Newest Hall electees complete journey to Cooperstown
Even the casual baseball fan knew that Adrián Beltré, Todd Helton and Joe Mauer were headed toward Cooperstown during their stellar playing careers that featured a combined 15 All-Star Game selections and 11 Gold Glove Awards.
But on Wednesday, the newest members of the Hall of Fame Class of 2024 made that trip a reality as they traveled from their homes to the home of baseball in advance of Thursday’s “meet the media” event in the Museum’s Plaque Gallery.
“Myself, my family, we’re truly grateful and definitely excited for what lies ahead to be a big 2024,” said Mauer, who became just the third catcher – along with Johnny Bench and Iván Rodríguez – to be elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year on the BBWAA ballot. “It’s an unbelievable honor: One, to join the group; and two, to join that group. I don’t think it’s fully sunk in.”
Beltré, Mauer and Helton will visit the Hall of Fame for the first time as electees at a media availability on Thursday, Jan. 25. The event will take place in the Museum’s Plaque Gallery, which features 342 bronze plaques honoring the previous 81 Hall of Fame classes. The trio was elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Jan. 23 and will join Jim Leyland, elected in December by the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee, as the Class of 2024.
Beltré, like Mauer a first-ballot selection, became the fifth player born in the Dominican Republic elected to the Hall of Fame, joining Juan Marichal, Pedro Martínez, Vladimir Guerrero and David Ortiz. A four-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove Award winner at third base, Beltre was named on 95.1 percent of all ballots cast – the second highest percentage of any electee born outside of the United States, trailing only Mariano Rivera’s unanimous election in 2019.
Beltré and Helton crossed paths regularly during the early 2000s when they both played in the National League West – with Beltré on the Dodgers and Helton on the Rockies.
“Helton was one of the guys I admired a lot, playing against him for a long time when I was in L.A.,” said Beltré, who became the first Dominican player in history with 3,000 hits and is the only regular third baseman in big league history (among those players who played at least half their games at third base) with at least 3,000 hits and 450 home runs. “He was a model of consistency and a great guy. I’m a huge fan of his.”
Helton, who was selected to five All-Star Games and earned three Gold Glove Awards at first base, was named on 79.7 of ballots cast in his sixth year as a BBWAA candidate. Helton played all 17 seasons of his big league career with the Rockies, joining Mauer – who played all 15 of his years with the Twins – as the 57th and 58th members of the Hall of Fame to play with just one MLB franchise.
“I was very lucky to be drafted by Colorado,” said Helton, whose career peak featured back-to-back seasons in 2000-01 with 400-plus total bases – becoming one of only four players in history with that distinction. “Not only is this a great place to hit in but it’s got great fans and great people running the organization. It was 17 good years. I’m not going to lie: I miss it. I didn’t think I would but I miss the competition of going out and playing every day.
Mauer, named on 76.1 percent of all ballots cast, spent the final five years of his career as a first baseman after concussion concerns forced his move from behind the plate. As a catcher, he was selected to six All-Star Games, won three Gold Glove Awards and became the first backstop in history to amass three batting titles.
“To receive that call (learning that he had been elected to the Hall of Fame) was amazing,” Mauer said. “I think that position (catcher), just having the impact you can have on the game… I loved having the ball in my hands. Obviously, I would have loved to extend my catching career. But I loved every minute of it.”
The Class of 2024 will be inducted on Sunday, July 21, in Cooperstown as part of the July 19-22 Hall of Fame Weekend.
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
HALL OF FAME WEEKEND 2024
The eyes of the baseball world will be focused on Cooperstown July 19 - 22, with the legends of the game in town to see history unfold during Hall of Fame Weekend.