Every July, baseball's greatest legends gather in Cooperstown as new members of the Hall of Fame are inducted into the sport's most hallowed institution. The Class of 2019 -- Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez, Lee Smith and Harold Baines -- includes the greatest closer of all time and the Hall's first unanimous selection, a pair of aces, a dominant reliever and two of the most feared designated hitters in history.
Below is a recap of all the fun and excitement from Cooperstown from Hall of Fame induction day:
Mariano takes his place in Cooperstown
The final speaker of the day was Yankees legend Mariano Rivera, the first player unanimously selected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. He is the all-time saves leader, with 652, and he won five World Series rings with the Yankees while posting an almost unfathomable 0.70 postseason ERA. Rivera's speech was preceded by a touching rendition of "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" on solo guitar -- including a riff from Metallica's “Enter Sandman” -- by Bernie Williams, Rivera's longtime Yankees teammate.
"I don't understand why I always have to be the last," Rivera joked to open his speech. "I've kept saying that for the last 20 years, and the last 17 years of my career. I always said, 'Why do I have to be the last one?' But I guess being the last one was special."
Mo thanked his family and the entire Yankees organization that made his ascent to dominance possible -- from the Steinbrenners to general manager Brian Cashman to manager Joe Torre to Core Four teammates Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada to all the rest of his teammates, managers, coaches and trainers.
"I tried to carry the pinstripes the best that I could," Rivera said. "I think I did all right with that."
He had a message for Yankees fans: "To the fans: You guys always pushed me to be the best. All those New York fans, when I was at Yankee Stadium pitching, it felt like I was pitching with 55,000 people next to me throwing one pitch after another. You guys are the best. Without your support, I could not do it."
And he retold the story of how he discovered his iconic cutter by accident, when his ball suddenly started moving while he was playing catch with Ramiro Mendoza in the outfield.
"The Lord gave me the best pitch in baseball: the cut fastball," Rivera said. "I learned how to use that pitch. I used that pitch for 17 years. And I used it well. I used it to the last day that I pitched at Yankee Stadium, when my two brothers [Jeter and Pettitte] came to take me out of the game.
"That moment was special for me. I was grateful that the good Lord allowed me to play in New York with the greatest fans and end my career the way I did, with my two brothers next to me, and me hugging them and crying over them and being thankful for them.
"Derek, Andy, Mr. Posada, Bernie Williams, Mr. Tino Martinez -- thank you guys. I love you man, you guys mean so much to me."
Smith proud of Cooperstown enshrinement
For Lee Smith, the long-awaited day finally arrived. He gave his Hall of Fame speech more than two decades after his final Major League season, 1997, as a selection of the Today's Game Era Committee. Smith joins the ranks of Cubs Hall of Famers after notching 478 saves in his 18-year career -- the most all-time when he retired, and now third most behind fellow Hall of Famers Rivera and Trevor Hoffman.
Smith explained how his family, as well as the tight-knit community in his hometown of Castor, La., helped him along the way, and detailed how he got into baseball in the first place.
"It was Mr. Sneed, my high-school principal; once he called me into his office, I thought I was in trouble, but instead he wanted me to come out for the baseball team after seeing me throw a ball in our [physical education] class," Smith said. "But I was focused on basketball. I said no. I knew my family couldn't afford the equipment I needed. The next day, Mr. Sneed called me into his office again, and I can still picture it. On his desk was a brand new uniform, glove and all the equipment I needed.
"It was community that gave me the chance to play baseball."
Another pivotal moment in Smith's baseball journey came as a Minor Leaguer, when the Cubs wanted to make him a relief pitcher. Smith said he was initially discouraged by this news.
"In those days, you wanted to be a starter, or nothing."
Smith eventually embraced his new role, reached the Majors in 1980, and the rest is history.
"No matter where I pitched, I always wanted to embody my two traits -- loyalty, to the team and my teammates … and dependability, as a teammate and a pitcher," Smith said, in closing. "It didn't matter when I was given the ball -- seventh, eighth or ninth inning, no matter how many innings I pitched -- as long as I could impact the game and help my team. I truly believe, from all walks of life, if you work hard, and if you are loyal and dependable, you can really find success.
"Those are the lessons that I learned in the course of my life, from the community, from the people in baseball who have become my second family, many of whom sit behind me today. You kept me pointed toward home plate, and I am forever grateful."
