For Guerrero, Hall of Fame visit sums up remarkable career
“There were actually two calls – one call to say to expect a call and then 40 seconds later I got the call,” said Guerrero, wearing blue jeans and a gray sweater. “When I got it I felt very good. I was calm expecting the call and everybody else was nervous with anticipation.
“I’m the same. I’m still helping my folks back home,” he said with a smile. “I feel happy and my people feel happy. I’m the first one from my town, obviously, but I’m also the first Dominican hitter in the Hall of Fame.”
Of the 323 members of the Hall of Famer, only three were born in the Dominican Republic.
“There’s a lot of Dominican players and I feel happy to be the first Dominican hitter,” he said, “especially with Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez both being pitchers.
“I got home early to the Dominican (the Sunday after he was elected), but I did not get to my town until 9:30 at night. The whole town was out there waiting to congratulate me and to have a party.”
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Guerrero was elected in his second year on the BBWAA ballot, having received votes on 92.9 percent of the ballots cast with 75 percent needed. Soon after his election was made public, it was announced that he be sporting an Angels cap on his plaque, the first player to represent that franchise in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Guerrero began Thursday morning with a two-hour tour of the Hall from Museum Vice President of Exhibitions and Collections Erik Strohl. A trek through three floors of baseball history, Guerrero was introduced to the sport’s long past and some more recent history.
“When I came in 2015 I couldn’t come in,” said Guerrero when asked about the tour. “I liked the tour because I saw many things that I’d never seen or heard about before.”
Coming across a George Wright trophy bat from 1867, Guerrero joked it reminded him of a guava tree branch. Upon seeing a Ted Williams exhibit, he remarked he too liked fastballs high and outside, adding they “never pitched him down the middle.”
Hearing that Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda was a batboy on his father’s baseball team, Guerrero said, “A lot of batboys have been signed in the Dominican.” Asked about his youth, he told how use the core of a baseball and wrap it in socks to keep playing with it. And along the way he was able to see in the Museum’s Viva Baseball exhibit the bat he used for a 31-game hitting streak in 1999.
In the collections storage area in the Museum basement, Guerrero, wearing white cotton gloves, was allowed to swing a number of bats, including lumber belonging to Tony Gwynn, Pedro Guerrero, Willie Mays, Ted Williams and Babe Ruth, consistently holding them against an outstretched arm to sense their length and weight.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve held a bat in my hands,” a still fit Guerrero said with a wide smile.
The storage area also held a special Guerrero Expos jersey from 2000 in which Montreal Canadians hockey player Maurice “Rocket” Richard was honored.
And with Mother’s Day only a few weeks away, on Sunday, May 13, Guerrero was asked about the role his mother played in his life.
“My mom is everything,” Guerrero answered. “When I was five she went to Venezuela to work to help support us. And when I got to the big leagues she stayed with me every year, helped cook. So it was nice to have your mother with you in the big leagues. And she’s still in the states – she’s now with my son in Double-A.
“When we got the call (informing him of his election) she was there with me and she’s happy. We’re just waiting for July.”
Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum