Elliott ICYMI: Tim Raines reigns on tour of Cooperstown

 Former Montreal Expos OF Tim Raines sits in a director's chair answering questions in the plaque gallery at the Hall of Fame. Photos: Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Former Montreal Expos OF Tim Raines sits in a director's chair answering questions in the plaque gallery at the Hall of Fame. Photos: Milo Stewart Jr./National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Originally posted April 7, 2017


By Bob Elliott

Canadian Baseball Network

COOPERSTOWN, NY _ The private tour moved from one exhibit to another.

The identical, angelic twins were called over to see an interactive display ... which is hooked up to Baseball-Reference’s excellent leader page and is updated each morning. The single-season, career, active, progressive and year-by-year Top-10s are shown for any stastistical category a fan could think of looking up.

When someone finished clicking the complete all-time, stolen bases leaders showed on the screen and the list looked like this ...
Rank Player (Yrs) Stolen Bases Bats
1. Rickey Henderson (25) 1406 R
2. Lou Brock (19) 938 L
3. Billy Hamilton (14) 914 L
4. Ty Cobb (24) 897 L
5. Tim Raines (23) 808 B

When Raines’ name was touched a head shot of a youngster wearing a Montreal Expos cap popped up.

“Dad!” Exclaimed Ava Raines, 6 1/2 years of age or was it her identical twin sister Amelie Raines?

When it was time to move on it was suggested moving the display to the main menu. One of the gals -- either Amelie or Ava -- suggested that no, it would be fine to leave it right there. That way the next visitor would get to see their father’s picture.

Their dad, Tim Raines will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. on July 30. While dad was escorted on his own orientation visit tour the other day, the twins moved on their on, sometimes drifting ahead, sometimes trailing behind, hitting the button to play "O Canada" at another interactive station of ball park songs. While they live in Phoenix, mom Shannon, is from Arnprior, Ont.  

 Tim Raines with his wife Shannon Raines and their twin daughters Ava and Amelie. They are standing alongside Andre Dawson's No. 10 and Ty Cobb's sweater with the Detroit Tigers. 

Tim Raines with his wife Shannon Raines and their twin daughters Ava and Amelie. They are standing alongside Andre Dawson's No. 10 and Ty Cobb's sweater with the Detroit Tigers. 

* * *
Raines, 57, ambled from one display case to another. He had been to Cooperstown before to see old Expos teammates Gary Carter and Andre Dawson inducted. This time, this trip, this tour though was all about him. 

At times he walked alongside Shannon or took his daughters by the hand moving to the next display. He was deliberate, one eye on his girls, who were sometimes skipping about as the excursion moved from one floor to another. If was as if he was measuring a new September call up reliever as he led off first ... just far enough to draw a throw ... and hear Paul Shubin crack up the chickens graphic on the centre field scoreboard at Olympic Stadium.

If not for the three-man camera crew, the entourage of Cooperstown officials walking in front and behind, along with Jonah Keri, the Montrealer who works for CBS Sports and some old goat trailing, the Raines walk-through could have been a just another Hall of Fame family outing.

“Excuse me sir,” asked a man in a green sweater, “who is that?”

Tim Raines.

Another man asked, was told and replied “It’s about time those dumb writers finally woke up and elected him. He belongs.” 

Later a youngster recognized him.

* * *  
Over the years a lot of Hall of Famers have told us that there are four stages of the Hall of Fame process.

1. The call, Jan. 18.
Jack O’Connell, secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers Association of America, makes the call. He phoned Raines after phoning Jeff Bagwell and before calling Ivan Rodriguez. Bagwell was named on 86.2% of the ballots, Raines 86% and Rodriguez ‎76%. With the required 75% of more, all three quickly caught flights to New York.

2. The Day After The Call, Jan. 19.
Now a threesome that will be linked together for years, Raines, Bagwell and Rodriguez attended a press conference where they put on their Hall of Fame jerseys and caps together for the very first time. And then it is off to MLB Network for the start of a whirlwind series of media events.

3. The Orientation Visit, April 5.
Raines had his own personal tour Wednesday, arriving in upstate New York after being feted in Montreal. Back in his old stomping grounds, he received the key to the city, dropped a ceremonial puck at the Bell Centre before a Canadiens game, and received a long, thunderous ovation at Olympic Stadium before a preseason game between the Blue Jays -- Canada's OTHER team for which he never played for but has worked as a minor-league instructor the past eight years -- and Pittsburgh Pirates.

3A. The Room Crunch. coming soon.
This sometimes comes before the tour, sometimes afterward. Eventually there is the shocking realization that more family friends and relatives are coming than the number of rooms originally booked. Not to worry. President Jeff Idelson’s Hall of Fame staff led by Whitney Selover solve all problems.

