He went to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and unearthed these nuggets
COOPERSTOWN, NY — Picked up pieces from three days at the Hall of Fame.
■ The Red Sox had a relatively light representation at Sunday’s induction ceremony. Among the new Hall of Famers — Mariano Rivera, Edgar Martinez, Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina, Harold Baines, and Lee Smith — only Smith played for Boston and that was a mere two-plus seasons between 1988-90. Smith surrendered a game-losing, 10th-inning, two-run homer to fellow Hall of Famer Alan Trammell in his first Sox game and was part of Morgan Magic in 1988.
Pedro Martinez, Jim Rice, Wade Boggs, and Dennis Eckersley were among more than 50 Hall of Fame players on stage with Smith and the other new inductees. Carlton Fisk and Carl Yastrzemski did not attend the New York-centric ceremony.
■ Hall of Famers on stage who spent a small amount of time with the Sox: Rickey Henderson, Andre Dawson, Tony Perez, Ferguson Jenkins, Rollie Fingers (one day, did not play), and John Smoltz. Jeff Bagwell was drafted and developed by the Red Sox, but was traded to Houston before he made it to Fenway.
■ Crowd estimates are ever tricky, but it’s generally agreed that the largest induction crowd was the 82,000 that turned out for Cal Ripken Jr. in 2007. There were a lot of New York license plates in Cooperstown this weekend and Sunday’s estimated turnout of 55,000 ranked as the second-largest crowd ever.
When I asked Ripken if he thinks his record will be broken he said, “Maybe next year when Derek Jeter gets in.’’
■ Jeter has a chance to be the second candidate to appear on every ballot (Rivera was the first) and he might be the only new Hall of Famer selected by the baseball writers for the Class of 2020. There are no other strong new candidates on the next ballot (Paul Konerko, Bobby Abreu?), which could mean a spike in votes for Curt Schilling, who last year had the highest vote total among players not selected by the writers. Earning 75 percent vote is required for admission. Schilling hit 61 percent last year.
The thin 2020 ballot should also help steroid guys Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who cracked 59 percent in 2019.
■ I encountered no one in Cooperstown who believes the “mistaken identity” theory behind the June 9 shooting of David Ortiz. Pedro Martinez has communicated with Ortiz, who is still recovering at Massachusetts General Hospital, but did not wish to say much.
“This is for David and his family to talk about when they are ready,’’ said Martinez. “The only thing I will say is that this is the first time a baseball player was targeted in our country.’’
Robin Bernstein, the United States ambassador to the Dominican Republic, was also in Cooperstown and when I questioned the mistaken identity theory, Bernstein said, “Remember that this is an ongoing investigation.’’
■ Chicago White Sox GM Kenny Williams has nothing but good things to say about Chris Sale. Williams drafted Sale with the 13th overall pick in 2010 and promised Sale he’d be in the big leagues in six weeks if he signed with Chicago. Sale pitched only 11 games in the minors before he was promoted in August 2010. Williams says he’s a fan of Sale’s combustability.
“The way he got mad and said harsh things to me convinced me that he would be an ace,’’ said Williams, who dealt Sale to Boston before the 2017 season.
■ QUIZ: Name the only two players who homered off both Lee Smith and Mariano Rivera (answer below — neither played for the Red Sox).
■ Yankee general manager Brian Cashman is looking forward to coming to Fenway with his first-place team Thursday. “It’s unusual for us to be this far into the season and without having played at Fenway,’’ said Cashman. This is due in part to the fact that the two Sox-Yankee games in London were registered as “home’’ games for the Red Sox. So much for home field advantage.
■ The induction of Baines (who never got more than 6.1 percent of votes on the writers ballot) gives hope to legions of fans who want Dwight Evans enshrined in Cooperstown. Swell. Just don’t try telling Tony La Russa that Baines doesn’t belong in Cooperstown. When controversy accompanied Baines’s election by the Today’s Game Era Committee (LaRussa is a member), La Russa issued a vigorous defense in a four-page essay entitled “Career, Criteria and Process Integrity.” The La Russa manifesto was replete with statistical breakdowns and addressed “claims of bias and cronyism.” La Russa concluded, “Harold’s career accomplishments earned him his Hall of Fame selection. An objective and thorough review of his record should confirm his membership as well within the very stringent requirements of the Hall of Fame fraternity.’’ Baines’s agent is Boston-based Jack Sands.
■ Hall of Fame knuckleballer Phil Niekro, who spoke at a memorial service for John Havlicek at Trinity Church in Copley Square in April, still chokes up at the memory of his childhood friend. Niekro said he spoke with Beth Havlicek over the weekend.
■ Sandy Koufax enjoyed Sunday breakfast on the porch of the Otesaga Hotel with Jane Leavy, who wrote a best-selling book on Koufax in 2002. Koufax has been a Hall of Famer longer than anyone else on stage Sunday. He was enshrined in 1972. Jim Palmer, who beat Koufax in the final game of the ace lefty’s career in the 1966 World Series, did not make it to the 2019 induction. He was back in Baltimore doing his TV duties for Red Sox vs. Orioles.
■ Eighty-two-year-old Brooks Robinson (HOF Class of 1983) attended and reminisced about Ted Williams’s final game in the majors in 1960. Brooks was standing at third base when Ted homered in his final at-bat in the bigs.
He also talked about his experience when Norman Rockwell did an original painting of Robinson in 1971.
“I worked with Rockwell for about five days on that, posing,’’ said Robinson. “He actually put himself in the painting. He’s in the front row, smoking a cigar.”
Robinson purchased the painting at auction for $200,000 in 1984 and it is on loan at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass.
■ It was strange to be in Cooperstown without Nick Cafardo, who died suddenly while covering the Red Sox at spring training in February. Nick has been nominated for the 2020 J.G. Taylor Spink Award, so we’re hoping he’ll be honored here with Jeter next July 25-26.
■ Quiz answer: Bobby Bonilla and Mark McGwire.