Historic Class of 2022 Inducted
Despite an ominous weather forecast calling for storms, the National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony – which lasted about 2 ½ hours – went off without nary a raindrop. While temperatures did hit the upper 80s on this Cooperstown field, the stage erected outside the Clark Sports Center – about a mile south of the Hall of Fame – included 48 returning Hall of Famers facing an estimated 35,000 fans and a live television audience on the MLB Network.
Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Forbes Clark began the ceremony by calling the Plaque Gallery “an extraordinary place.”
“As Joe Morgan, our late friend, a member of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 1990, and the past Vice Chairman of our Board, said, ‘Walking in the Plaque Gallery is like walking on holy ground,’” she added. “And there won’t be a man sitting behind me this afternoon that wouldn’t agree with him.”
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The Plaque Gallery began the day with 333 plaques: 263 players (only one percent of those to ever have played a major league game); 38 pioneers and executives, including the only female inductee, Effa Manley; 22 managers; and 10 umpires. By nightfall, that number will rise to 340 with the induction of seven more of baseball’s legends – Bud Fowler, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Miñoso, Tony Oliva, Buck O’Neil and David Ortiz.
“They have all had incredible baseball careers,” Clark said. “They define the greatness of the game with their character, integrity and sportsmanship.”
Speeches dominated the day, including those from living inductees Jim Kaat, the crafty southpaw who pitched for 25 years and won 283 games, Red Sox legend David Ortiz with his clutch play and his 541 dingers, and Tony Oliva, who spent 15 seasons with the Twins and captured three batting titles.
Those elected posthumously, including Bud Fowler, a Black star in the 19th century who was raised in Cooperstown; Gil Hodges, the slugging Dodgers first baseman who also managed the 1969 Mets to the World Series title; Buck O’Neil, a Negro Leagues stalwart as both a player, manager and advocate; and Minnie Miñoso, a native of Cuba who became an early Latino star in the big leagues, were represented on stage by family members, with Hall of Famer Dave Winfield speaking on Fowler’s behalf.
“I always tried to live my life in a way that supports others, that makes a positive influence in the world. And if my story can remind you of anything, let me remind you that when you believe in someone, you can change their world,” Ortiz said. “You can change their future. Just like so many people who believed in me. To everyone that believed in me, from my family, to coaches, to teammates, to fans, know I could not have done this without you.
“My Hall of Fame plaque represents each one of you and I’m going to thank you guys for the rest of my life.”
"I was able to live, and still am, a comfortable life for over 83 years. I had great parents. Grew up in a great community, Zeeland, Michigan. And I was gifted with the ability to play baseball. And I’m grateful for that.”
Coming to the end, Kaat inhaled and said, “I am humbled and honored to be included in this fraternity of some of the greatest players to play the game. And I thank you for being part of this wonderful day.”
Summing his day up, Oliva ended with a famous and funny quote that he’s fond of using.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you very much. And God bless you,” he said. “Baseball been very, very, very good to me.’”
Bill Francis is the senior research and writing specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum