The Hall of Fame Class of 2018 is comprised of a tremendous collection of players who were among the greatest of their generation, and they will each be officially inducted in Cooperstown, N.Y., on Sunday, July 29, at 1:30 p.m. ET. The induction ceremony is the main event of a four-day celebration in Cooperstown from July 27-30, and it will take place at the Clark Sports Center, with live coverage beginning at 11 a.m. ET on MLB Network, hosted by Brian Kenny.
Each of the six players to be inducted -- Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Jack Morris, Jim Thome and Alan Trammell -- spoke to reporters on Friday. Here are some of their most memorable quotes about their careers and the honor soon to be bestowed upon them:
Q: It's been six months since you were elected. What have been the most meaningful moments of those last six months?
"I've been very happy. A lot of us here have celebrated, and something that's been really special was the Futures Game. I was part of it as a coach, and it was a very memorable moment for me. Beyond that, having gone to Montreal on a visit to make an appearance and spend time with the fans and learn a little bit more about some of the places I didn't visit before that I never had a chance to see and learning more about the city -- it was pretty special."
Q: What are your best memories from playing with the Expos?
"I will remember a couple of things that I'll never forget. The first one is the first time I got called up to the Expos, the dream of being a big leaguer, I will never forget the way the fans received me. The other great memory, my last season, I was saluting the fans and they were giving me an ovation. Before you know it, the ovation got bigger, and I didn't realize it because my son was next to me. Little Vladdy was next to me and he was getting the attention of all the people. I thought they were clapping for me, but they were actually clapping for him. I'll never forget that I was so happy about that and the people of Montreal kind of saying goodbye to me. That will never leave my mind."
Q: How have you prepared for your induction speech, and will you recognize any Dominican players in it?
"I want it to come out as naturally as possible. I don't know exactly that I have anything planned out in terms of recognizing anybody within the speech, but there are many things that will come out and I want it to come out naturally. My family, the fans, the many years my mom spent cooking for me, those are always going to be very special to me and I want to mention. Beyond that, also, Felipe Alou's name will probably come up with what he's meant to me and my career and still means to me in my life. Certainly, I'm going to keep it as simple as possible, but knowing there are a lot of people who have had influence in this career of mine. But I don't want to script it too much and just want it to come out naturally on the 29th."
Q: In the transition from shortstop to pitcher, did it help having the "play every game" mindset with being a reliever?
"Yeah, I think it really did. And obviously, not having success that I would've liked as an infielder on a daily basis, understanding how the professional game can kind of bring you down in that regard. But when I did go to the mound and I started to kind of figure out what going on, I really didn't have a whole lot of background. I pitched in Little League.
"Starting out as a reliever was great, but then getting a chance to start, I got a chance to realize how different each role really is -- and equally important, even though they're different kind of workloads. And so I just felt like I gravitated more toward being able to be ready on a daily basis and that type of preparation.
"It was fun to start; having those four days off was a little bit of a luxury, and it allowed me to work on pitches. But I just felt like the bullpen was kind of my space. I enjoyed the team within the team down there -- the banter that we'd have, the camaraderie that we'd have. I didn't feel the stress of the game as much by being in the dugout. And that was a good spot for me."
Q: Coming into a close a game in San Diego with the place rocking, did that help?
"I think I fed off of that energy. "Hell's Bells" was a great entrance song. It's didn't come alive until '98 -- we had a great season as a team. I think that coincided with the excitement. But I could always rely, no matter how draggy I was when I was coming back from a road trip or in the middle of a long homestand or what have you, I could always rely on that energy that I would get when the bullpen door would open up.
"So the fans were always consistent with their energy, and no matter how big or small the crowd was, they were loud. I felt like it gave me a little bit of an advantage when I went into ballgames."
Q: How special and emotional will it be to have your brother, Glenn, there?
"It's going to be great. I love the Padres for letting him off for a few days. It's not paternity leave, but it'll be some Hall of Fame leave. But he's gonna put on some miles. I mean, he flew out yesterday to Philly, then he got an East Coast swing there, then he's flying back and coming charter with his family, and coming out with the contingency of Padre fans and stuff -- and back on Monday. So he's gonna log some miles in the next week and a half, but I'll be thrilled that he's there. He was a big part of why I had the success that I did and got there. I always look up to my big brother, so it'll be great having him there."
Q: Was it about time a Braves hitter got elected?
"Well, it's an honor to be the first position player to go, and hopefully I'm not the last. Hopefully Andruw Jones is in this conversation over the years. I feel like he certainly deserves it.
"Yeah, somebody had focus on the pitching staff, and a lot of times, the onus of offense fell on the shoulders of the gentleman who was hitting in the middle of the lineup there, so it's a tremendous honor. I'm honored to be here, but I've heard a lot about it quite often -- pitchers going in, no position players yet. But it's nice that day has finally come, and I'm certainly proud of the things they accomplished for Atlanta and obviously going in alongside Bobby Cox and John Schuerholz as well. So the Atlanta Braves of the '90s and early 2000's are well-represented and well-rounded in the Hall of Fame."
Q: When you were reaching milestones (like batting titles, consecutive hits, etc.), did that change your perspective or approach to the game?
"That's a good question. No, quite honestly. Obviously I was aware where I was, where I stood. But my approach to the game never really changed. I think when you immerse yourself in the game itself, everything else kind of takes a back seat. When you step up in the box, you're focused on the chess match between you and the pitcher. And that's an approach that worked for me many, many years.
"Obviously if I went three or four at-bats into the game [without a hit], it's going to weigh on you a little more. But most of the time we were in some pretty tough matchups there, where it's a key difference in the game. And my approach was always to just try to be in a place that helps us win ballgames. But the numbers and stats kind of take care of themselves."
Q: What's your mindset for a week from now, and what is the due date for your child?
"I can do it, and I'm trying to get this speech just right. You know, I have a recurring nightmare that I'm gonna leave somebody very, very important out. But I'm excited, I think once I get up there and see how the town of Cooperstown transforms from where there's snow on the ground and people walking around in the streets to 350,000 people in town watching me be inducted, it's gonna be a pretty nervous time for me personally.
"The fact that my wife is due the day after on July 30 with our second boy, it's a pretty nervous time. We're making sure she's giving me the thumbs up and making sure she's not going into labor while I'm on stage, but we're taking the necessary precautions and making sure she's taken care of up there in Cooperstown. If it does happen, we might name our son Cooper in commemoration of the summer and this honor, so it's gonna be an exciting time."
Q: What was it about the 1984 Tigers team? Did you know at the start of season that this team would be really special? What made it so dominant? Are you surprised there have been no Hall of Famers from it?
"The final answer is yes, I was very surprised. We kind of went into the '84 season with an attitude because in '83, we thought we were very competitive. And we actually did well against Baltimore, who eventually won the World Series in '83, and we thought to ourselves, 'You know, if these guys can win the Series, we'd have to prove to the rest of the baseball world that we can beat them, and we can beat anybody.'
"And I think going into Spring Training in '84 was a special kind of motivation for all of us. We wanted it. And you certainly have to go earn it -- it doesn't come easy, but seven teams in a row, to start the season on the road, and a 35-5 overall start, those are legendary-type starts. And when they look back, I realize we had probably the best infield-keystone combination in the game: Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell. Those guys were dominant for years. You get a ground ball, you get an out. You get a guy on first, you get a ground ball, you get two outs. So those guys were extra special.
"Kirk Gibson brought a very unique style, determination, a lot of power -- raw power -- a lot of raw energy. Lance Parrish was a guy that was getting better every year. Larry Herndon, the outfield, Chet Lemon, we had guys that could play the game. And I just think it was combination of the time we had already put in and the time we looked forward to ahead of us, and we just wanted to make sure we didn't want to pass this by."
Q:You played for three other World Series champion teams; could the '84 Tigers have beaten those others?
"You know, it's really hard for me to compare them. I think the most talented team was when we were in Toronto, as far as raw talent. I mean, we had All-Star teams in Toronto. But the '84 Tigers team was special because we had a lot of no-names, and by that I mean none of us were stars at the time. I mean, we were all young.
"And we had the Rusty Kuntzes of the world and the Barbaro Garbeys and Marty Castillos that were just doing little things here and there to help us win games, and it was kind of a joke among us in the clubhouse, but we would tease each other before a game -- 'Who wants to be on the front page of the sports today?' And that personally meant, either knock in the game-winning run or make a great play defensively or throw a good game. Everybody contributed."
Q: You won a World Series in your hometown (St. Paul, Minn.). How much did that one stand out compared to the other two?
"It was, I don't know, I mean, how do you write a storybook that's any better than that? It was a dream come true, really. I knew, although I think the whole process for me worked out, and I was very aware of how it worked out. ... I knew the Twins were a team that was on the move, and they were tougher for me to beat. And I just figured the one ingredient they needed was a pitcher that could help them and a couple of the younger guys, and just go out and do what he's supposed to do, and that's compete and show them how to compete.
"When I got over here, the first month was not all that good for any of us. We were all pressing, it was tough. Then things started rolling. And I guess for me personally, I quit thinking about being at home. I just thought about, this is a baseball team. You've got to go out and play. And when I started doing that, it seemed like everybody else started playing well again, both offense and defense. We went on a roll that was impressive."
Q: How difficult is the speech? More than any particular game?
"I'll tell you, I've had a long time to think about writing one, I'll tell you that. And I never actually put any words to it, but I have thoughts. And I always thought, you know, I wanted this to be an impactful speech. I wanted this to be something that had meaning. And you're absolutely right. When I started putting it to words, it was not as easy as I thought it was gonna be. And I have come to the conclusion that it's not that unique. It's the story of Jack Morris's time in baseball as quickly as I can say it without getting into any stories that I meant to tell.
"I mean, yeah, if I was gonna do it justice, I'd probably have to write a 1,500-page book. But we don't have time for all that. And there's guys behind me that's gonna go, 'Hurry up, let's move it along.' Right. But to answer your question, it's not easy."
Q:Although you never won a World Series, you made it to a lot of postseasons. I was wondering if that compensated for it at all, and is there a game that stood out in your mind, in the postseason, that you're really proud of?
"For me personally, all of our appearances in the 1990s with Cleveland were special. I would say clinching the division in '95, which sent us into our first postseason in quite some time, and the World Series in '95, the first time in a long time obviously it was done in Cleveland. And that opportunity to do it in '97 and come so close was a little heartbreaking, but getting the opportunity to be in that moment -- we called it in the arena -- was so special just to get that opportunity. But any one particular moment, there were so many special ones, that not one sticks out. Just having the opportunity to feel what it was like in October and have our great fans in Cleveland get to share that with us."
Q: What is your impression of Cooperstown?
"Magical, and it is every time I go there. I remember going there in the '90s when we would play teams there and not really get a chance to go through the museum, when we played those exhibition games, but when I delivered the 500th [home run] ball with my dad and the 600th was for the classic game and my son Landon got to deliver the ball. It's magical.
"Truly, everybody who loves baseball should go to Cooperstown. Give yourself two days and cherish it. You're driving through the country on rolling hills, and you think, 'OK, where is Cooperstown?' And then you arrive and it's a feeling like no other as a baseball fan. You see these little baseball stores and the Cooperstown Diner -- it's just so special. To go there and now call that home is just incredible."
Q: Is there anyone in town next week that you're looking forward to meeting?
"All of them, and getting to know them. To me, Hank Aaron -- I really look forward [to meeting him]. I had an opportunity to have a phone call with him when I was elected and I didn't get an opportunity to sit down with him one-on-one, and I'm really looking forward to talking with Hank. I've had the opportunity to meet him, but to have and share this moment -- and all the others. Hank Aaron sticks out for me being a home run hitter. He's the guy. He's the figure of all home run hitters of the game and what he did for the game. And more importantly, the human being he is. His nature and how humble he is and how everybody just adores him."
Q: You hit .300 a number of times in your career. What does it take to have a season like that?
"I've kinda talked about my era and how I was brought up, and being kind of a smaller, undersized guy, that was my style and that's what I was going to have to do to be successful. Putting the ball in play, in my childhood days, was something that was part of my game. There were two things I wanted to accomplish when I became a professional: Score runs and hit .300. That was a goal I set before the season started. Scoring runs was number one, though. That meant I was getting on base and doing my job."
Q: What is the most remarkable thing for you about the 1984 Tigers?
"I think the 35-5 start, when you sit back now and analyze that year, I think the 35-5 start, what that did, that just gave us the confidence. That start, it led us to believe that we were going to win no matter who we were playing. As an athlete, you need to believe in yourself, and that's what it did.
"Whoever we played that year, that was our year, and we weren't going to be denied. On the other side, I've been retired for many years and have been a coach, manager, all that stuff, and I remember Sparky [Anderson] telling us it was a difficult year for him because of that -- we were expected to do it. But from a player side, we just thought we were going to beat anybody that year. That's what we did."
Q: What was the process like writing your speech, and are you relieved you're done with the process if you are done with it?
"I don't think any of us will be relieved until next Sunday when it's done. This is how it started: When it was fresh on my mind -- when I got the call going to the Winter Meetings, and on the flight home going from Orlando to San Diego -- I had hours to kill and I was ready. I had my legal pad and started writing things down, and that's how it started. So that was only a couple of days after I got the word. From there, I tweaked it, made some adjustments, had some help with the grammar and fine-tuning it.
"But it started a long time ago as far as getting the gist of it. And hopefully I'll be able to hold it down and be able to present. Some way, somehow I'll figure out how to get it done."