Cooperstown to add six members this month

* Six new members will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown this month, including Frank Thomas, who spent two seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays. Other inductees are: Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre. .... 2014 Canadians drafted … Canadians in the Minors … Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent

By Bob Elliott

It’s a big Hall of Fame class in Cooperstown this month.

How big is it?

Well, six new members will be inducted July 27 in Cooperstown, N.Y..

Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas were elected by voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America in January.

Managers Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre were selected the month before by a 16-man, golden era group of the veterans committee.

So, that’s six living, breathing Hall of Famers who will take to the stage a year after three deceased newcomers -- Deacon White, Hank O’Day, and Jacob Ruppert -- were elected by the pre-integration committee.

There has not been six living inductees since 1971 when Satchel Paige, Chick Hafey, Harry Hooper, Rube Marquard, Dave Bancroft and executive George Weiss were elected. All, along with the late Jacob Beckley and Joe Kelley, were elected by either the veterans or Negro Leagues committees. And the last time there were at least six major league inductees was 1999: George Brett, Nolan Ryan and Robin Yount, along with veterans committee choices Orlando Cepeda, Nestor Chylak, Frank Selee and Joe Williams.

So, this is a special July with 56 Hall of Famers due to attend.

There was moaning and complaining in January -- why wasn’t Maddux unanimous? Why did Craig Biggio miss by two votes? How there were either 14 or 16 legitimate candidates on the ballot.

What kind of event would this be if there were 14 or 16 speeches? The Hall of Fame has inducted less than 1% of the total amount of those who have played the game.

Ozzie Guillen played for La Russa with the White Sox (1985-86) and Cox with Atlanta (1998-99), and he was a teammate of Thomas with the White Sox (1990-97) and played with Maddux and Glavine (1998-99) and is one of few ex-major leaguers who goes 5-for-6 knowing this year’s class.

Guillen had 550 plate appearances as a back-up infielder with the Braves and he asked Cox almost as many questions.

“Bobby gave me the opportunity to second guess -- wait a second ... not second guess, ask questions. He’s one of the reasons I became a manager,” said Guillen, who managed the White Sox and the Miami Marlins for a combined nine seasons.

“What did I ask? One night in the sixth inning he pinch hits and pulls a double switch, but didn’t use his best pinch hitter. I ask ‘why Bobby, why?’ Bobby said he was saving him for the ninth.”

The inquisitive Guillen then asked “and what if he doesn’t come up again?”

Cox replied “well ... we play again tomorrow.”

Guillen saw a lot of outstanding right-handed hitters in his day, like Hall of Famers Dave Winfield, George Brett and Paul Molitor. But the best was Thomas.

“Never saw a better right-handed power hitter than Thomas, never,” Guillen said, adding, as he began to giggle, “Big Frank had 521 homers and 2,468 hits -- you know with Frank he’s not getting any infield hits.

Maddux and Glavine combined to win 71 games when Guillen was there. Glavine won the 1998 Cy Young award and the Braves lost the 1999 Series to the New York Yankees.

“They were both very intelligent pitchers, they hardly walked anyone, they knew a hitter’s weakness better than the hitter did,” said Guillen. “Maddux was so good he could throw the ball where he wanted to get what he wanted. Double play to shortstop? He’d throw it here. He wanted the guy to pull the ball? He’d be inside just enough for the guy to swing and keep it fair.”

Guillen said he saw it firsthand during spring training when he faced Maddux in batting practice.

“He’d say ‘ground ball to short’, throw me a cutter to the left, I’d hit the ball off the mat in front of the plate -- ground ball to short.”

Guillen broke into the majors under La Russa in 1985 and said the reason he improved so quickly and learned so much was from La Russa along with coaches like Jim Leyland and Eddie Brinkman.

“Tony was always good with young players, his communication skills were outstanding,” said Guillen. “Tony knew how to teach to tell you the truth without hurting anyone’s feelings. In those days, they taught you how to play the game ... and play it right.

“Now, they only teach you how to hit and how to make money.”