NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
January 9, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
BRAD HORN: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Brad Horn. I'm Vice President of the Communications and Education for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. It is such a great pleasure to see all of you here this morning on what is a very celebratory day for everyone in Cooperstown and baseball fans everywhere. We're going to begin here momentarily. And as we welcome and begin this press conference today, I'll remind you from your left to right, Jack O'Connell, secretary/treasurer of the Baseball Writers Association of America, Jane Forbes Clark, Chairman of the Board of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, 2014 Hall of Fame electee, Tom Glavine, 2014 Hall of Fame electee Greg Maddux, 2014 Hall of Fame electee, Frank Thomas, and Jeff Idelson, the President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
We are honored to have a few distinguished guests in our audience today, and we always appreciate the support of our friends at Major League Baseball. Rob Manfred, Pat Courtney, Phyllis Merhige, Katy Feeney thank you so much.
From the New York Mets, Jay Horwitz is here. Thank you, Jay, for attending today, and at this time, I'd like to turn the program over to Jack to say a few words about the election. Jack?
JACK O'CONNELL: I was on a podium much like this 15 years ago sitting next to Nolan Ryan, George Brett, and Robin Yount who were all elected their first year of eligibility, and I thought this will never happen again. But it has happened again with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas.
The baseball writers voted in droves this year. Probably more votes were cast on this year's ballot than any other year. The average ballot had 8.4 names selected. You can only vote for ten, and slightly more than half of the ballots had all ten filled. So the voters really went out and voted and you see before you the results.
I want to thank the Elias Sports Bureau for its help in the ballots that go out with the biographical sketches on all of the players. Elias does a lot of work with the Hall of Fame on that. And special mention to Ernst & Young, and their partner Michael DiLecce who verifies our vote. Michael DiLecce is here today. Thanks for another great election.
On behalf of the Baseball Writers, our sincerest congratulations to this wonderful class of 2014.
BRAD HORN: I'd like to invite Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson to say a few words.
JEFF IDELSON: On behalf of Jane and our board of directors and the entire staff in Cooperstown, thank you so much for coming today and joining us. We're delighted to have you. Also delighted to have three of our board members in the audience, Bill Gladstone, Harvey Schiller, and Kevin Moore.
I'd like to commend Jack and the Baseball Writers on electing three very deserving candidates. The Hall of Fame turned 75 in June this year and the BBWAA has been with us at every step to handle the voting for recently retired players.
To echo Jack's comments special thanks to Ernst & Young and Michael DiLecce who has been with us every step of the way since 1996 in verifying the vote.
At baseball's winter meetings in December, the expansion era committee elected three managers, Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre, who now join the other 19 Major League managers already in Cooperstown. The three of them combined to win 7,655 games, 40 first place finishes, 17 pennants, and 8 World Series titles. They are three, four, five all?time in wins among managers.
Joe and Tony and Bobby are going to be joined by the three men sitting to my right in Cooperstown the weekend of July 27th when all six are inducted as the largest living class of inductees since 1971. What a great blessing this year for the museum to have a class like this. It's going to add so much to our year-long celebration in Cooperstown. And Jane and I look forward to welcoming Greg and Kathy, Tom and Christine, Frank and Megan and your families into our family, the Hall of Fame family.
One of the most difficult career paths in the world is to the Major Leagues as the odds are really stacked against you all the way. In the entire history of professional baseball there have been about 18,000 players to have worn a Major League uniform, 1 out of 100, 1% make it to Cooperstown. So the three guys here on the dais are in very, very special company.
The Hall of Fame is now comprised of 211 players out of the 18,000 that have played, 305 total plaques, 211 for the players.
I think it's fair to say that Frank, Tom and Greg had a significant impact on baseball and their elections are richly deserved. Greg totaled 355 wins, 8th all time. Four Cy Young awards, 18 Gold Gloves, kind of like Picasso on the mound. Serendipitous that Tom will rejoin Greg in Cooperstown. They pitched in ten seasons together in Atlanta. They were born 20 days apart, and both taken in the second round of the '84 draft, and are the first pair of long?standing rotation mates to be elected together since Eddie Plank and Rube Waddell in 1946.