4. Induction Weekend, July 28-30.
Besides Bagwell, Raines and Rodriguez, Atlanta Braves vice-chairman John Schuerholz and former commissioner Bud Selig will be inducted. The day before the Hall of Famers will show at Doubleday Field as Claire Smith wins the J.G. Taylor Spink award and the late Bill King is named winner of the Ford C. Frick award, which Tom Cheek won in 2013. But most of the eyes are on the players, and this year all Canadian ones will all be on Raines, who becomes the third player wearing a Canadian team’s cap to enter the Hall in the past seven years (Andre Dawson got the call in 2010, Robbie Alomar in 2011), and fourth ever (the late Gary Carter made it in 2003.)

* * *
For most inductees the orientation tour is where it all begins to hit home. In Raines' case Erik Strohl, vice president of exhibits and collections at the Hall, was conducting... stopping at:

_ A stack of balls from the Eckford and Welsh Shipyards. In 1855, teams would play each other for the ball, because one ball was used for the whole game according to Strohl. The ball would be bronzed and stacked into a giant pyramid -- at least it was in the case of the shipmen who won by scores of 41-15, 20-14, 77-66 and 31-18.

_ A uniform with the large ‘B’ in the glass case does not stand for Brooklyn but the 1859 Baraboo Base Ball Club in Baraboo, Wisc.  

_ A “World’s Championship Batsman” trophy which minstrel Honey Boy Evans presented as the leading hitter trophy to Honus Wagner in 1908.

_ The Babe Ruth exhibit, Stohl explaining that the mannequin was wearing the last uniform Ruth ever wore -- it was from the movie Pride of the Yankees about Lou Gehrig. He explained Ruth wore No. 3 because he was the third-place hitter. Randy Grossman, Raines’ rep, close friend and confidant, from San Diego, said “If they still went by that you’d never get the chance to hit.” Raines of course wore No. 30. Strohl explained the background of a 1924 picture of Babe Ruth towering over a group of about 30 children and how they were all wide-eyed and smiling in part perhaps each held a Baby Ruth candy bar wrapper in his or her hand.

* * * 
“There’s the old hook slide,” said Tim Raines, he of the head first slide.

He was gazing intently at a large picture showing Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers running out from underneath his cap to steal home as the Chicago Cubs catcher Johnny Pramesa dove forward attempting to make the tag in a 1952 game.

“Check it out, it always seems like he’s going to be out, but every clip or picture I see of Jackie, he’s always safe,” Raines said as he looked at the shot for a long time.

There was more than one reason for Raines took for a long time in front of that particular photo. With the 1946 triple-A Montreal Royals, the Brooklyn Dodgers affiliate, Robinson split spring training beetween Daytona Beach and Sanford, Fla. -- Raines’ home town.

Raines, who today, serves as an outfield and base running instructor for the Toronto Blue Jays, remains a keen student of the art of out-rinning, and out-witting, the greatest pitchers and catchers in the game.

“When (minor leaguers) ask me how to do the hook slide, I always tell them to look up Jackie on YouTube,” laughed Raines, who stole 808 bases ... all head first, except of course for those when he went in standing.

* * *
The first bit or Raines paraphenalia the tourists come across didn't sport an Expos logo. Part of an exhibition on the secon floor it was a helmet Raines wore with the 2002 Florida Marlins, the last of his six major league teams. Rules were changed in 1983 that any new players coming into the majors had to wear helmets with ear flaps, although active players could go without. Raines’ helmet from 2002 was the last worn without flaps when he left Florida’s 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 162 in the sixth inning, replaced by Abraham Nunez. Completing his 23rd major-league season, Raines was playing in his 2,502nd -- and final -- game.

Spotting a picture of Fernando Valenzuela, 1981 National League rookie of the year winner, in an exhibit Raines said jokingly, “He won 15 games, I played every day.” Valenzuela, with 13 wins and a 2.48 ERA, received 17 1/2 first-place votes. Raines had 6 1/2 first-place votes playing in 88 of the 108 games in the strike-shortened season.

When Strohl spoke about former Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck, Raines said “Isn't he the guy that made the White Sox wear shorts.”

At the Latin American display Raines told of playing winter ball for Leones del Escogido in 1980. Felipe Alou was the manager and Raines said the best player on the team was Juan Samuel, the current Philadelphia Phillies third base coach, former Blue Jay and congenial host of Clearwater annual Sammyfest, along with legendary J. G. Taylor Spink winner Paul Hagen of MLB.com.

* * *
After the reviewing the electee cases on the ground floor, the myriad of museum exhibits on second and  museum third floors the entourage moved to the basement where a few special artifacts are stored.

When in the storage area, Strohl showed the new Hall of Famer, his wife and their children ...

