* The largest living class to be inducted since 1971 -- Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux and Joe Torre -- drew the third largest crowd in induction day history on Sunday. .... 2014 Canadians drafted … Canadians in Minors … Canadians in college summer ball …. Canadians in College 2015 Canadian draft list Letters of Intent
Brave new world ... Tougher than ever …. From Beach to HOF …. Smoltz on deck? …. Eric Nadel …. Tony La Russa …. Joe Torre …. Bobby Cox …. Frank Thomas …. Greg Maddux …. Tom Glavine …. A Hall of a Class
By Bob Elliott
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. _ Frank Thomas was choked up, voice quivering and dabbing his eyes early during his Hall of Fame speech.
Tony La Russa was so smooth that he barely looked at his notes.
Joe Torre covered a lot of ground -- 28 minutes worth (more than double of Tom Glavine and Bobby Cox) and then admitted later he forgot to properly thank George Steinbrenner and the Steinbrenner family. Torre said it was not an intentional snub and had it marked down, but made a mistake.
Such is the day of emotions as the largest living class since 1971 was inducted alongside baseball’s best.
“You feel OK and in control when you get here,” said La Russa. “Then you go down to the lobby and enter a room full of Hall of Famers. You get on the bus, you see the crowd and it makes you uncomfortable.”
“I didn’t make it as a player. I remember being introduced by Paul Richards at double-A Knoxville in 1978 after he finished with all the players and he said ‘if you’re wondering about this boy here ... you’ve heard that the worst players make the best managers? Well this boy has a chance.’
“After four games Richards said “you might have been a better player than I thought.’ Being lucky is a hall of fame credential. I’m the luckiest”
While La Russa who reached post season with the Chicago White Sox, Oakland A’s and St. Louis Cardinals winning three World Series, Thomas was part of the 2005 Series winning White Sox, although injury only allowed him to play in 34 games.
“Frank Sr., I know you’re watching and smiling from heaven,” Thomas said looking at his mother, Charlie Mae he continued on about his father. “Without you, I know 100% I wouldn’t be here in Cooperstown today.”
Thomas stopped for a few seconds before adding: “Thanks for pushing me and always preaching to me you can be someone special if you really work at it. I took that to heart, Pop. Look at us today. We’re along way from Columbus, Ga.”
Thomas took about a 10-second pause before resuming a speech filled thanking his mother, siblings, wife, his give children, managers, coaches, doctors and agents. He broke down talking about the late Robert Fraley his agent who died in a 1999 plane crash with golfer Payne Stewart.
“Robert, you once said to me, ‘Life is not fair. You have to work hard to earn respect.’ You were so right. Thank you for being honest. I know you are somewhere in heaven directing traffic, because that’s what true leaders do.
“I’m an emotional guy. I wear my heart on my sleeve.”
Thomas said he had 850 teammates with the White Sox, Oakland and the Blue Jays. He couldn’t mention them all, but he tried, rambling off a bunch of them in a montage of names - many were nicknames.
“I had 189 names and cut it to 139,” Thomas would say later. “They all became friends. All those guys had something to do with my career, on and off the field. I got here the other day and it was like, ‘Wait a minute, we can’t do this.’ I had to cut 50 guys off, and felt bad. I wish I could have got everybody in. They were people who meant a lot to me over the years, and I could not forget my teammates.”
He thanked Mark Buehrle by last name from their Chicago days as well as general manager J.P. Ricciardi and assistant GM Alex Anthopoulos for bringing him to Toronto and allowing hitting No. 500 in a Jays uniform. He mentioned a few Jays, manager John Gibbons, equipment manager Jeff Ross, P.R. director Jay Stenhouse, travelling secretary Mike Shaw and trainer George Poulis, “my main main.”
He thanked White Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson for nick-naming him The Big Hurt saying “it changed my life.”
Torre said “I’m here because of the New York Yankees, however in order to be ready you had to fail along the way. What an education playing with Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn with the Braves, then going to the Cardinals and playing with Lou Brock, Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton.”
He managed the New York Mets and was managing Atlanta when he wanted to buy a house. He asked owner Ted Turner for an advance. Turner said “rent.”
He was fired the next year and later fired by the Cards.
“I was very depressed my wife asked me how do you want to be remembered? And I said ‘someone who never reached his goal,’ my wife said ‘are you dead?’ But fired three times, I was not in a good spot.”
Then Gene Michael hired him to manage the Yankees “who would have thought that when my brother Frank was playing first for the Braves against the Yankees in 1957-58 Series when I was a teenager ... that the next time the Braves met the Yankees I’d be managing the Yankees.”
