines and I got in this year is going to help the future of the DH for years to come. I think it will make a difference.

“I didn’t have any control of people’s opinion, so I kind of just hoped that things would change over time. I think over time it did change. Some of the Sabermetrics really helped. But at the beginning I didn’t feel like I had any control so I didn’t think too much about it.”

Mussina, 50, who pitched for 18 seasons for the Orioles and Yankees and was a five-time All-Star, got his Hall of Fame call when he, as a high school basketball coach, was still at practice.

“I’m obviously honored. Surprised a little bit. But I want to thank everybody for their support,” Mussina said. “This is my sixth year and it’s been a steady climb. I appreciate people staying with me and doing the research and feeling that I’m worthy of this honor.

“When you start doing this for a living you don’t ever expect to be on a phone call like this to talk about the Hall of Fame. I’m just really blessed and honored and thankful. A kid from the country that got a chance to go out and play a game and accomplish something like this is pretty amazing.”

Mussina finished his career with a 270-153 record, winning at least 10 games 17 times. A seven-time Gold Glove Award winner, “Moose” became the oldest first-time 20-game winner when he reached the mark at age 39 in 2008, his final big league season. Retiring with 2,813 strikeouts, 19th-most all-time at the time of his retirement, he made 60 percent of his regular season starts in such hitters’ ballparks Fenway Park, Oriole Park at Camden Yards or Yankee Stadium, playing for teams in the AL East for his entire career.

“The game is always evolving. It’s going to be tremendously challenging for someone to ever get to 300 wins again,” Mussina said. “I don’t know if this changes how writers will feel about pitchers. I’m glad they felt that way about me. I’m honored that what I was able to do was enough to get their vote.

“I was hoping for an improvement again, but I wasn’t really expecting to jump from 63 (percent) to about 75 (percent) that quickly. I was caught a little bit off guard. It’s been a little crazy the last couple of hours, but it’s pretty cool.“While it’s happening you don’t really sit back and think about what you accomplished because you’re always looking to go out there and have another good season. When it’s over, when you step away from it, you get a chance to look back and really figure out if you think you did some good things and watch the game continue to go on and compare how guys are doing now versus how it was 10 or 15 years ago.

“I had a great career, I got out at the right time for me and for my family, and I’m just glad that people thought that I did a good enough job that I got elected to Cooperstown.”

The four BBWAA electees will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame at 1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 21, at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown along with a pair of Today’s Game Era Committee electees, Windy City legends Lee Smith and Harold Baines, who were elected in December.

J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Jayson Stark and Ford C. Frick Award winner Al Helfer, who passed away in 1975, will be honored during Induction Weekend at the Awards Presentation on Saturday, July 20, in Cooperstown.

Bill Francis is the senior research and writing specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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