COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. With a quiet attitude and a humble attitude and a workmanlike approach to his craft, Harold Baines has never seemed like a man of his time, but one long before it. In the end, all of those qualities make Cooperstown the perfect place to immortalize his baseball career.
Baines is a Hemingway hero walking among us. He is indeed quiet and, as he will admit, shy. But as a man of few words, when he speaks, his message has meaning. His work habits as a professional hitter gave birth to the consistency that marked him. He is a man who lives according to the values that were imbued upon him by his community and his family from the time he was born. And, like Hemingway's Robert Jordan and Frederic Henry, he keeps his emotions close to the vest.
"I'm not an emotional man, except when it comes to family," Baines said during his speech Sunday, five others were enshrined in the spiritual home of baseball. He said those words immediately before his voice cracked, because he was about to talk about his father and then directly to his family out in the seats.
On Sunday, this simple man from a small town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland was given the highest honor in his profession, joining the 201
It was a weekend for small-town men, several of whom spoke to the essential roles of family and community in their rise to baseball's highest honor. It was a weekend for the specialists who have become such an integral part of the modern game. It was, strangely enough, a weekend for Norman Rockwell. It was a weekend for internationalism, now an annual trait of induction weekend, with fans flocking to Cooperstown from all four sides of the nation, and beyond
More than anything, it was a weekend to celebrate all that is good in the game, and all that is good about the men whose plaques now hang in the hallowed halls of the Hall of Fame's baseball. And, yes, Harold Baines is a copy of what Cooperstown is all about, whether you wanted him there or not
A bad reaction
To fully appreciate Baines' weekend, you have to remember the long road that took him that Cooperstown, one that seemed to be permanently closed. When Baines was announced as an inductee this past December, after being voted in by a veterans committee that included a manager (Tony LaRussa) and an owner (Jerry Reinsdorf) who both adore him, it unleashed a torrent of rip jobs across baseball branches of social media and the internet
Not all were on board with the selection of Lee Smith, either, but the majority of the vitriol was directed at Baines. The reactions used pointed words, saying Hall was "cheapened" or was "diminished" by the addition of him.
"I think you have to ask [LaRussa and Reinsdorf]," Baines said at the winter meetings. "They know what I feel about them, they're very special to me, but it's probably helped me, to be honest, but our friendship goes further than the game of baseball."
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Do not really construct a convincing analytical argument in favor of Baines' selection, unless you are willing to open the doors wide open and allow the floodgates to pour into a lot of good players who have been passed over in the election past. He's not the worst Hall of Fame electee, according to most leading metrics, but he's in the lower tier. The defense of his selection has tended to favor anecdotal evidence and cherry-picked numbers
There are lots of players on Baines' performance level or better who never got in. Never got close. And if Baines had not been selected, it would not have been worth more than a passing mention in any story related to the topic. Yet all of the negativity that Baines' selection has obscures an essential thing: It was really good, and so, too, were all those players who might fall somewhere under the arbitrary line you might want to draw that declares Hall worthiness, and wherever it is that Baines resides.
"I was very surprised," Baines admitted. "I do not think that any player is playing this game to go to Hall of Fame."
It's not the Hall of Good, though, a fact that detractors love to point out. If you want to be tough about it, you can point out that the thing about the Hall of Fame is that once you're in, you're in. Debate until you're blue in the face.
More gently, you might consider this: There is a reason why those who advocated for Baines felt so strongly, why they lobbied for a player who would never have lobbied for himself . As well as his performance record in Hall of Fame markers, Baines is rich in qualities that men in power value a great deal and, frankly, that much of us, as society, admire. You can not express it in metrics, and you might make the fair point that these traits do not make a player and Hall of Famer, but you can not deny that these traits are what landed him in Cooperstown on Sunday.  People will continue to pick apart the Baines selection and others they do not agree with. Books will be written about it. On the web, there is already a virtual buffet of listicles about "the worst Hall of Fame selections." Most of those leave out the fact that there really is not a bad player in the Hall of Fame.