Tom with his 305 wins or fourth all time among left?handed pitchers, won a pair of Cy Youngs, ten?time All?Star, and as we all know, the bigger the game, the better he pitched.
Frank, there is so much you can say about him. Consistently combined power and average like so few. One of only seven?? the only player in history, rather, to have seven consecutive seasons with at least 20 home runs, 100 RBIs, 100 walks and a .300 batting average, back?to?back MVPs, five?time All?Star, .301 lifetime, and his 521 home runs matched Ted Williams and William McCovey for 18th all time. Pretty significant numbers.
In addition to their great numbers, all three of them braced the game with class and dignity and should be celebrated for their overall contribution to the game.
Gentlemen, you combined to wear the uniforms of nine different teams when you played. Today three of you, teammates on a new team, the greatest team ever assembled, the Hall of Fame team. We're really thrilled to welcome you to Cooperstown. With that I'd like to ask Jane to help me in putting on the Jerseys of your final team.
BRAD HORN: Now I'd like to ask etch of our three newest members of the Hall of Fame to say an opening remark, starting with you, Tom.
TOM GLAVINE: First of all, I want to thank the baseball writers for voting me into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. It's certainly an honor. I've been overwhelmed, I guess, would probably be a good word for the first 24 hours of this experience. It's been a lot of fun. I'm certainly humbled and proud to have this opportunity and from my standpoint, a couple things that make it better to have the opportunity to go in with Greg and Frank, two guys who played the game the right way, played it hard, and did things the right way and were fierce competitors. So it's an honor for me to go in with them.
Even more special for me to have the opportunity to go in with Greg and then ultimately Bobby as well, two guys that Greg being a long standing teammate, Bobby being my manager for so many years. So to have the opportunity to go in and go in with two guys who have been so instrumental and influential on me as a player, two guys that I learned an awful lot from, to have that opportunity to go in with those two guys makes this even more special.
So, thank you, and looking forward to the rest of the things that are going on for the rest of the summer.
BRAD HORN: Thank you, Tom. Greg, if you'd slide the microphone over to you.
GREG MADDUX: Well, obviously, I'd like to thank the writers for picking me. I appreciate it. Very humbling experience, like Tom said. It's a tremendous honor to be included in this. I can't wait to meet some of the guys that are already in the Hall of Fame and to share this moment with Glavine and Frank over here is pretty special as well.
Bobby, Joe Torre, I was lucky enough to play for those two guys. I look forward to going in with those guys as well. Again, thank you very much, and it's a tremendous honor.
FRANK THOMAS: For me, I've got to thank the writers. I'm overjoyed, overwhelmed. Still thrilled to death, and it really hasn't sunk in yet. There were so many people involved in my career that I don't want to forget anyone. So I'm going to sit back for the next couple weeks and reflect and make sure by July I'll thank everyone. Just so happy to have my family here today who have meant so much to me.
I'm humbled and thrilled. This experience?? I come from a small town. We can dream so much. To dream to be a Major League player was something crazy from where I'm from. But to be in the Hall of Fame with the best of the best, I come to you today very humble and thankful.
So I'm just looking forward to this summer, and just going to take it all in. Once again, I thank you all.
BRAD HORN: Before we begin our question?and?answer session, we'd like to let everyone know that next week the Hall of Fame will announce the Cap selections for the Hall of Fame plaques for the entire class of 2014. So that decision will be forthcoming next week.
At this time, we are going to open a question?and?answer session.
Q. Tom and Greg, first of all, congratulations. You guys did everything in your careers, but one thing you did not do either one of you is pitch a no?hit game though you both came close. Did you ever think about missing out on that aspect of your career?
GREG MADDUX: No. I mean, you come close. It would have been nice, yeah, absolutely. But it seemed like I always fell a little bit short, but I'm not complaining. Everything was pretty well, and who knows.
