Sports Fan: Stupendous Six inducted into MLB Hall of Fame
It doesn’t get much better than this: six of baseball’s best-of-the-best were inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame at the same induction ceremony Sunday, July 27 — and three of those stars had been together on one team, the Atlanta Braves, for years.
The trio included ace pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and manager Bobby Cox. The other player, Frank Thomas, who played for the Chicago White Sox, Oakland A’s and Toronto Blue Jays, was known for his tremendous power, finishing with 521 home runs (sixth on the all-time list) and 1,704 runs batted in along with a lifetime batting average of .301. Of all the six inductees, he was the largest athlete, standing 6-foot-5. Both his size and his presence earned the respect of the many pitchers he faced during his long career. Thomas, known colloquially as “The Big Hurt,” also holds a degree from Auburn, where he began his college years as a football player but ,after an injury, devoted his athletic career to baseball.
The two pitchers inducted on Sunday, Maddux and Glavine, were among the best of all time. Maddux finished his long career with 355 wins while Glavine won 305 games. As Maddux won four Cy Young awards, Glavine garnered two. Like Thomas, they were elected in their first year of eligibility.
Both pitchers were craftsmen known for control and ball movement, and they seldom lost games because they neglected their preparation routines. In fact, they were both fastidious students of the game, always trying to learn something new to add to their pitching tools.
The three men truly were admired by their legions of fans as 48,000 turned out in Cooperstown, New York, to applaud the three players plus managers Joe Torre, Cox and Tony LaRussa. That was the third largest crowd in the long history of the Hall of Fame inductions, the largest being the 75,000 who attended the celebration for Cal Ripken Jr., and the late Tony Gwynn in 2007. The second largest turnout, 50,000, was in 1999 when fan favorites Robin Yount, George Brett and Nolan Ryan were inducted.
Torre, who led the Yankees to six World Series and four championships, had his greatest success in New York while Cox had his best years in Atlanta, leading the Braves to 15 playoff appearances, five National League pennants and the 1995 World Series championship. Like the other two managers inducted, he was respected and even revered by many fans. But of the three manager inductees, Torre was by far the best baseball player, finishing his career with a .297 batting average. He also hit 252 home runs and drove in 1185 runs, with his best season coming in 1971 when his .363 batting average, 137 RBI and 230 hits earned him the league’s MVP award. He was also named to nine all-star teams during his long playing career.
LaRussa, who holds a law degree from Florida State University, had several stops along the way, including long runs with the White Sox (1979-86), the Athletics (1986-95) and the Cardinals (1996-2011). At Oakland, his 1986 team won the World Series while his St. Louis clubs captured World Series championships in 2006 and 2011. With 2,728 wins to his credit as a manager, he trailed only Connie Mack and John McGraw in total victories.LaRussa was recently hired as Chief Baseball Officer for the Arizona Diamondbacks where his keen intellect and experience should help that franchise return to its glory days.
Certainly, this MLB Hall of Fame induction included some of the strongest candidates in recent memory: two pitchers with 655 combined wins, a manager who also had a stellar MLB playing career, and two others who were among the most respected managers of all time.And to add to the “edge” of the 2014 class, Bobby Cox had the distinction of being ejected from 158 games, yes, 158 games, during his managerial career. Mr. Cox often disagreed with the men in blue, and he obviously wasn’t afraid to let them know it.
Yes, the class of 2014 was one for the ages, and it’ll be hard to duplicate that in next year’s ballot where Glavine and Maddux teammate John Smoltz will be eligible for the first time. Over a two-decade career with the Braves, Smoltz won 213 games while losing 155. He also finished with an earned run average of 3.33, so he’s a favorite of many baseball fans to join Maddux, Glavine and Cox in the hall.
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