Fifty-one members of the Hall watched as Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Jack Morris and Alan Trammel were inducted as the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2018.
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Chipper Jones was a minor leaguer when he first met Jim Thome. It was during a melee, Jones recalled on Sunday when both players were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“What felt like the hand of God grabbed me by the throat, pinned me to the netting of the backstop and said, ‘Don’t move,’ ” Jones said from the induction stage. With the brawl still going, Thome turned to Jones and asked, “You done?” Yes, Jones told the brawnier Thome, he was done.
On a sun-splashed day at the Clark Sports Center a few minutes from the Hall of Fame, Jones and Thome were inducted along with Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Jack Morris and Alan Trammell.
“I didn’t think this day would ever come,” said Trammell, the Detroit Tigers shortstop for 20 years who, like Morris, was voted in by the Modern Era committee after the Baseball Writers Association of America did not elect him in his 15 years of eligibility.
Most Read Sports Stories
- Now and Then? Mariners send Edwin Encarnacion to Yankees for prospect they already traded away
- Mariners Sunday mailbag: Could Seattle set a record-low attendance mark this week?
- He was the No. 1 amateur in the world as a senior at UW. Now, he's giving up professional golf.
- Lakers' trade for Anthony Davis something LeBron James and the NBA desperately needed | Matt Calkins
- Sports on TV & radio: Local listings for Seattle games and events
Morris, with a reputation as a big-game pitcher, offered a variation on Trammell’s sentiment.
“Whether you voted for me or not,” he later said to the writers who gave him enough support to last a full 15 years on their ballot but not enough to elect him, “thank you for keeping my name alive.”
Fifty-one members of the Hall joined the six new inductees. Hank Aaron used a cane to walk to his seat, while Rod Carew moved with a new briskness since his heart transplant nearly two years ago. But others who usually attend were absent, such as Sandy Koufax, Tom Seaver, Bob Gibson and Orlando Cepeda.
The 53,000 fans who turned out for the annual celebration spread out on the meadow. Guerrero fans chanted “Vladi!” and wore the jerseys of his first team, the Montreal Expos, and the team he won a Most Valuable Player Award for, the Angels.
Several families, from toddlers to teenagers, dressed in replicas of Thome’s Cleveland Indians and White Sox uniforms.
Atlanta Braves fans performed the tomahawk chop in Jones’s honor.
And Detroit fans shouted, “Let’s Go Tigers!” as Trammell approached the podium for his speech.
“I hear you,” he said before describing how he received the news of his election while waiting to disembark from an airplane. “I wanted to jump up and yell and scream; I didn’t feel it was appropriate to do it in the aisle of an airplane,” although the pilot might have forgiven him.
For each inductee, the speech is an amalgam of gratitude (to parents, coaches, managers, general managers, teammates, scouts, neighbors, spouses, children and fans), origin story (how they were inspired to play and leapt from minor-league promise to major league stardom), storytelling and emotion.
It is a delicate balance that Guerrero — the third Dominican player elected to the Hall — did not attempt. The preternaturally great bad-ball hitter spoke for a few minutes in Spanish, thanking Mike Scioscia, the Angels’ manager, and noting that Sunday was Father’s Day in the Dominican Republic.
“Happy Father’s Day to all the Dominican pops!” he said cheerfully through the translator Jose Mota.
Some inductees cry (Morris choked up but did not break down as Bill Mazeroski did).
Some overthank (Frank Thomas set a record for extreme gratitude even after dramatically paring his oration).
Some mix humor with pride in their homeland (Pedro Martinez, the second Dominican player in the Hall after Juan Marichal).
And nearly all preach humility. Hoffman, the closer whose 601 saves were eventually exceeded by Mariano Rivera, ladled his speech with motivational phrases from John Wooden, the former U.C.L.A. men’s basketball coach known for his meditations on success.
“Things turn out the best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out,” said Hoffman, who played primarily with the San Diego Padres. He added: “Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-made. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”
Trammell said that he was tutored by his mother “to be as humble as her favorite player, Stan Musial.”
And addressing youngsters in the crowd, Thome said: “Above all, treat people with respect. The best compliment a ballplayer can hear is that he’s a great teammate.”
Trammell talked about the teammate to whom he is indelibly linked — Lou Whitaker, a second baseman, who in his only year of B.B.W.A.A. eligibility received only 2.9 percent of the vote and fell off the ballot. Trammell and Whitaker became Tigers at the same time and formed one of the greatest double play combinations in baseball history over their 19 years together. But Trammell is in the Hall, and Whitaker is not.
“It’s my hope,” Trammell said, looking at Whitaker in the audience, “that you’ll be up here someday.”
Thome might have had the best day of the six inductees. The slugger who hit 612 home runs was able to watch his daughter, Lila, sing the national anthem, and he could look at his father, Chuck, and talk about their previous trip to Cooperstown when they delivered the ball that he hit for his 500th home run.
“But,” Thome said, “I’m guessing you think this is a bit more special.”