TOM GLAVINE: I would probably echo that. I think there are a lot of guys that we played with and against and that are in the game today that you'll hear that phrase, boy, he had no?hit stuff today. I don't think you heard that about Greg and I very much. We generally were trying to pitch to contact as best we could.
So like Greg said, I think we both got fairly close a couple times, but it's probably more of a surprise when you find yourselves in that kind of game than anything else. You just try to ride it out as long as you can when you have one.
I think that no?hitters are certainly a combination of great stuff and a little bit of luck. I think for us to have been able to do that probably would have been a little more luck involved than anything else, but it just didn't work out that way.
GREG MADDUX: Plus after the fifth, you get real nervous, and it's hard to throw one after that.
Q. Frank, you're the second designated hitter, how much of a thrill is that for you? And obviously it's been around for 40 years and to be only second shows how difficult that position actually is?
FRANK THOMAS: I tell people I was blessed to play in the American League that had the option of the designated hitter. But my first full ten years I was the everyday first baseman for the Chicago White Sox. I was blessed to be able to take those early afternoon games off and just get four at?bats, because the team needed me just to be in the lineup some days.
Defensively I was adequate, I was very adequate. But my bat got me to Cooperstown. I'm not trying to fool anybody about that. Just got to thank a lot of great managers for that. Because the DH'ing in the game in the American League, you have to have a great DH nowadays or your team is going to have problems with great pitching.
Fortunately, these guys didn't have to deal with it. But you're talking about going in the best pitchers ever. These two guys right here with the mind, and the stuff, and I'm happy to hear that story about the no hitter stuff. These guys didn't have to throw no?hitters. You knew what was coming and they would still get them out.
I'm happy to be the second guy that spent a lot of time at DH because it is a tough position?
Q. The summation of your career in just a few dozen words and once you put the numbers in there are, there are only a few adjectives or descriptions left. How would you like to be remembered? What words would you like to see on your plaque?
GREG MADDUX: I guess overachieve would be a good one, in one word.
TOM GLAVINE: I don't know. I think you certainly want to be known as a competitor. I know some of the words that I hear people talk about me is competitor, stubborn. That was kind of one of my traits, I think that was probably good for me but got me in some trouble sometimes.
I think for me, you could pick either one, either dependable or durable. I'm proud of the fact that I made as many starts as I did and pitched as many innings as I did and didn't go on the disabled list. That was kind of our thing when we were all together. It's your job to pitch every five days so find a way to go out there. So I think durable would certainly be something that I would want people to look at my career as being that type of guy.
FRANK THOMAS: For me, I would think consistent and driven. I think I was a very driven person. I wasn't that blue?collar guy coming out. But I guess I don't want to call myself a diamond, but it was many years of polishing my career and getting it to where I was. Very driven should be the word.
Q. Frank, what do you remember most about your Major League debut?
FRANK THOMAS: I had a great debut. I came out with a great pitcher, Alex Hernandez. We came out of Double?A at the same time, and we both did a lot early in minor league ball. So the team decided to bring us up at the same time. So that was a magical day for both of us to get to the Major Leagues, No. 1 draft picks for two consecutive years to come up together.
GREG MADDUX: My first day was pretty cool. You walk down the steps at Wrigley Field and to get into the clubhouse and my locker was next to Rick Sutcliffe. That was pretty cool. I had watched him growing up as a kid a little bit. The starting pitchers for that day were Jamie Moyer and Nolan Ryan. So you had both ends of the spectrum right there. You had a guy that probably threw the hardest in the league against the guy that threw the softest in the league. So it was a pretty special day for me.
TOM GLAVINE: I think for me my debut, I guess one word that came to mind or comes to mind would be short. It didn't last very long, but I think I was more in awe of where I was than I was trying to get guys out. My first game was in the old Astrodome and Houston was in the middle of the pennant race, and the place was full and it was loud. I think I spent more time every time somebody would come in the batter's box kind of going through the process of, oh, my God. I'm facing this guy? What am I doing here?