Anyway, the pairing of Smith and Baines that day in December and later through a number of promotional events in Chicago proved to be ideal
"The weird thing is when we both got the call and went to Vegas, the [Hall representative] said it's the best contrast of guys, "Smith said. "He said," We can not get Harold to say anything, and you will not be quiet. "
A few hours to the east of Cooperstown is a small town in Massachusetts called Stockbridge. It is a resort town in Berkshire, known as the final home and workplace of famed artist Rockwell.
Rockwell's paintings have graced the covers of Saturday Evening Post for decades, when that publication held an immense sway in the national culture. Rockwell painted stories, caught in an image, of commonplace people doing commonplace things, but with such a earnestness of spirit that work still stirs a unrealistic kind of nostalgia for many people in the memory of a world that never really existed
Cooperstown , in its way, kind of fills the same role in American culture. The Hall of Fame boasts of three Rockwell works in its collection, including "The Three Umpires," which currently hangs in the art gallery of the museum. Rockwell's name is often invoked when it comes to Rockwell's name and is often invoked when it comes to descriptions of Cooperstown as having a straight-off-of-a-1950s postcard quality as a quintessential small town. In fact, on the morning of the inductions, the New York Times quoted Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman as saying, "It Has That Norman Rockwell-type Feel for Me."
One way to interpret that is to say that Cooperstown, at least on induction weekend, is a kind of fantasy. Rockwell, as and commercial artist, was selling fantasy and he did it better than almost anyone. But there were lots of people whom Rockwell did not depict in his best-known work, largely because of his clients. That changed later, after his Saturday Evening Post career ended. But the works of Americana that drive so much adoration and stir such a powerful nostalgia are largely fantastic in nature
The Hall of Fame is like that too. The plaques hanging in the gallery tells the feats of men who were far from perfect as human beings. They drop the numbers that are out of context. They make everyone sound as if they walked directly off the pages of a book of mythology.
Baines' plaque This is the product the Hall is selling, perhaps best exemplified by the Saturday parade in which all returning Hall of Famers rides down Main Street between rows of adoring fans trapped along the sidewalks with impenetrable barricades. reads as such : "Respected and clutch left-handed hitter whose professional approach and humble demeanor made him one of the most consistent and reliable players of the 1980s and 1990s." Then he lists some of his awards and statistical achievements, such as his 2,866 hits and 1,628 RBIs, numbers largely compiled while serving as one of the game's most prolific designated hitters, and a role he landed because of a chronic knee trouble
"In my case, I could not go [out onto the field for defense]"Baines said. "Because of my injuries, that made it a little bit easier in the beginning to concentrate on my role, and I could not help the team defensively. team. "
Think of Rockwell Painting Baines at the plate. He had a certain flavor with Chicago topics. The fans around him would be berserk, jeering and twisting and laughing and yelling. The catcher would have a wry smile on his face. But Baines would be standing there, front foot raised as he always did when he was about to unleash his beautiful swing, and the expression on his face would be one of utter stoicism
"Harold, in his own way, his point, "gregarious new Hall of Famer Smith said.
Overlooked as always
In the Museum of the Hall of Fame, they set up exhibits each year with artifacts from the careers for each of the new inductees. In Baines' display, there is a White Sox jersey of 1983 vintage, and a couple of small medallions he won for being named Designated Hitter of the Year – an award now named after Edgar Martinez, with whom Baines shared the stage Sunday. And there was an old copy of the Baseball Digest, with a picture of Baines on the cover and a caption that read "One of the most overlooked stars of the baseball."
Baines was not written about because he was not quable. It was his choice. The most often-repeated story of the weekend was about Baines hitting the winning homer of an epic-length game played in bad weather. After, he was asked about the conditions and how he must really hit the ball hard. "Obviously," Baines said. And that was the media conference. It was also a nickname for him, too, and last week the White Sox announced the availability of some new Baines bobbleheads marking his enshrinement.
"During my career, I got a reputation as someone who did not say much," Baines joked during his speech Sunday. "I'm not sure why."
