Martinez, Mo, Moose reflect on HOF honor
NEW YORK -- The newest members of the Baseball Hall of Fame gathered together for the first time Wednesday in midtown Manhattan, slipping on their new jerseys while lauding each other with compliments -- and asking for some free dinners.
Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina and Edgar Martinez sat side-by-side at the St. Regis Hotel, talking about the careers that landed them in the sport's most exclusive club. Also on hand was Brandy Halladay, the widow of Roy Halladay, and their two children, representing the late pitcher who was also elected as part of the Class of 2019.
"One of the most difficult career paths in the world is to the Major Leagues, and in the long history of professional baseball, 19,429 men thus far have been privileged to wear a Major League uniform," Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said. "Of them, 1 percent -- one out of 100 -- make it to Cooperstown. That's really how special this honor is."
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Accompanied by family and friends, Martinez, Mussina and Rivera were joined on the dais by Idelson; Hall of Fame chairman of the board of directors Jane Forbes Clark; and Jack O'Connell, the secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Rivera became the first player ever unanimously elected by the BBWAA, receiving votes on all 425 ballots. Martinez (85.4 percent), Halladay (85.4) and Mussina (76.7) all garnered the necessary 75 percent of votes, joining Harold Baines and Lee Smith -- who were both elected by the Today's Game Era Committee last month -- to form an impressive six-man class that will be inducted in July.
"This is a great honor; the ultimate honor as a baseball player," Martinez said. "We play the game to win every year, but at the end, after a lot of work, this is the highest honor."
Mussina, who received just 20.3 percent of votes when he debuted on the ballot in 2014 and stood at 63.5 percent a year ago, was still a bit surprised to be part of Wednesday's festivities.
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"It caught me off-guard quite a bit," Mussina said. "Everybody's support from the first year -- and I want to say thank you to the 20 percent that voted for me the first year and kept me on the ballot so I could work my way up slowly -- thanks everyone for supporting us. We all appreciate it, especially me and Edgar, guys that have been on the ballot for a few years. It's a tremendous honor."
Rivera and Mussina, who played together with the Yankees from 2001-08, shared some laughs as they put on their Hall of Fame jerseys, but the biggest laugh came at the closer's expense. When a reporter asked Martinez why he had so much success against Rivera -- Martinez hit .579 against Rivera in 23 career plate appearances -- the legendary closer balked at the mention of the gaudy statistic.
"Why you have to say that?" Rivera barked. "Say the number, but don't say the number!"
Mussina, against whom Martinez hit .307 in 83 career plate appearances, chimed in, "I helped, too. Not as much as you did."
Rivera even tried to parlay his lack of success against Martinez into a free meal.
"Edgar has to take me to dinner, maybe tomorrow?" Rivera said. "One of these days. Because of me, his average was better. Therefore, you owe me dinner."
For all his success against Rivera, Martinez said he would have given all of those hits back for one hit in the final at-bat of the 2000 ALCS, when Rivera retired him to clinch the American League pennant.
"Mariano always will throw the cutter, so I'm like, 'OK, he's going to throw the cutter and I'm going to look middle-away like I always do,'" Martinez said. "The first sinker I've seen from Mariano my whole career, he throws a sinker in and I hit a weak fly ball to left field. Game over, and we're going home. I would trade all those hits just for that at-bat."
Martinez wasn't the only one Rivera felt owed him a meal. He directed the same request at Halladay's family, sharing a story about an impromptu pitching lesson he gave the Blue Jays ace more than a decade ago.
"You guys owe me another dinner, too," Rivera said. "In 2008, Halladay and myself were talking in the outfield about pitching. We always talked about pitching. I was teaching him the grip for the cutter and he was throwing the pitch. Derek [Jeter] and all the hitters from my team were mad at me. As a matter of fact, I got fined by our Kangaroo Court because Halladay was so good against us. They blamed me; they said, 'You don't have to hit the ball!'"
The three Hall of Famers reflected on their respective careers during the 50-minute news conference, reminiscing about their Minor League beginnings, their memories of each other and their personal career highlights.
"For me, the biggest game was probably '95 in the Kingdome," said Martinez, a lifetime Mariner. "That year, we didn't know if the team was going to stay in Seattle or move to Tampa. That year was big for us, to be able to win that [ALDS against the Yankees]. That probably is one of the reasons why the team is still in Seattle."
Mussina listed two moments as his most memorable: his relief appearance in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against the Red Sox, and the final game of his career, in which he became a 20-game winner for the first time.
"I'd never been asked to do that before," Mussina said of Game 7 in 2003. "To get in there and do that with my heart pounding in my chest and be able to be effective and get a strikeout and double play, get out of that inning to give us a chance and pitch a couple of more innings, that was a big part [of winning the pennant]."
For Rivera, who saved a record 652 games in the regular season and another 42 in the postseason en route to five World Series rings, choosing a single highlight proved to be difficult.
"Mine wasn't just on the field," Rivera said. "There's a few of those, but I would say my biggest moment was wearing the uniform. Putting on the jersey, day in and day out, for all those years, and representing the organization with class and dignity. I was blessed to be in that situation."
Mussina might have had a different answer if not for a few choice pitches; he came within two outs of throwing a perfect game on two separate occasions.
"I did a lot of 'almost' things, you could say," Mussina said. "I had a couple shots at no-hitters, perfect games. I almost won 20 a couple of seasons. I almost won the World Series. I almost didn't make it to the Hall of Fame -- but I did. That's my 'almost' story. I can live with the other 'almosts' because I get to sit up here now."
Brandy Halladay announced that her late husband's Hall of Fame plaque would not have a logo on the hat, as he had great respect and admiration for both the Blue Jays and Phillies.
Mussina's plaque will likely bear either an Orioles or Yankees logo, though as of Wednesday, he had not yet made that decision.
"The situation is unique; I almost split my career down the middle with two organizations," Mussina said. "Right now I couldn't sit and choose one over the other. They were both instrumental to me sitting here. I think we've got a little bit of time here to talk it over with the Hall of Fame and with the people there, and I think all of us put together will come to the right decision whatever it is."
With that, the news conference was concluding, though not before Mussina had a chance to make his pitch for a free meal of his own.
"I do want to bring one more thing up," Mussina said, turning to Rivera. "If [Edgar Martinez] is buying dinner for you, how many times did I set you up so you could sit up here? I think I'm really close to having the most -- he saved the most games for me. It's close. I think [Andy] Pettitte might have passed me … so I think you should take me someplace."
Rivera laughed and replied with two words: "Olive Garden."