Sunday afternoon in Cooperstown, the 2019 class was officially inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This year's six-man class includes Harold Baines, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, Lee Smith, and the late Roy Halladay.
"This is not my speech to give. I'm going to do the best I can to say the things I think Roy might've said," Blue Jays and Phillies -- thank you for allowing us to grow up. To fail over and over, and finally learn how to succeed within your organizations.". "... To both of the teams that we were blessed to be a part of -- the
Rivera is the first unanimous Hall of Famer in history, a fact he humbly did not mention during his Hall of Fame speech. Baines and Smith were voted in by the Today's Game era committee after exhausting their eligibility on the writers' ballot. Here are the highlights from Sunday's induction ceremony.
Rivera closes with a joke and his cut fastball
"I don't understand why I always have to be the last," Rivera joked during his speech, the final one of the day. "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."
Before a Yankees contingent that included Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter, as well as owner Hal Steinbrenner and GM Brian Cashman, Rivera said he "tried to carry the pinstripes the best that I could," and spoke about his trademark cutter.
"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 (Pettitte and Jeter) came to take me out of the game. That moment was special for me."
Bernie Williams, Rivera's longtime teammate, played "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" on his guitar prior to Rivera's speech, which was pretty cool. Williams & Co. figure to be back in Cooperstown next season when Jeter is inevitably inducted.
Mussina squeezes in an 'almost'
For Mike Mussina, the word "almost" became a long-running inside joke. Mussina almost won a Cy Young (second place in 1999), almost threw a perfect game (one out away in 2001), and almost won a World Series (2001 and 2003). He also almost won 20 games (19 wins in 1995 and 1996) before getting there in his final season.
During his speech Sunday, Mussina squeezed in an "almost" reference near the end of his speech.
"I was never fortunate enough to win a Cy Young Award, or be a World Series champion. 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," he said. "Maybe I was saving up from all of those almost achievements for one last push, and this time I made it."
Emotional Baines thanks family
"I'm not an emotional man, except when it comes to family. You are the true Hall of Famer of our family," Baines said to his wife, Marla, during his speech. "... Your presence here makes my journey complete."
Martinez credits Clemente for baseball career
It took 10 long years, but Edgar Martinez finally got over the hump and was voted into Cooperstown during his final year of Hall of Fame eligibility. During his speech and he credited the late Roberto Clemente for inspiring him to play baseball.
"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. "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 is the fifth Puerto Rican-born player in the Hall of Fame, joining Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, Roberto Alomar, and Ivan Rodriguez.
Smith reflects on move to the bullpen
Once upon a time becoming a reliever was almost seen as a failure in baseball. It meant you weren't good enough to start and the team didn't really have a spot for you. That is no longer the case -- bullpens are a huge part of modern baseball -- but, when Lee Smith played, the move to the bullpen was something no one looked forward to.
On Sunday, Smith explained how he embraced the role change and became a Hall of Fame closer.
"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. "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."