Edgar takes place among game's greats
After a decade of waiting, Edgar Martinez finally made his Hall of Fame speech. The longtime Mariners DH was elected in his 10th and final year on the ballot, and now joins Ken Griffey Jr. as the only Hall of Famers with Seattle caps on their Cooperstown plaques. One of the best pure hitters of his generation, Martinez finished his 18-year career with a .312/.418/.515 batting line, and he hit .375 with eight home runs against fellow inductees Rivera, Halladay and Mussina.
"It is hard to believe that a dream that started when I was about 10 years old would take me on an amazing journey," Martinez said, after taking the stage to "Edgar" chants. "Since the first time I saw Roberto Clemente on TV, and some highlights of the World Series, I was hooked on the game of baseball. All I wanted to do was play the game. Like most kids in Puerto Rico, I wanted to be like Roberto Clemente. What a great example Roberto Clemente was to all of us in Puerto Rico, and what an honor to have my plaque in the Hall alongside his."
Martinez thanked the scout who signed him, his coaches and managers, his teammates like Ken Griffey Jr. and Randy Johnson, his family and finally, Mariners fans.
"Mariners fans, I am so fortunate to have two homes: Puerto Rico and Seattle," Martinez said. "Seattle fans, thank you for always being there for me. Since 1987, you gave me your unconditional support, and it was even more prevalent over the last 10 years. The support you gave me over social media really helped me to get here today. Thank you Mariners fans, you are the best fans I could ever hope for. I'm so glad I stayed with you until the end of my career. I love you, Seattle fans. Thank you."
Martinez concluded his speech: "This is a day I never could have imagined happening growing up in Puerto Rico, or when I was in the Minor Leagues wondering when my chance would come. And honestly, there were times over the last 10 years that I wasn't sure it was going to happen. So thank you once again to everyone along the way who made this dream come true. I am so grateful and proud. Thank you."
Baines grateful for career recognition
Following Brandy Halladay to the podium was Harold Baines, who played 14 of his 22 Major League seasons with the White Sox and was elected via the Today's Game Era Committee last December. Of Baines' 2,830 games played, 1,643 came as a designated hitter and 1,024 came in right field. He finished with 2,866 hits, 384 home runs and 1,628 RBIs. The six-time All-Star also won the American League top designated hitter award, now called the Edgar Martinez Award, in 1987 and 1988. He hit .324 with four doubles, five home runs, 16 RBIs, a .378 on-base percentage and a .510 slugging percentage over 31 postseason games.
"Many of my former teammates, and quite a few of my former opponents, are sitting behind me today," Baines said, referring to the living Hall of Famers on stage. "Thank you for making baseball the greatest game of all, and for pushing so many of us to accomplishments beyond our dreams."
Baines thanked all those from his small hometown of Saint Michaels, Maryland -- where he still resides today -- who had an impact on his life, and stressed the importance of giving back to the community. With several generations of Baineses in attendance, the former slugger also placed great emphasis on family values.
"I'm not an emotional man, except when it comes to family," said Baines, who began to tear up as he thanked his wife, Marla. "You are the true Hall of Famer of our family," Baines told his wife.
In closing, Baines discussed a lesson his late father imparted on him years ago as they played catch in the yard, pointing to that as a reason why he earned the reputation for being a man of few words.
"As he told me, 'Words are easy, deeds are hard. Words can be empty. Deeds speak loudest, and sometimes they echo forever.'"
Brandy Halladay emotional in speech for Roy
Brandy Halladay took the stage to speak for her late husband, Roy, who died at 40 in a plane crash two years ago. One of the great workhorses of his era, Halladay won a Cy Young Award in both leagues -- with the Blue Jays in 2003 and the Phillies in 2010. He pitched a perfect game for the Phillies on May 29, 2010, and became the second pitcher in history to throw a postseason no-hitter in his playoff debut that October. Now he's enshrined in the Hall of Fame, elected posthumously in his first year of eligibility. Doc's Hall of Fame cap does not bear a logo, as decided by the Halladay family.
"It's overwhelming the amount of people here today," Brandy said to open her speech. "I can't believe you came this far, and I'm so grateful that you're here."
"Thank you to Harold, Lee, Mariano, Mike and Edgar for sharing your stage with me," she said, addressing Roy's fellow Class of 2019 Hall of Famers. "This is not my speech to give. I'm gonna do the best I can to say the things I believe Roy might have said or would have wanted to say if he was here today.
"I've been asked over and over, 'How do you think Roy would feel if he were here?' I'm pretty sure we all know the answer. Of course he would be honored and humbled, but I also know that, in true Roy form, he would have quickly given any accolades or props to all of his coaches and teammates. He was a true competitor. He went to the field every day ready to do whatever it took to give his team the best possible chance to win."
