Going to my first Hall of Fame induction weekend, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t sure how many people were going to show up and what the atmosphere would be like. I knew one thing, and that was that this year’s class had some legendary names. Two of the most dominant pitchers in the history of the game, a pitcher who excelled as a starter and as a closer, and a member of the 3,000-hit club.
What I didn’t expect was nearly 50,000 people and an atmosphere like it was the World Series. It was an experience that every baseball fan needs in their lives, but this year’s induction had something spicy, something extra to it. The biggest reason for the magic in the air on a sunny, steaming Cooperstown day was the most dominant pitcher to ever come out of the Dominican Republic…Pedro Martinez.
It seemed like half of the D.R. was there Sunday for the ceremony. It was a raucous crowd that I never could have imagined. Pedro is a god in his country and you can sense it from the second the ceremony began. Every time his name was mentioned, the volume rose. Dominican flags could be seen everywhere, and all sorts of instruments were being played. You never see a live band in the building for an inductee, but that essentially happened on Sunday afternoon. The support that you saw from his country made you want to cheer him on even more. Even the fans who may have hated their team having to face Martinez during his career were on their feet for him. Martinez showed love to the five teams he played for. He thanked everyone for the support and truly showed his respect for the D.R. and the fans that came out for him. He had parts where he spoke in Spanish for them. Ending his speech holding the D.R. flag with fellow Dominican Hall of Famer Juan Marichal was the perfect ending to a perfect induction ceremony.
Craig Biggio also had a strong showing of support over the weekend. Astros fans came in flocks from Houston to see the first player in franchise history to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rarely do we ever see a guy stick around with the same team, and Biggio did that in a tremendous 20-year career with the Astros. 3,060 hits is going to almost always get you into Cooperstown, and Biggio did it with class. It was almost surprising though just how many Astros fans showed up. Houston isn’t close to New York, but that didn’t seem to matter. His speech was very emotional as he talked about his parents and family, starting to cry for a bit in the beginning. It was awesome to see that and to hear some cool anecdotes from a local New York guy that has made Houston his home for more than a quarter of a century.
John Smoltz became the first pitcher in MLB history to get into the Hall of Fame after having Tommy John Surgery. He emphasized the important of speaking with Tommy John and how influential he was on his career. Side note, it’s kind of a joke that Tommy John isn’t a Hall of Famer. I have had the chance to interview him twice, and even he has no idea why he’s not in the HOF. The guy had a tremendous career and did it after the surgery and played 26 seasons, which is almost unheard of. Smoltz emphasized the importance of protecting kids’ arms who are playing baseball. Smoltz also mentioned how he played the accordion about 10 times. There weren’t as many Braves fans and Smoltz supporters as you would have thought, though. Nonetheless, Smoltz had some strong messages in his speech, but it wasn’t close to that of Martinez and Biggio.
“I no longer have a fastball. I no longer have a mullet and I no longer have a scowl.” That was one of the quotes of the day coming from newest inductee Randy Johnson. The southpaw had the least amount of fan support Sunday as he never truly had one home. He played with six different teams in his 22-year career, putting up ridiculous numbers, including 303 wins, 4875 strikeouts, and a 3.29 ERA. Johnson had some special comments during his speech, but this was easily the quietest speech of the day. Some fans actually were taking a nap for this one as they awaited Martinez to step to the microphone. Johnson did mentioned Wounded Warriors he had brought out to the ceremony, and also talked about a baseball player with Leukemia that he had his mind on.
Ranking The Speeches
1. Pedro Martinez
2. Craig Biggio
3. John Smoltz
4. Randy Johnson
Overall, this was a special day. It’s an event that every single baseball fans need in their lives, at least once. You have to go to an All Star Game, a Home Run Derby, a World Series, and a Hall of Fame induction. I was indifferent about going because there is absolutely nothing around the area and I have heard it is a zoo. Both are true, but the aura that surrounded that place on Sunday truly gives you goosebumps. The video introductions were exceptional. Each video had a teammate of the player talk about them, along with the best highlights of their career. When Martinez was introduced, you can just feel the energy and the place about to explode. He blew the others away with his speech, which is only fitting after the career he had. Just being surrounded by 40,000-plus baseball fans celebrating the careers of four legendary players is something you won’t get anywhere else. It’s like hearing the National Anthem before Game 7 of the World Series.
If you love the game of baseball, please make sure you make the trip to Cooperstown. You won’t regret it.
Jake Brown is the Digital Program Manager at CBS Sports Radio and a columnist for CBS Sports Radio, CBS Local Sports, and CBS Local. He previously hosted Brown and Troupe and 4th & Goal with JB & BT with former NFL tight end Ben Troupe on Play.it, iTunes, and CBSLocalSports.com and will be announcing a new podcast soon. Jake lives in Queens, NY and has struggled living the life of a Mets, Knicks, and Jets fan.