Torre said he’d always been a Frank Sinatra fan but after 12 years of Mariano Rivera “I’m becoming a Metallica fan” referencing the closer’s entrance music “Enter Sandman.”
The former Yankee skipper thanked former coaches Lee Mazzilli, Jose Cardenal and Willie Randolph for attending and had special praise for the late Don Zimmer, who “aside from costing me money introducing me to horse racing,” was his bench coach for eight years.
Torre’s wife Ali is from Cincinnati and has 15 siblings.
“All put down their Cincinnati Reds gear to cheer for us,” said Torre.
Both Torre and La Russa paid special tribute to former Cardinals minor-league instructor George Kissell who once told La Russa “if you love the game and you want to learn it. The more you learn the more you love it, the more you love it, the more you want to learn.”
Billy Crystal was in the front row to see Torre. Former New York Giants Bill Parcells coach for La Russa, as was former Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland.
He said his teams may have had some slash, dash and bash, but “we competed like fanatics, we did embrace the pressure” pointing out Dave Stewart in the second row.
Shout out Sunday: Lefty Mark Buehrle was mentioned by his White Sox pal Frank Thomas Sunday from the podium in Cooperstown.
“Well,” deadpanned Buehrle, “he should have mentioned me. I haven’t seen it, but a couple of times told me about it.”
Thomas was emotional during his speech breaking down speaking before an estimated 48,000 about his late father, also named Frank, and his former agent Robert Fraley, who was killed in a plane crash.
“I would have been the same,” said Buehrle. “I would have been ... ahhh .... ahhh ... ahhh ... I have to go. I don’t do well in front of the TV cameras.”
Greg Maddux admitted later after his turn at the podium it was his first-ever speech. Asked how many times he’s worn a tie Maddux answered “this is my daughter’s, she had to wear it to a college frat party. I can’t even tie it.”
“I’m the same,” said Buehrle, “my wife (Jamie) ties a tie each time I have to wear one, then I take if off and hang it up so I don’t have to re-tie it the next time.”
The name game: Thomas didn’t fool around when the said he was going to name a few of his former teammates on Sunday as he mentioned from his days with the White Sox days, nicknames and all:
“Please bear with me: 1 Dog, Rock, Grebeck, RV, Ozzie, Joey, Pudge, Karko, Lyons, Bo, Ellis, Black Jack, The Deacon, Sugar Ray, Alex, Wilson, Bere, Roberto, Thiggy, James Baldwin, Billy Bob, Buehrle, Hot Rod, Devo, Magglio, Carlos, Row, JD, Sax, Radinsky, Ivan, Paco, Phil, Paulie, Crede, Uribe, Herbert, C. Johnson, Sandy, T. Phillips, Harold, DeLeon, Melido, Howry, Foulke, M. Jackson, Flash, Kenny, Sandy, AJ, Robbie, McElroy, Merullo, Spanky, Julio, WillieChill, Singleton, Mouton, Davey, El Duque, Takatsu, Fordyce, Leifer, G. Bell, C. Everett, D.J., Pasqa, J. Hall, Parque, McCaskill, Belcher, Leach, Assenmacher, D. Paul, Huff, Valentine, Abbot, Dibble, Rags, Cammy Cam, Kruk, Sabo, Sirotka, Magraine, Freeman, Darwin, Kreuter, Slugo, Norton, Snopek, DLew, Tartabull, Royce, Eyre, Navarro, Pena, A.Bell, Bradford, Castillo, M. Johnson, Sierra, Garland, Lowe, Kip, Eldred, Ginter, Graffinino, Marte, Rousch, Olivo, Bartolo, Cotts, Glover, Loaiza, Showenweiss, Contreras, Freddie, Polite, Timo, Jenks, League, Iguchi, BA, Borchard, Podsednik, Blanton, Kiko, Duke, Gaudin, Harden, Haren, Kotsay, the late Joe Kennedy, Sarloos, Houston, Zito, Kendall, Melhouse, Swisher, Chavy, Crosby, Ellis, DJ, Scutaro, Milton, Kielty, J. Payton ...”
And from his Jays days “Doc Halliday, Accardo, AJ, Downsy, Frasor, Rios, Casey, League, McGowan, Marcum, BJ, Towers, A. Hill, Vernon, Johnny Mac, Lindo, Reed, Raja and Big Red.”
Thomas also thanked Jays trainer Donovan Santos.