Once a year, tiny Cooperstown, New York becomes the most important sports town in America.
The transformation occurs when baseball's year class of historic greats is ceremoniously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, forever cementing their status as heroes and ambassadors of our national pastime.
This year's class is a truly remarkable one. It features two 300-game winners, a member of the 500-home run club and three managers with eight World Series rings between them.
Here is the rundown of all the information you need to check out the induction ceremony.
2014 Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
Where: Clark Sports Center, Cooperstown, New York
When: Sunday, July 27
TV: MLB Network
Live Stream: www.baseballhall.org
|Greg Maddux||Pitcher||Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres|
|Tom Glavine||Pitcher||Atlanta Braves, New York Mets|
|Frank Thomas||First baseman, designated hitter||Chicago White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Oakland Athletics|
|Joe Torre*||Manager||New York Mets, Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Bobby Cox*||Manager||Atlanta Braves, Toronto Blue Jays|
|Tony La Russa*||Manager||Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals|
BaseballHall.org, *teams as manager only
Rolling Stone's Dan Epstein made an excellent case regarding how this Hall of Fame class should resonate with today's baseball fan:
And unlike last year, when the Hall inducted a class made up entirely of guys who died before America even entered World War II, all six of these gents made their HOF bones during the '80s, '90s and '00s. In other words, they're ours; if you're a baseball fan of legal drinking age, you must at some point have rooted for (or against) these guys, while witnessing and debating and marveling at their respective accomplishments in real time.
While every member of this class is a bona-fide baseball hero, here's a primer on the accomplishments of a few key inductees.
Greg Maddux was one of the game's smartest pitchers, thumbing his way to 355 wins and an astonishing career 3.16 ERA.
The numbers during his run of four consecutive Cy Young Awards are a beauty to behold, even in table form.
His control of the ball and mastery of the strike zone were nearly unparalleled in baseball history. In 5008.1 innings pitched, Maddux gave up just 999 walks. He made a fine living painting the black with his array of darting fastballs and change-ups.
According to Maddux, the Hall of Fame call hasn't changed his day-to-day existence.
"Not really," he said, via the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan (subscription required). "Still take the trash out."
There are a number of wonderful nuggets to be found in Maddux's career statistics. He recorded a stolen base at the age of 42 with the San Diego Padres. Not bad for a pitcher in his 23rd season of pro baseball.
This is certainly a big weekend for Braves fans, as four of the inductees have been involved with the team at some point in their careers. It's tough to stratify the greatness of this class, but Maddux just might be the most impressive of them all.
The Big Hurt.
One of the great nicknames in all of sports belongs to one of baseball's all-time mashers. Thomas amassed 521 home runs and 1,704 RBI in a mind-blowing 19-year career.
The two-time MVP put up eye-popping numbers throughout the 1990s and 2000s, thanks to a laser-sharp focus (.301 career batting average) and an imposing physical presence at the plate.
Perhaps the biggest shock of Thomas' career is that he made only five All-Star teams, despite hitting over 30 home runs in a season nine times.
Everyone talks about Thomas' prodigious power but former teammate Paul Konerko noted he had a truly sublime swing.
"Most people look at the size and strength, but that's really secondary," Konerko said, via the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan. "His swing was really good and just designed to be more for average, not for power. But with his size and strength, it turns into more than that."
Thomas was a terror right up until the very end of his career, mashing 39 home runs at the age of 38 in his first season with the Oakland Athletics and another 26 dingers with the Toronto Blue Jays the very next year.
You may not like Joe Torre, but you can't argue with his success as a manager.
Torre led the New York Yankees to four World Series titles in the 1990s, commandeering the likes of Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada. His Yankees made the playoffs in each of his 12 years in charge.
Brad Horn, the Hall's vice president of communications and education, believes Torre could bring a huge crowd to Cooperstown. Via MLB.com's Paul Hagen:
And here in New York state, Joe Torre is about as popular a figure as they come when it comes to baseball. We feel like many Yankees fans could just drive over for the day just to celebrate Joe Torre's election. It just has the right recipe for a very large weekend here in Cooperstown.
Torre didn't have quite as much success as a manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers at the end of his coaching career, nor did he look like a future member of the Hall after stints with the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals. No matter, as his legacy is firmly intact thanks to his accomplishments with the Yankees.