Newest electees savor emotion of the moment
Anticipation and nervousness turned to relief and excitement as a quartet of the brightest stars in baseball from the dawn of the 21st century – Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman – received that life-altering phone call from Cooperstown.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2018, selected by the eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, on Wednesday, Jan. 24. The results of the 74th BBWAA Hall of Fame election were revealed at 6 p.m. ET live on MLB Network, Hall President Jeff Idelson opening a large white envelope on camera to reveal the results to a nationwide audience.
This year’s BBWAA ballot featured 33 players. Of the 422 ballots cast, 317 votes were needed for the 75 percent threshold necessary for election. And for the fifth consecutive year, the BBWAA elected at least two new members to the Hall of Fame.
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Jones played 19 seasons, including 13 years where the Braves made the postseason. An eight-time All-Star and the 1999 NL Most Valuable Player, Jones topped the 100-RBI mark nine times and had eight seasons with at least 100 runs scored. Among players who appeared in at least half their games at third base, Jones is the only major leaguer to record at least 1,600 RBI and score at least 1,600 runs.
Thome, who 22 seasons for the Indians, Phillies, White Sox, Dodgers, Twins and Orioles, is one of nine members of the 600-home run club, his 612 long balls ranking eighth on the all-time list. He recorded 100-or-more RBI nine times and scored 100-or-more runs in eight seasons. A five-time All-Star, he is one of only five players in big league history – along with Barry Bonds, Mel Ott, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams – with at least 500 home runs, 1,500 runs scored, 1,600 RBI and 1,700 walks.
“I would like to first of all thank the writers. So thankful for this great honor,” Thome said. “This is a day I don’t think any player can ever imagine happening and it’s just a great honor … It’s a special day in all of our lives.”
Later, Thome would talk about the Hall of Fame, a place he visited to deliver the balls that were swatted for his 500th and 600th career homers.
“I think walking through the front door gives you chills enough, and then you see the history of the game,” Thome recalled. “Going into the basement and putting on the white gloves and touching Babe Ruth items and Lou Gehrig and seeing the different gloves early in the stages of baseball and seeing how the game has evolved.
“I think the Hall of Fame is so magical. If you’re a baseball fan, you truly understand it. I think that was the driving force to take the 500 and 600 baseballs there because that’s where they should be. You’ve got all these great artifacts and items. One day doesn’t do it justice. You need to spend two or three to fully understand all the great things that are in that place. It’s just so special.”
Guerrero, who played 16 seasons for the Expos, Angels, Rangers and Orioles, earned nine All-Star Game selections and also won the 2004 American League Most Valuable Player Award. The eight-time Silver Slugger Award winner for his work in right field and at designated hitter, he hit .300-or-better 13 times, drove in 100-or-more runs 10 times and topped the 30-home run mark in eight seasons. The owner of two 30 home run/30 stolen base seasons, Guerrero is one of only eight players in big league history to have at least a .318 career batting average and a .553 slugging percentage, a list that includes Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams.
“First of all, thank you very much to the writers and to those who considered my career what it was and gave me the privilege of getting voted into the hall of fame in my second year on the ballot,” said Guerrero, through Spanish language interpreter and Angels broadcaster Jose Mota. “I’m thankful for being a Hall of Famer and being in the company of Trevor Hoffman, who I did not hit very well with that changeup, Jim Thome and his power, and Chipper Jones, who I played against for seven years and know the outstanding player that he was. Congratulations to all of them – I’m in great company. I’m proud of what I accomplished. I’m thankful to God, number one, for the family, and to be the first Dominican position player inducted into the Hall of Fame.”
Hoffman pitched 18 seasons for the Marlins, Padres and Brewers, spending 16 seasons in San Diego. The first pitcher to reach both the 500-save and 600-save milestones, he ranks second in big league history with 601 saves and second with 856 games finished. The seven-time All-Star, who finished in the Top 10 of the NL Cy Young Award voting four times, led the NL in saves twice and saved 40-or-more games nine times, tied with Mariano Rivera for the most such seasons all time.
“As much as you try and anticipate good news, be prepared for no call, when I saw the (212 are code), I remembered Tony [Hall of Famer and Padres teammate Tony Gwyn] talking about, ‘Until you really see it on your phone, you don’t know.’ It caught me off guard a little bit, it really did,” Hoffman said. “No matter how prepared you think you are, no matter what numbers are trending where – and it’s kind of hard to not pay attention to that - but I was optimistically excited. And then to ultimately hear Jack’s voice [BBWAA secretary/treasurer Jack O’Connell], I had to collect myself for a couple seconds. I didn’t want to lose it to the point that it would make people uncomfortable in the room. Getting to the point where I become uncontrollable because it was on the cusp.
“I’m an emotional guy. I kind of cry at the drop of a hat. It’s gotten worse over time. But it’s hard to describe the emotions that flood you right away. I know it’s a very standard line but so many things go through your mind – you think of your early days in the game, you think of parts of your career that you understand kind of what you put into on a daily basis. Sitting there at this stage seven years after you retire, it comes full circle. It’s kind of the cherry on top of the sundae.”
The four BBWAA electees will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame at 1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 29, at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown along with Modern Baseball Era electees Jack Morris and Alan Trammell, who were elected in December.
Ford C. Frick Award winner Bob Costas and Spink Award winner Sheldon Ocker will be honored during Induction Weekend at the Awards Presentation on Saturday, July 28, at historic Doubleday Field.
Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum