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'Highest honor': Baines, Smith relish HOF call

December 10, 2018

LAS VEGAS -- Harold Baines was surrounded by two of the men who'd guided, managed and mentored him: White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa."Our friendship goes further than the game of baseball," Baines said.• Complete Hall of Fame coverageThat La Russa and Reinsdorf

LAS VEGAS -- Harold Baines was surrounded by two of the men who'd guided, managed and mentored him: White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa.
"Our friendship goes further than the game of baseball," Baines said.
Complete Hall of Fame coverage
That La Russa and Reinsdorf were members of the 16-member Today's Game Era Committee, which elected Baines to the Hall of Fame on Sunday, made the moment that much more special. Both of them sat nearby during a news conference Monday that officially introduced Baines and reliever Lee Smith as members of the Baseball Hall of Fame induction class of 2019.
Baines then spoke of how much the Hall of Fame meant to his family, and the one regret -- that his late father could not have shared in the joy -- was when the usually stoic Baines wept.
"He was my hero," he said. "That's the only thing I miss, is him not being here."

The moment was so sweet and so touching on a day that was awash in joy and laughter as both men slipped into Hall of Fame jerseys for the first time.
"You see what it means to them," said Hall of Famer John Schuerholz, a member of the committee. "This is the highest honor in our business. I know how proud they feel to receive that honor. They deserve it. They distinguished themselves."
Smith, 61, missed on 15 attempts to get the required 75 percent of the vote while on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot. He went 16 for 16 on Sunday for an 18-season career in which he saved 478 games, the third-most in history.

One of the men in front of him on that list is Mariano Rivera, who is on the BBWAA ballot for the first time this year. Thanks to 652 saves and being part of five World Series championship teams, Rivera is expected to join Smith in Cooperstown next summer.
"I'm short for words right now, but I love just being able to be up here, because all the guys that I've seen and played with and seen come up here on this podium, it is unbelievable," Smith said. "I'm at a loss for words."

Among the calls he received was one from Hall of Famer Goose Gossage.
"He had me almost in tears talking about how long he's been waiting and hoping I would get in," Smith said. "But like I said earlier, it hadn't sunk in yet for me."
As for Baines, 59, his induction generated lots of debate. During 22 seasons, he collected 2,866 hits and six All-Star appearances. He dropped off the BBWAA ballot in 2011 after his fifth time on the ballot failed to get the required 5 percent vote.
He's 46th on the all-time hits list, 43rd in total bases, 65th in home runs, 34th in RBIs, 60th in extra-base hits and 24th in intentional walks. His 38.7 Wins Above Replacement is 351st among position players, just below that of Hall of Famer Hack Wilson.

"I'm very honored to be here," Baines said. "It's a very special day. A lot of my friends are here. I'm honored to be part of this great fraternity I'm joining."
To members of the committee, especially his former manager, Baines was not a tough call.
"To me, it's a little bit -- or a lot -- like Alan Trammell," said La Russa of the longtime Tigers shortstop, who was passed over by the BBWAA but inducted by a veterans committee last summer. "You ask the guys in uniform. You ask the people upstairs, the general managers. When you look at his record, like Alan's, it can't be denied. Three thousand hits was right there -- he was 130 short. Harold always had the ability to drive in a big run. If it wasn't for the [labor] strikes, he'd have had 3,000 hits."

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.