He is very much like Hemingway would have written him and Rockwell might have painted him, though the portrait would have left any raw displays of emotion to the side characters. Baines is from and still resides in the small tourist town of St. Michaels, Maryland. It's where his father, Linwood Baines Jr., and a bricklayer who was a good athlete in his own right, lived from the age of 9 until he passed in 2014 at the age of 77.
Baines was brought in to tour the Hall of Fame earlier this year, as all the candidates have. They get to see relics from baseball history and their own careers. They see the spots where their plaques will be hanging and they sign the backing. Baines, it was reported, grew a little misty when it was suggested his plaque would be about 20 feet from Babe Ruth's. Still, when asked if he was looking for any particular great during his visit, a favorite player or hero, he simply said, "No."
But then he went on, "My idol is my father. But my idol is my father. "
Linwood Baines Jr. lived a long life and got to see his son grow into one of the most respected members of his profession. He got to see him get all those hits and RBIs, post an .820 career OPS that rose to .838 with runners in scoring position and .862 in high-leverage spots. He's got to see him challenge the 3,000-hit milestone, which he would surely have gotten if not for the injuries and labor strife during his career. He got to see him hit .324 with five homers and 16 RBIs with an .888 OPS in 31 postseason games.
But for Harold, that's all sidebar. It was most important that his father got to see him marry and start a family of his own. He got to see him remain a part of St.
"I know I made him proud on the baseball field," Baines said. "But I know I made him prouder as the man, the husband, the father, the teammate and the friend I have become."
Does any of this change your mind about whether Baines belongs to Cooperstown? Should it? Of course not. But can you really sit there and say that this man's presence "cheapens" the institution? Induction weekend
The scenes are always the same, even if the MLB merchandise they donning morphs each year with the identities of those being inducted into the Hall. This year, the new shops were heavy in the Mariano Rivera gear. Baines was represented, too, though you had to dig for his stuff.
Former major leaguers are always around as well as the exclusivity staying at The Otesaga Resort Hotel. This year, Bill Madlock was signing at a table near the driveway at Doubleday Field. Both Frank Thomases were on hand – the Big Hurt, at the resort, as Hall of Famer, and the original one, who mashed for the Pirates in the 1950s and played for the early Woeful Mets. Denny McLain was back, as was Pete Rose. Jim Leyritz was holding the court down the street from Wright's Jimmy "The Mouth of the South" Hart. The actor who played John Kinsella in "Field of Dreams" set up a table at the corner of Main and Pioneer and appeared to draw very well
As fun as the people and player watching in Cooperstown, it still all comes down to the ceremony on Sunday. These are the moments that are preserved and remembered and replayed again and again in the future whenever a Hall of Famer is mentioned. For Baines, it has been the source of much consternation over the past few months.
"I've played in front of thousands of people so I can handle that part of it," Baines said the day before the ceremony. "I'm a shy guy, so I do not like to talk, so I'm talking about people, I'm going to be a little harder."
Roy Halladay's wife, Beginning with a very emotional video played by Mark Carpenter. One person who did not see it was Halladay's widow, Brandy, who gave the speech. Knowing she would have to take the podium in a few minutes, she just could not watch
"Maybe someone can send it to me," she joked at the beginning of her roughly seven-minute speech. There were people wiping away tears all over the crowd, and many others fighting off their lumps in their throat. Brandy Halladay grew emotional, of course, but held it together. And she more than once alluded to all the Hall of Famers sitting beside her on the stage, recounting just how supportive everyone had been. Roy is now immortal in the sport, and Halladays have found another new baseball family.
"I can not tell you how many hugs I've got," she said. "Anybody who thinks baseball is not a family has never been involved in baseball."
