(July 31, 2017)
Cooperstown, N.Y. - Major League Baseball has five new members to add to its fraternity of legends. Thousands of fans flocked around stage cheering on all five inductees as they were officially inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Sunday.
Jeff Bagwell, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, Tim Raines, John Schuerholz, and Bud Selig all gave lengthy speeches, and were surrounded by a crowd estimated at 27,500 people with over 50 fellow hall of famers. Schuerholz was the first to speak, and he discussed how lucky he was to have the honor of being a hall of famer.
"I'm delighted to be here at this moment," Schuerholz said. "So extraordinarily humbled, deeply honored, and thrilled beyond measure at this highest of all baseball honors."
Schuerholz was the architect of two teams who were particularly dominant during their respective eras. Schuerholz took helm as general manager for the then-expansion team Kansas City Royals in 1981, and led them to multiple playoff appearances, and a World Series title in 1985. Schuerholz was also the GM for the Atlanta Braves during the 1990s, where the Braves were the kings of the National League, winning 14 division titles from 1991-2005, and a World Series victory in 1995.
Next up to the podium was Houston Astros icon Jeff Bagwell. who talked about what it truly meant to him to have his own place in the hall.
"I'm so humbled to be here, to be surrounded by some of the greats that ever played this game," said Bagwell. "The guys you see on TV, guys you read about and all that, and I'm standing up here and kind of sitting in the background just watching and just trying to figure out what's really going on."
Bagwell spent his entire career in the Lone Star state, capturing the 1994 N.L MVP award, as well as an NL pennant in 2005.
Former commissioner Bud Selig was next in line to give his speech, which he talked about the how the game has expanded since he took office in 1992.
"Success came from working together," Selig said. "The unprecedented success we've achieved over these past 25 years has come from ending the divide, from building harmony, from working as one for the good of the game."
Selig's tenure as commissioner featured many major changes throughout the league, including the addition of interleague play, advanced reply, expansion of drug testing, and the creation of the wild card.
Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez was next on the list to speak, who had many fans travel from all the way from Puerto Rico to hear his speech.
"My entire life has been about baseball," said Rodriguez, who began his major league career at the ripe age of 19 with the Texas Rangers. Pudge also delivered some of his speech in Spanish, a testament of his loyalty to his international fans and heritage.
Rodriguez finished his career with 14 all-star game selections and 13 gold glove awards, both records for any catcher in MLB history. Growing up in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, Rodriguez always dreamed of making it to the big stage.
"Never let anyone take your dream from you," Rodriguez said. "Don't let anyone say your dream cannot be accomplished."
The last member of the incoming class of 2017 to deliver their speech was Tim Raines, the former Montreal Expo who was voted in on his last year of eligibility. Raines mentioned the influence of his father, and how the lessons he learned from him helped him become the man he is today
"He taught us hard work. He taught us that we had to work for what we wanted to get. Nothing was ever going to be given to you," Raines said.
Raines finished his career with the highest percentage of stolen bases of any player with 400-plus steals, as well as two world championships with the New York Yankees. Although Raines will be going into the hall as an Expo, he couldn't help but remember his time as a Yankee.
"I wasn't quite sure if I was ready for the big lights of New York, but I took a chance," said Raines. "And thank God I did."