LAS VEGAS -- There was a sense of euphoria emanating from the White Sox after Sunday night's announcement of Harold Baines being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Today's Game Era Committee along with closer Lee Smith, a friend of Baines'.It was euphoria along the lines
LAS VEGAS -- There was a sense of euphoria emanating from the White Sox after Sunday night's announcement of Harold Baines being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Today's Game Era Committee along with closer Lee Smith, a friend of Baines'.
It was euphoria along the lines of World Series championship excitement, with smiles and high-fives across the White Sox crew in Las Vegas for the Winter Meetings. That feeling makes perfect sense, with Baines having played 14 of his 22 Major League seasons with the South Siders, as well as being part of the White Sox coaching staff from 2004-15.
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But White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf spoke Sunday night for the Orioles, A's, Rangers and Indians, Baines' four other teams on his vast resume, when extolling the virtues of the soft-spoken designated hitter/outfielder who played until he was 42.
"He just deserved it. It was just a shame he didn't get in sooner than this," Reinsdorf said. "Harold is a great player. You look at the numbers he put up in the '80s and the '90s and played in the Majors for 22 years. I don't think he ever had a bad year. Of course, there's no finer person than Harold Baines. So, I'm just ecstatic. This is great. He was a great player. He's a great human being. I'm so happy for Harold."
"I'm very humbled and honored for this good news today," said Baines during a conference call following the announcement. "I'm very grateful to the [Today's Game] committee for thinking I'm worthy of this Hall of Fame honor. I'm very shocked today."
Reinsdorf was part of the 16-member Today's Game Era Committee commissioned with the review of the 10-name ballot, joined by Hall of Fame members Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven, Pat Gillick, Tony La Russa, Greg Maddux, Joe Morgan, John Schuerholz, Ozzie Smith and Joe Torre; Major League executives Al Avila, Paul Beeston and Andy MacPhail; and veteran media members/historians Steve Hirdt, Tim Kurkjian and Claire Smith. Hall of Fame chairman of the board Jane Forbes Clark served as the non-voting chairman of the Today's Baseball Era Committee.
Twelve votes were needed to be elected, and Baines received exactly 12 or 75 percent. Smith was a unanimous 16-vote selection. Lou Piniella missed by one vote with 11, and Albert Belle, Joe Carter, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel and George Steinbrenner each received fewer than five votes.
When Baines' election was announced live on MLB Network, marking the first time Reinsdorf heard the news, Reinsdorf's reaction was a celebratory fist pump, as he described to the media.
"I looked up at Tony La Russa and I thought he was going to cry," Reinsdorf said. "I think it was a great discussion. There was no arm twisting. It was a secret ballot, so people could vote the way they wanted. Whoever voted for him must have believed he deserved to get in."
"It's hard not to think about. It's an honor just to be nominated," Baines said. "It's always been tough for DHs to get in the Hall of Fame. Hopefully this will open it for more guys to get in."
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.
Baines' numbers are scattered across the White Sox all-time leaders, ranking third in home runs (221), fourth in RBIs (981) and sixth in hits (1,773) among the 10 categories where he sits in the Top 10, not to mention having his jersey No. 3 retired and a statue in his honor on the Guaranteed Rate Field concourse. He ranks sixth in the American League since 1974 with 197 game-winning RBIs and 401 go-ahead RBIs.
"Steady," said Reinsdorf when asked to describe Baines. "When the game was on the line in the eighth or ninth inning, and you can pick somebody who you wanted up, it was Harold Baines.
"I think the people with the White Sox might be happier than Harold because we all love Harold so much. But he deserved it. He got in because he deserved to get in -- not because he's a great guy. He is a great guy."
Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.