_ A 1910 Cleveland uniform with sleeve extensions (the extensions could be buttoned to the end of the bottom of each arm).

_ Gloves players wore in 1880 (one on each hand) and Derek Jeter’s glove.

_ Lou Gehrig’s cap when he played at Columbia University, a six-panel cap.

_ An eight-panel cap from a Negro Leaguer.

_ A case which contained autographed balls: One from Rogers Clemens’ second 20-strikeout game, the ball Ted Williams hit off the light tower at Briggs Stadium to win the 1941 all-star game with two signatures. Williams hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth. Enos Slaughter, the NL right fielder, picked up the ball after it fell to earth, put it in his pocket and 44 years later brought it to Cooperstown to give to Williams. The Splendid Splinter said, “let’s both sign it and give it to the Hall.”

_ A Ted Williams bat from the 1950s. “Man they had better wood back then,” Raines said, “There used to be this company called Cooper bats out of Canada. They made good bats with excellent wood. You never broke a bat unless you were jammed.”

_ An Ichiro Suzuki Mizuno bat. 

_ A 40-ounce bottle bat

_ Ken Griffey’s Cincinnati Reds uniform another No. 30.

_ One of Raines’ own bats used Sept. 30, 1997 as Raines, Derek Jeter and Paul O’Neill went back-to-back-to-back in an 8-6 Game 1 Yankees win over the Cleveland Indians. The first two homers were off Erik Plunk with the third against Paul Assenmacher.

_ The base Raines stole for his 500th career theft on Aug. 13, 1987 as he swiped second and then third in the seventh inning of a 9-7 win against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He also singled, homered and walked three times that day scoring five runs.

_ A bat from the 1987 All-Star Game, in which the newest Hall of Famer was named MVP, after tripling against Jay Howell to score two runs in the 13th for a 2-0 win. Said Raines that night in Oakland to a national TV audience: “No way we were losing to those American League minor leaguers.”

_ His own spikes from 1995 when he swiped an American League record 37 consecutive bags.

_ Geoff Blum's bat. Blum came off the bench to hit a pinch hit homer off Houston Astros reliever Ezequiel Astacio, for Raines’ White Sox to decide things in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series. Said Raines, the first base coach: “An unlikely hero.” 
_ The bat Tino Martinez used to hit a three-run homer off San Diego Padres Mark Langston in the seventh inning capping a three-run seventh in Game 1 of the 1998 World Series. “Tino took a pitch right down the middle, it was called it a ball and Tino hit the next pitch out,” recalled Raines. 

_ Ty Cobb’s sweater he wore with the Tigers. 

_ A bat of his dear friend Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. Raines said, “Frank always used a big bat, but it was always very light.”

_ A black bat Raines used in his debut game of the 1987 season, playing for the Expos against the Mets at Shea Stadium. At the height of collusion that off-season, no one offered the free agent -- sixth in MVP voting and a Silver Slugger winner the previous season -- a contract. So he played his first game May 2 after working out with high schoolers.

“With zero spring training I was as nervous as I’ve ever been,” Raines recalled. “In batting practice I couldn’t get the ball out of the cage, I was running so fast I barely touched second base (on his triple against David Cone first time up.)”

Batting with the score tied and the bases loaded in the 10th inning he faced lefty Jesse Orosoco who was tough on Raines (3-for-30 lifetime).

“And I almost had a fifth hit, they (Tim Teufel) made a good play on me,” Raines recalled. 

_ Babe Ruth’s bat. 

* * *
Entering the wood pannelled gallery, he small-town kid from Sanford, Fla. stopped at the plaque of Joe Morgan, one of his heroes growing up.  Morgan phoned Raines with congrats on him joining the club. 

 Tim  Raines stops by the plaque of the teammate of the late Gary Carter.

Tim  Raines stops by the plaque of the teammate of the late Gary Carter.

Raines posed for pictures at the late Gary Carter’s spot in the bronze lineup located between Dave Winfield's and Dennis Eckersley's and then, Andre Dawson’s which hung alongside Whitey Herzog’s plaque.

And finally, the new guy, his wife and his beautiful daughters made it as far as his own reserved spot in the pantheon, where he was asked to sign the backing where his plaque will be placed. His place on July 30, and next year and 100 years from now is just below Bagwell and beside Schuerholz. 

“Nothing really wowed me, but I did pick up Babe Ruth’s bat,” Raines said afterward, someone sounding a little wowed. “I know a little about hitting. Babe Ruth’s bat. I mean Babe Ruth’s bat. I didn’t expect that. Babe Ruth’s bat was something I really kind of got a kick out of that, holding it in my hands.”

Raines didn't even notice when I  snuck away from the tour to check on my two favorites: Eddie Mathews and Johnny Bench. 

* * * 
Ostsego County Highway 33 which winds its way into Cooperstown is a lot like a major league career.

