NEW YORK (WKTV) - For the first time, the three newest stars in the baseball galaxy were together. This summer the trio will shine in Cooperstown.
Less than 24 after receiving the news of their election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and designated hitter-first baseman Frank Thomas appeared at a news conference at New York City's Waldorf Astoria. Sitting at a dais, sporting Hall of Fame jerseys and caps, the most recent members of the game's most exclusive fraternity beamed as they were asked questions from the assembled media.
Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson welcomed the honorees, adding, "What a great blessing this year for the Museum to have a class like this. It's going to add so much to our yearlong celebration in Cooperstown.
"In addition to their great numbers, all three of them graced the game with class and dignity and should be celebrated for their overall contribution to the game," he added. "Gentleman, you combined to wear the uniforms of nine different teams when you played. Today, the three of you, teammates on a new team, the greatest team ever assembled, the Hall of Fame team."
Maddux was the leading vote getter with 555 votes of the 571 ballots, cast by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, which represented 97.2 percent of the vote. Glavine received (91.9 percent and Thomas 83.7. A player on the ballot needed to be named on 75 percent of ballots cast to earn election.
"I was on a podium much like this 15 years ago sitting next to Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount, who were all elected their first year of eligibility," said Jack O'Connell, the secretary/treasurer of the BBWAA. "And I thought, 'Well, this will never happen again.' But it has happened again with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas."
According to O'Connell, more votes were cast in this year's Hall of Fame ballot than any other year. The average ballot had 8.4 names selected, when you could only vote for 10, and slightly more than half of the ballots had all 10 filled.
Maddux, Glavine and Thomas will join managers Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre, Hall of Fame Expansion Era Committee electees, in Cooperstown on Sunday, July 27, for the annual induction ceremonies.
"It's a very humbling experience," said Maddux in his opening remarks. "It's a tremendous honor to be included in this. I can't wait to meet some of the guys that are already in the Hall of Fame. To share this moment with Glav and Frank over here is pretty special as well. Bobby (Cox) and Joe Torre, I was lucky enough to play for those two guys. I look forward to going in with those guys as well. It's a tremendous honor."
Maddux's longtime Braves teammate, Glavine, said he was overwhelmed by the first 24 hours of his experience.
"I'm certainly humbled and proud to have this opportunity," Glavine added. "And from my standpoint, a couple things that make it better is to have the opportunity to go in with Greg and Frank, two guys who played the game the right way, played it hard, did things the right way, and were fierce competitors. So it's an honor for me to go in with them.
"Even more special for me is to have the opportunity to go in with Greg and ultimately Bobby (Cox) as well, with Greg being a longstanding teammate and Bobby being my manager for so many years. So to have the opportunity to go in and go in with two guys that have been so instrumental and influential on me as a player, two guys that I've learned an awful lot from, to have that opportunity to go in with those two guys makes this even more special."
For Thomas, the longtime White Sox slugger, the historic events hadn't really sunk in yet.
"I'm overjoyed, overwhelmed, still thrilled to death," Thomas said. "There's so many people involved with my career that I don't want to forget anyone, so I'm going to sit back for the next couple of weeks and reflect and make sure by July I will thank everyone. I'm humbled and thrilled.
"This experience, coming from a small town, we can dream so much. To dream to be a major league player was something crazy for where I'm from. But to be in the Hall of Fame, with the best of the best, I come to you today very, very humble and thankful. I'm just looking forward to the summer and I'm just going to take it all in."
When asked what descriptive words they might like to see on their bronze Hall of Fame plaques this summer, Maddux answered first and succinctly: "overachieve."
Glavine came up with a few words that could describe his life as one of the national pastime's most accomplished hurlers.
"I know some of the words that I hear people talk about me is 'competitor' and 'stubborn," Glavine said. "And I think for me you can pick either one - either 'dependable' or 'durable.' I'm proud of the fact that I made as many starts as I did, and pitched as many innings as I did, and didn't go on the disabled list. That was kind of our thing when we were all together: it's your job to pitch every five days so find a way to go out there. So I think 'durable' would certainly be something that I would want people to look at my career as being that type of guy."
For Thomas, he thought "consistent" and "driven" suited his game.
"I think I'm a very driven person," Thomas said. "I wouldn't call myself a diamond but it was many years of polishing my career and getting it to where I was. So 'driven' should be the word."
By midsummer, the fans and the recent electees will see the newest Hall of Fame plaques for the first time.