The Baseball Hall of Fame added six new members Sunday in Cooperstown, New York, as Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina, Harold Baines, Edgar Martinez and Lee Smith took their respective places among baseball legends.
Appropriately, Rivera was the last inductee to take the podium. Rivera is the greatest closer in MLB history, retiring with the most saves ever (652), 13 All-Star appearances and five World Series titles. The New York Yankees right-hander finished with an absurd 0.70 ERA in 141 postseason innings.
For more than just his performance, Rivera is an outlier in that he spent his entire 19-year career with one team. That was a point of pride for him:
His full speech didn't disappoint:
Brandy Halladay represented her husband, who died in a plane crash in November 2017, at Sunday's ceremony for the most emotional speech of the event. Fans and Hall of Famers alike rose to applaud her as she stepped to the microphone:
Former Toronto Blue Jays teammate Chris Carpenter also spoke about his relationship with Halladay on and off the field:
Halladay threw a perfect game May 29, 2010, against the Florida Marlins, a moment Brandy referenced in her speech, per the New York Post's Kevin Kernan: "With hard work, humility and dedication imperfect people can still have perfect moments."
Halladay was deservedly a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Martinez and Mussina, on the other hand, had to bide their time to get the call. This was Martinez's 10th year on the ballot and the sixth for Mussina.
Mussina achieved a great deal on the mound, making five All-Star Games and winning seven Golden Gloves. But his runner-up finish in the 1999 Cy Young voting was the closest he got to earning the game's top honor for pitchers. A World Series ring eluded Mussina in nine trips to the playoffs as well.
He referenced all of his near-misses.
"Maybe I was saving up from all those almost achievements for one last push, and I made it," he said, per Newsday's Laura Albanese.
Mussina discussed the humble origins of an adventure that ended in Cooperstown:
The Record's Art Stapleton provided an anecdote that summed up Mussina's cerebral, even-keeled approach:
Despite spending his entire MLB career nearly 3,000 miles away from central New York, Martinez might have had the most partisan reaction on the day:
Those on the West Coast didn't want to miss his speech either. The Seattle Mariners were set to play the Los Angeles Angels, with first pitch at 4:10 p.m. ET, yet the Mariners players were glued to the televisions in the clubhouse as the legendary hitter spoke:
Martinez shouted out a fellow inductee and recounted a humorous story involving former Seattle Mariners teammate Randy Johnson:
Baines and Smith were voted into the Hall by the Today's Game Committee.
Baines was a six-time All-Star and retired with a .356 on-base percentage and .820 OPS. His 1,628 RBI are 34th all-time, ahead of Chipper Jones, Mike Schmidt, George Brett and Andre Dawson among others.
The 60-year-old summed up his overall approach to the game in his speech, per The Athletic's Kavitha A. Davidson: "The game has always been played for the name on the front of the uniform—never for the one on the back."
He held back tears as he thanked members of his family for helping him in his career:
Smith left MLB as the all-time saves leader (478) and watched as both Rivera and Trevor Hoffman surpassed him in the record book. He led his league in saves on four occasions, including twice placing first in all of baseball (1991 and 1994).
Like Baines, Smith made sure to mention those who aided him off the field:
Looking ahead to 2020, next year's Hall of Fame class could struggle to match the sheer volume of this year's group. Derek Jeter will be on the ballot for the first time and is a lock for the Hall of Fame. Beyond the Yankees shortstop, there isn't another clear-cut Hall favorite based on recent results.
Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Larry Walker all built worthy resumes, but none collected more than 60.9 percent of the vote in the most recent ballot.
The unlikelihood of any first-timers aside from Jeter could open the door for Schilling, Clemens or Bonds or allow for Omar Vizquel to get a bigger share of the vote after finishing at 42.8 percent in his third year.