Lopez leads three inductees into Braves' Hall of Fame
Club honors popular catcher, trainer Pursley, 1914 champion shortstop Maranville
ATLANTA -- As legendary scout Paul Snyder watched another of his prized signees gain one of the most distinguished honors the Braves' organization has to offer, his wife, Petie, reminded him of the golf shirt that got caught on a nail as he emerged from the set of bleachers that hid him from the other scouts who were in Puerto Rico that day to watch a teenage prospect named Javy Lopez.
The story about the torn golf shirt was just one of the many shared as Lopez, former trainer Dave Pursley and one of baseball's first entertaining shortstops, Rabbit Maranville, were inducted into the Braves' Hall of Fame during a Friday afternoon luncheon at Turner Field's 755 Club.
"It's a dream that came true and more," Lopez said. "I mean, my dream as a kid was to play professional baseball in the future, and my dream came true. And being inducted into the Hall of Fame for the Atlanta Braves, that's completely unexpected, and for me, that's a great honor and definitely a bonus. I thought my goal was completed, and having this is even better."
Lopez was overwhelmed by the presence of former team owner Ted Turner and the other Braves Hall of Famers who were present to celebrate the induction of this latest class. John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Chipper Jones and David Justice reminisced about the days playing alongside Lopez and the many days they entered the trainer's room to be tended to by Pursley, who served as the team's trainer from 1961-2002.
Dale Murphy reminisced about the night in Montreal when he called Pursley to inform him that his roommate, Barry Bonnell, had food poisoning and needed to get to a hospital. By the time Pursley reached their hotel room, the weak-stomached Murphy had passed out and bumped his chin, which would need a few stitches.
"What I remember was a guy who didn't care about your performance," Murphy said. "He just wanted to make sure you were healthy and doing well."
While most in attendance never had a chance to see Maranville display the energy and defensive skills that earned him enshrinement to Cooperstown in 1954, they had a chance to hear Braves announcer Jim Powell tell stories about the 5-foot-5, 125-pound shortstop who was a instrumental member of the 1914 Braves club, which entered July in last place but won the franchise's first World Series title.
Maranville hit just .246 with a .632 OPS in 1914, but he still finished second in the National League MVP Award voting. The entertaining infielder, who had four other top 10 finishes in MVP balloting, pulled numerous pranks on teammates and kept fans entertained with a variety of acts, including the day he handed a pair of glasses to a plate umpire after a disputable strike call.
While Maranville and Pursley served as two key figures in Braves history, Lopez remains one of the franchise's most recognized members.
"For all the wins I got at the Major League level, Javy certainly had his hand in a lot of them -- both from an offensive standpoint and from a defensive standpoint," Glavine said. "I'll never forget the instrumental play in the 1995 World Series Game 2, when he threw Manny Ramirez out at first base -- big, big play picking Manny off. It certainly went a long way toward us not only winning that game, but the Series."
Lopez hit more home runs than any catcher in Braves history, earned three NL All-Star selections and was named the 1996 NL Championship Series MVP Award. He set a Major League season record for catchers when he hit 43 home runs in 2003, his 12th and final season in Atlanta.
Along with being recognized as a powerful catcher whose looks grabbed the attention of many female fans, Lopez is often remembered as the guy who was on the bench whenever Greg Maddux pitched. Maddux posted a 1.60 ERA in the 32 games Lopez served as his catcher in 1994. But in the years that followed, Eddie Perez caught most of Maddux's starts.
Glavine said Lopez's defensive skills were often overlooked, and he provided a comical new perspective on why Perez became Maddux's primary catcher.
"I can only come to the conclusion that the reason we put Eddie back there every fifth day to catch Greg was we just had to give our female fans a break," Glavine said. "I'm convinced once every five days we were going to give our female fans -- particularly the ones behind the plate -- a chance to watch the game."
Jones' memories of Lopez date back to when they played together for the Greenville Braves in 1992, the same year Lopez got his first call to the Major League level.
"He was the first guy I was actually in the clubhouse when they got the call to the big leagues," Jones said. "I'm sitting here looking at the guy and thinking, 'OK, that's what a Major League body should look like.' I was thinking, 'I've got a ways to go.'"
When Lopez had a chance to speak, he thanked a number of people, including Snyder, former Braves scout Jorge Posada Sr. and his deceased mother. He also expressed appreciation to his father, his wife and his four children, all of whom were present for Friday's ceremony.
"I didn't expect that many people [to be] here," Lopez said. "It took me by surprise, not only by how many people, but the people that were here. The Hall of Famers and Ted Turner and all these big guys that I wasn't expecting here. It's a great honor, a great honor."