I remember it all set in when I was in the big leagues and I had my first at?bat. Mike Scott was pitching against me that day. Up until that point through the minor leagues I had never heard a fastball come through the strike zone and hit the catcher's mitt quite the way it did when Mike Scott threw it that day. So I think that was the moment I thought to myself, okay, I'm in the big leagues. This is pretty cool.
Q. You guys got your pro careers started in the minor's. Could you reflect on your time down there and how it helped your development into what was a Hall of Fame career?
TOM GLAVINE: I think that for all of us and for most of the guys that played baseball, I think we all have an appreciation for what we went through in the minor leagues. I think baseball more than any other sport really is a sport where you've got to pay your dues. It doesn't matter how good you are coming out of high school or college or where you get drafted, most guys are going to spend some time in the minor leagues. And that's where you really learn how to play the game on an everyday basis, how to go to the ballpark every day and get something out of every day.
I know for me the minor leagues I made some good friends down there. Guys I still keep in touch with from time to time. It was really that point in time where you just learn how to kind of grind things out on a daily basis and learn how to get better. You knew, again, you were going to have to pay your dues down there, and the quicker you got through there, the quicker you could get through the big leagues.
GREG MADDUX: For me, that's kind of where you'd start to grow up a little bit. I didn't go to college. Not all of us went to Auburn. But I signed out of high school, so that was my first experience was this was my first time away from home and I had to grow up fast. That's what I remember early on. Once you get past that you start trying to get better and you learn as much as you can from all your coaches and your teammates, even the opposing team.
You've got to move up. You can't repeat a level. I just always wanted to make sure I moved up a notch until I finally got to the big leagues.
FRANK THOMAS: For me it really helped going to Auburn, playing major college football I got to grow up a little faster. I spent only eight months in the minor leagues. Because I think playing at that high?level of football, the competition level mentally for me was already there, so when I got to the big leagues, I knew I was there for a reason. Being the big, Strong guy that I am, it helped my chances to stay in there for a long time. I was blessed to play major college football along with baseball.
Q. A lot of athletes have a trophy room at home where you keep special mementos from your career, maybe a game ball from 300 wins or a bat from 500 home runs. Wondering if any of you have anything at home that is especially meaningful to you that reminds you of your career?
FRANK THOMAS: For me, I guess, playing so long I got to meet a lot of great players. My bat collection sits in my basement. Probably 50 or 60 of who I thought were the greatest hitters of my 20 years in the big leagues.
TOM GLAVINE: I'm not a huge collector. I've got a few things from some guys in baseball. I've got a Mickey Mantle baseball, a Ted Williams baseball, Whitey Ford baseball, so some of the guys that certainly are greats of the game. I've got some guys from other sports, Joe Montana, Wayne Gretzky type of stuff.
But as far as my career went, I really didn't save a whole lot, and I probably should have, looking back. But certainly my Cy Young Awards and things like that. But on a personal level I think about the only things that I have are a couple of milestone wins for baseball. Like 200, 250, 300, and pretty much everything I have or used in my 300th win that the Hall of Fame didn't take from me is at my house, so?
Q. Tom and Greg, did either of you ever, kiddingly or not, try to persuade John Smoltz to retire when you did?
TOM GLAVINE: No, I didn't. I've given him grief since then. I've given him grief yesterday. I told him he didn't have to go play another year, he would be up here with us. But, no, it would have been cool if John was with us as well. But his day will be coming soon.
GREG MADDUX: Yeah, I mean, no, not really. It would have been really nice though to have Smoltzy up here with us, obviously. But I always say play as long as you can, to be honest with you. You never know. You might have another good year.
Q. Tom and Greg, there was this perception because you guys worked the plate as well as you did that you were given a wider spread by the umpires, and there was a joke going around that your plaque should be a little wider because of it. Is that an urban legend or is it true? If it is true, how did it evolve?
TOM GLAVINE: No, I mean, I think there is some truth to it. But I think up until the last few years that was kind of the nature of the game then. When we came into the game the strike zone was more of an east?and?west strike zone. Certain umpires were considered pitchers' umpires versus hitters' umpires, so you had that dynamic going.