It has its ups and down, as well as its twists and turns.

Tim Raines and his family had travelled that road on the Tuesday before the tour after flying Montreal-Newark-Albany.

“It’s about an hour and 20-minute drive, it was raining, it was cold, there were sharp turns, it was kind of scary,” Raines said Wednesday afternoon after touring the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. “But I wasn’t afraid. I knew were we were going. 

”It really hit me when we landed in Albany. Our driver had the Hall of Fame thing on his shirt. I was like, `Wow!’ This is the drive to Cooperstown.

”I knew where we were going. We were coming here.”

Raines’ personal County Highway 33 went south from his home town of Sanford, Fla. where just 13 years before his birth, Jackie Robinson had made his first stand on the road to breaking baseball's colour barrier working out at spring training with the Dodger-affilliated Montreal Royals.

For Raines, the road from Sanford led first to West Palm Beach, the Rookie-Class Gulf Coast Expos and then class-A West Palm Expos, double-A Memphis, triple-A Denver, Montreal, Crescent Street, the Olympic Stadium, Chicago, New York, Oakland, back to Montreal, Baltimore, Florida, the obligatory five-year waiting period, St. Marys for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction and then nine long years spent killing time the HOF waiting room until he was elected in January of this year, his 10th and final year on the ballot. 

Now, that that's done, Raines' own personal Highway 33 stretches out ahead straight and flat as a strip Saskatchewan asphalt. He still has the same characteristics he did when we first met him in the long ago spring of 1981. He speaks more softky than Cito Gaston or John Olerud, not known foor their raised voices. He likes to laugh, poke fun and tease ... and is his own best audience. It's one those laughs whose owner stand-up comedians would pay to come and sit in the front row.

There is an old tale about the traveller walking down a hill and meeting a fellow headed in the other direction.

“Hello friend, how high does the road go?” asked the man walking up.

“All the way to the top ... all the way to the top.”

Raines has reached the summit.

In is in. Never mind whether it took 10 years or one year. 

* * *
Raines was known as an unselfish player and the one tinge of sadness came when he discussed 1981, when his Expos lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and friend Andre Dawson. 

“When we lost to the Dodgers in the 1981 season it was my first full year, I didn’t really understand the magnitude. We sat in our dugout for 20 minutes and watched them celebrate on our field,” he said. “Kids dream about hitting a home run in the bottom of the ninth to win a World Series, I didn’t get to experience that, but I had the feeling of winning the World Series. My good friend Andre Dawson never experienced that. I know I can’t do it ... but I wished I could give that experience and feeling to him.” 

Raines won two World Series with the Yankees and another with the White Sox as a coach. 

* * *
Later on Orientation Tour day, over a lunch of calamari and chicken pot pie at the Hawkeye Grill inside the grand The Otesaga Resort Hotel, Raines told of his text and phone messages since The Call in January. There were about 450 he guesses.

He heard from third baseman Kalvin Adams, who he played with for the 1977 rookie-class Gulf Coast Expos. Adams was a first round pick in the Expos in the secondary phase of the June 1977 draft from Central Arizona College and was 18 that first summer in the organization, His buddy Raines was 17 and on a two-year time table -- if it didn’t work out he’d go back to football. Adams peaked at class-A West Palm. This summer Raines will be peeking out of the back of a convertible as the parade travels slowly the six short blocks from Doubleday Field, the Home of Baseball legend says, to the Hall, home of the game's greatest ever. And that's a fact.

Former Expos owner Charles Bronfman has called to say he is coming. Raines has also heard from former teammates Jerry White, Wallace Johnson, Jim Wohlford to name and few and his high school coach Bobby Lundquist.

“Everybody calls me, everybody wants to talk to me, everybody wants to hang out with me now. It’s been really cool,” Raines had said earlier and admits he especially enjoys catchingteammates he has not heard from. "I’m one of those guys that every teammate I played with I felt like I had a good relationship with. When you’re not playing you get out of touch quickly.”

The cheers were overwhelming in Montreal both at the Pirates-Jays game and at the Bell Centre.

“I fouled up dropping the puck,” Raines said. “The guy told me to stand at centre ice, look at the cameras and then drop the puck. I held the puck, looked, looked and still no flash bulbs. The Canadiens player finally said ‘Ah, think you can drop it.’”

He likely won’t have to do any more pre-game ceremonial droppings. Maybe a ceremonial first pitch or three down the road. He has to make his speech and enjoy life,  a life that changed for the good with his election to the Hall of Fame. Each year, the honored members are all invited back to greet new inductees and it is a tribute to the Hall of Fame, so many players show. 

In a few years the desk clerk at the Otesaga will be saying on Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown “Hello Mr. Raines ... your regular room?”