It was a heroic performance and in a rather surprising twist, it was Brandy Halladay who did more than anyone to humanize the players who in Cooperstown
"The message I wanted to convey," said Brandy afterward, "is that Roy was a very normal person with an exceptionally amazing job, who are out there doing these amazing things, they are still real people, they still have feelings, still have families, they still struggle
"So many of the guys I've known through my life through baseball, they work so hard to hide that. I know Roy did. Sometimes it's hard to present the image you know everyone wants to see. It's also hard to be judged by what people expect of you. I think it's important that we do not sensationalize or idealize what baseball players are. "
Roy Halladay was from Suburban Denver, and Baines, as mentioned, resides in Little St. Michaels. he is joking, "You think Cooperstown is small, you have never been to Castle." Mariano Rivera is from Puerto Caimito, Panama, and a small fishing village near Panama City, where he worked on his father's boat. Mike Mussina is from Williamsport, Pennsylvania, home of the Little League World Series.
Hall of Famers can truly come from anywhere, and for all the thought we put into what team a new Hall of Famer will honor his cap – not an issue for the two new one- team members, Rivera and Martinez – the players represent so much more than that. They represent colleges, cities, regions, countries and families.
"From teachers to coaches to town residents, who showed me both kindness and discipline, I thank you for all you have done for me," Baines said during his speech . Later, he added, "I can not ever express enough appreciation for St. Michaels. It still remains my home to this day as I live there with my wife and family."
Never is that sentiment more apparent and more true than it is every summer in Cooperstown. And in making those points, Smith and Baines and others are helping the community in which, in a sense, they will now reside forever. Each street between Main Street and the sports complex in Cooperstown is lined with lemonade stands and beverage stations and tables where you can get grilled food.
As for the speeches, no one could possibly rival Brandy Halladay when it came to bravery and emotional impact. One of her first lines was, "This speech is not mine to give." "Really a great lady," Smith said.
"Really a great lady," Smith said. "It's been awesome to know her and her sons." It was unbelievable how she handled it. "
If we did not for the bittersweet circumstances of the Halladay family, we might be celebrating the braves of Baines. Here was a shy man who spent his life avoiding the media spotlight, who did not care and who feared nothing – except for public speaking. Imagine being that person and stepping onto a stage with thousands of people rolled out before you and knowing countless more are trained on you through a television or some other gadget
Baines did just fine, talking about about nine and a half minutes after joking that other players were timing him because they were betting on just how short his speech would be. But it was not that short because he was not talking about himself. There was a lot of people to thank and appreciate, in the game and out of it, even though Baines is a man of deeds, not speeches
"I thought it would be a lot tougher than it was," and relieved Baines said after his speech. "Especially to the end, when I talked about my father."
All the players sounded like this notes Sunday, as they always do. For every player who goes into the Hall of Fame, there is a tremendous network of parents, siblings, coaches, spouses, managers, teammates and predecessors who helped them along. These are the people whose induction day is for.
Where Gregory J. Fisher / USA TODAY Sports
Induction weekend was as always a celebration of Baines and others. It was just as magical as every weekend that unfolds over these precious days of summer. And for those new members of baseball's most elite fraternity, whose plaques are left behind, even as they make their way back home, that celebration never really ends. They are in the club, and they are welcome back every summer. In fact, 58 Hall of Famers were in Cooperstown during this broiling weekend, the most living Hall of Famers ever in one place at one time.
"It's very overwhelming," Baines said, in his concise way. "I'm very happy to be a part of it."
What was being celebrated? WAR? Win probability added? OPS? Well, these are the tools for the election, but in Cooperstown they are rendered obsolete. What's left is all that is good in these players, and more important, in the game itself. We were celebrating the inductees for what they did, not what they did not do.
Going last, as always, Rivera summed up the theme for the weekend, saying, "Baseball is a team sport. alone. "
All of those who helped the new Hall of Famers find their place in the Hall of Fame are celebrating. But you have to be especially happy for the small towns, because there is a place for their children on the shores of Lake Otesaga. There has always been, but now these villages and hamlets can be in the Caribbean or Central America or the Pacific Rim.
On this weekend, we are reminded of all that is good in the game. We are reminded that the game is available to more people than ever. And because of that, the best chapters for the sport may well not have been yet written. The Hall of Fame reminds us of where we've been, and of the progress we've made. And, best of all, every induction weekend in Cooperstown reminds us of who we are when we're at our best