I know when I first came up, trust me, there were plenty of times in my first year of baseball where I'd throw a pitch that I thought was a strike. I might complain on the bench that, well, they're calling that pitch for Dwight Gooden, why aren't they calling that for me? And it would be well, because you're not Dwight Gooden, and had you to earn that.
That is the way the game was. It still is to a certain degree now. Let's not kid ourselves. Some guys get the benefit of the call over others, and it all has to do with experience and consistency and other things.
But from my standpoint you knew you had 18 inches of the plate to work with. You just had to figure out where those 18 inches were. If you could get six inches off the plate, then take it if you can get it.
That was certainly my philosophy. I was going to try to have my catcher set up on the outside corner and I was going to hit that glove as often as I could. If I could get them off the plate and hit the glove and they called it, I was going to go a little bit further and see if I could get it. That was all part of the cat?and?mouse game. Just had to figure out how to use it. But it's changed a little bit in today's game. It's more of a north?and?south strike zone now.
GREG MADDUX: Yeah, I think for me I charted a lot of games up, and I charted a lot of Glavine's games. And it's no secret that every umpire sees different. You can't expect all the umpires to see the same way. So you're going to have different strike zones with the different umps. If the umpire was giving two or three inches off the plate away, it was pretty consistent he gave it to both guys.
I think the difference like with Glavine is he would throw 20 pitches there where the other team's pitcher would throw two or three. So everyone's like, oh, he's getting more pitches. No, he's making more pitches. That is the established strike for that day and the pitcher that takes advantage of it is probably going to win.
Again, it works the other way with hitters too. Like trying to get a strike inside to Frank was tough. His strike zone was probably a little bit where you'd flip it for the hitter's side. I think Tony Gwynn, every time you faced him, it was 1?0.
So the strike zone was always moved around a little bit, but I think the better pitchers make more pitches, but it looks like they're hitting more pitches.
Q. I'd like to ask each of you where and when were you when you received the call yesterday? What did you do in preparation for that either mentally or physically knowing that you might get a call yesterday about the whole thing?
TOM GLAVINE: I was home with my wife and four of our kids. The other one was off at college. I think the hardest part for me about yesterday was making all the preparations to be here today and not knowing if I was going to be here today. My mind doesn't work very well that way. I'm kind of more of okay, this is what's going on, now let's deal with it. I'm not a very good this might go on so let's prepare for this.
So it was a little bit difficult in that regard. But I know we spent the morning, my wife and I, just kind of packing, running around doing the normal carpool stuff that we do, which was very much of a big deal for us. We were actually done with everything at 12:30 and sitting down at the kitchen table waiting for a phone call. So those 45 minutes before the phone call came it was a little bit anxious.
FRANK THOMAS: For me, I got up at like 7:00 yesterday morning, worked out. Everyone else in the house was asleep. I just wanted to get all the nervous energy out, and no one in the house was allowed to pack. All my family is here, five kids and my wife. There was a big superstition there. We were hoping for the best, but I didn't want to take anything for granted.
So when we finally got that call, within an hour we had a lot to get done. So it was worth the wait. It was worth the hustle to get out of there, and we made it finally. But it was the best call of my life.
GREG MADDUX: Luckily we were on the west coast so the day came a lot earlier for us. With the time change, we woke up, had some coffee, watched a little bit of the network coverage on TV and shared the morning with my wife, Kathy, and my mother. So it was a very special morning. Got the call, very exciting.
Q. Tom and Greg, obviously (No microphone) is going to join you in the Hall of Fame. How important is Leo Mazzone to your success, and could a case be made that he could somehow make it to the Hall of Fame someday as a pitching coach?
TOM GLAVINE: I certainly won't speak for Greg. I know he'll have his own thoughts and I don't want to speak for John. But I'm fairly confident in saying that Leo was a big help for all of us in different ways. Leo was the guy for me that certainly helped me get to the point where I understood my mechanics, and I knew what I was trying to do and I knew what adjustments I had to make. It was part of the conversations that he and I would always have. Do your work, go through your work, and try to be as consistent as I can.