Brandy spoke about the Halladay family's decision that Roy's plaque would have no team logo, out of respect for both organizations he played for.
"To both of the teams that we were blessed to be a part of, the Blue Jays and the Phillies, thank you for allowing us to grow up, to fail over and over and finally learn how to succeed within your organizations. There were some really amazing years, but there were some really tough ones, too, and you never gave up on him," Brandy said.
"When Braden, Ryan and I decided that Roy would be inducted into the Hall of Fame with no logo on his hat, both teams quickly reached out to us telling us how proud they were of that decision. We know without a doubt that had Roy been with us today, this is the decision he would have made, and more than anything would want both organizations to know they hold a huge place in our heart and always will."
Brandy concluded: "I am so humbled to say thank you to this year's Hall of Fame inductees, and to say thank you to all of you on Roy's behalf. Thank you so much for all of your support and your continued dedication to the game of baseball. It means more to all of us than I think anyone could possibly know."
Mussina steps to the podium first
Mike Mussina was the first inductee to take center stage. He won 270 games in his 18 seasons with the Orioles and Yankees, and had a 3.68 lifetime ERA pitching his entire career in one of baseball's toughest divisions, the powerhouse American League East. A two-franchise star like Halladay, Moose enters the Hall of Fame with a logo-less plaque.
Mussina looked back at the start of his baseball journey in his hometown of Montoursville, Pa., just outside of Williamsport, the home of Little League Baseball, detailing how he went from playing wiffle ball in his neighborhood before he was even old enough for organized ball. Mussina eventually ended up at Stanford University before being selected by the Orioles in the first round of the 1990 MLB Draft.
Mussina spent 10 years with the Orioles, posting a 3.53 ERA over 288 starts.
"I want to thank the Orioles organization for giving me the opportunity to pitch and prove that I could succeed at the Major League level," Mussina said. "To the Orioles executives who brought baseball back to Baltimore's inner harbor -- it remains one of the best ballpark environments in the game. To the Orioles fans who came out every game -- 48,000 strong -- to support us and to support me, thank you. I have some great baseball memories from those years, and I loved pitching in orange and black.
Mussina then joined the Yankees in December 2000 and spent his final eight seasons in the Bronx.
"For the longest time while I was in Baltimore, I told myself that I'd never play in New York. I'm a small-town guy and that place was just too much for me. Well, obviously I changed my mind, mostly because [then-Yankees manager] Joe Torre called me, two or three days after they won the 2000 World Series over the Mets, and Joe simply said, 'I just wanted you to know that we are interested in you coming to New York to pitch for us.'"
While there were many milestones Mussina never reached in his career, he'll be forever enshrined in Cooperstown.
"I was never fortunate enough to win a Cy Young Award, or be a World Series champion," Mussina said. "I didn't win 300 games, or strike out 3,000 batters. And while my opportunities for those achievements are in the past, today I get to become a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
"Maybe I was saving up from all of those almost achievements for one last push, and this time I made it."
Baseball world honors newest Hall of Famers
The crowd is ready in Cooperstown with the Hall of Fame induction ceremony soon to begin.
Robinson Cano, Mariano Rivera's longtime teammate in New York, sent his congratulations to Mo.
If you were a Yankees fan, there was no one you wanted to see jogging out to the mound more than No. 42. And if you were an opposing hitter, there was no one you wanted to see less.
With Edgar Martinez's 10-year wait for Hall of Fame membership finally over, Mariners fans are ready to welcome their franchise icon to Cooperstown.
Martinez joins fellow M's legend Ken Griffey Jr. in the Hall.
Pedro Martinez, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015 alongside Randy Johnson, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio, welcomed the Hall's newest members on Sunday morning.
Curtis Granderson and CC Sabathia each offered their congratulations to Rivera, their former teammate with the Yankees.
The Blue Jays and Phillies celebrated the late Roy Halladay's legacy with video tributes to the right-hander.
And former MLB pitcher Ricky Romero sent a heartfelt message to his long-time teammate.
It's been a whirlwind weekend for Mike Mussina. "I'm not sure it's sunk in all the way yet," Mussina said of his Hall of Fame induction.
Mussina pitched for the Orioles for 10 seasons before joining the Yankees for the final eight years of his career.
The Mariners are celebrating Martinez's induction by handing out a placard featuring all of the slugger's career hits, in order, at Sunday's game.
The M's also honored Martinez's life and career on Twitter.
The Cubs took a look at Lee Smith's career and achievements.
"I'm very humbled, very grateful," said Harold Baines, who sat down with MLB Network's Harold Reynolds ahead of his Hall of Fame induction.