My thought process was I wanted to in a very respectful way eliminate him as my pitching coach as much as I could. I would always say to him, my goal every game is not to have you come out to the mound and tell me what I'm doing wrong, because if I am, there is a lot going on that's not very good. So I want to try to figure it out before you have to come out here.
That was kind of the give and take that we had. He was very helpful for me at that stage of my career, really understanding my mechanics.
Yeah, I mean, I guess you could make an argument for him somewhere down the line. I don't know how that whole process works. But he was a pitching coach for some pretty darn good pitchers and some pretty good teams. So certainly somebody you could make an argument for.
GREG MADDUX: I think a good coach will teach you to coach yourself, and I think that's what Leo did. Leo helped me coach myself, like Tom was saying. The goal is not have him come out there and tell you what to do all the time, and he's right.
Probably the biggest thing I got from Leo was you make your starts. No matter how you feel, you go out there and you pitch and you make your starts. You'd much rather lose than go out there and not try to win. It was very important when that fifth day rolled around, you pitched regardless of what was going on.
Q. Greg, we are in New York today. Back in '92 there was a thought that you might be spending a decent amount of time here. Do you ever reflect and think about what it might be like had you signed with the Yankees and spent a significant amount of time with them?
GREG MADDUX: I have, absolutely, especially, when they were winning all the World Series in the late '90s. It was a decision for me at the time where I was a National League player and the opportunity for me to go to Atlanta. You have to remember this is '92, too. The Braves were really good in '91 and '92. I had an opportunity to go there. My decisions back then were I wanted to stay in the National League and I wanted a chance to get a World Series ring.
Back then I wish?? well, back then I felt Atlanta kind of fit both those needs for me. But, yeah, I was close to coming to New York. It would have been a blast, I think.
Q. You won Cy Youngs, and, Frank, you have won MVP awards. Do you feel any one of those seasons or perhaps not one of those seasons was actually your best season during your career?
FRANK THOMAS: I think '93 was my favorite season. Just had a cast of characters on the team that we didn't fulfill the destiny, I thought for that team. We were loaded with superstars from Bo Jackson to Steve Sax to Ellis Burks. I mean, we had a team that year that I really felt with the pitching staff, the young pitching staff that we had to win the whole thing. But we were drilled by the champion that year, which is Toronto. We had a two?year run after that. I think '93, the MVP that year was most special for me.
TOM GLAVINE: I think for me probably my best year was '98. My second Cy Young Award. I think really looking back at it, the only reason I say that is it was really the one year that I went through the whole year and didn't feel like I got into some kind of a funk on the mound with my mechanics. Every other year, no matter how good your year goes, I always felt like there was a stretch of time, whether it was a start or a couple of starts where things just didn't feel right. You didn't feel comfortable. You were fighting yourself on the mound a little bit, and you tried your best to get through it and then figure it out.
'98, for whatever reason, stayed very healthy that year. Felt good all that year, and never really felt like mechanically I got out of whack at all that year. So I think that was the one year that I probably feel the best about it from that regard.
GREG MADDUX: I think for me it had to be in '95, obviously, because that is the year we won the World Series. The individual stuff is all cool and everything, and it's hard to put another year for me over the year we won the World Series. So I think when you can?? when you're like the last team standing and you have that ring, it's really hard to beat that.
Q. Greg a long time ago you told me when you were in Pikesville, Kentucky, you referred to yourself as a "brain?dead heaver". And I'm wondering what that was and when did it stop because it's sort of hard to imagine today.
GREG MADDUX: A "brain?dead heaver" is someone that rears back and Chucks it as hard as he can with no clue of where it's going r what he's throwing. But that's kind of the secret of pitching is to learn yourself, to learn the hitters, to get away from the brain?dead heaver philosophy. It works for some guys, but you've got to throw awful hard to be able to get away from doing that.
But you always try to not only throw a good pitch, but you try to throw the right pitch.
BRAD HORN: We'll conclude our formal Q & A.