Fred McGriff played in six franchises, too many, and his new shield cap in the Hall of Fame had no logo. Scott Rolen represents the St. Louis Cardinals, but has played for a total of four teams.
“Derek Chipper,” Lauren said from the Clark Sports Center stage on Sunday. “I’ll explain that later.”
Many of the greats who sat behind Lauren never changed teams, including former Yankees captain Derek Jeter and Atlanta Braves mainstay Chipper Jones. These players evoke a ferocious loyalty from fans and have the kind of magnetism that compels people to follow the undulating, rambling paths to the baseball shrine on Lake Otsego.
In that sense, it’s no surprise that this summer’s get-togethers were more intimate than usual. Neither McGriff nor Lauren have spent more than five full seasons at the same location, and their ceremony drew about 10,000 fans. Last year’s class was headlined by longtime Boston slugger David Ortiz, and was attended by about 35,000 people.
But while McGriff and Lauren were travel savvy, they were also respected. Consistent production in Canada and California, the Midwest, the Deep South and the East Coast kept demand going all the way to Cooperstown.
“My goal was simply to make it to the big leagues,” said McGriff, a ninth-round draft pick who would match Lou Gehrig’s 493 home runs. “And I exceeded every expectation imaginable, and some more.”
McGriff was dropped from the college baseball team as a sophomore at Jefferson High School in Tampa, Florida. 148 in the early pro summer of 1981, and in December 1982 the Yankees traded him to Toronto as part of a package with veteran middle relief pitcher Dale Murray.
Of all George Steinbrenner’s wildest moves in the 1980s, McGriff’s deal did the Yankees the most damage. None of the exiled stars, including Jay Buhner, Doug Drabek, Willie McGee and Jose Rijo, made it to Cooperstown.
“That little short porch in right field. It was probably beautiful to me,” McGriff said, referring to Yankee Stadium’s attractive conditions for left-handed hitters. However, he has done well as a first baseman for Toronto, San Diego, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers.
McGriff’s speech referred to several Hall of Famers who helped him along the winding road. He tried to hit like Kansas City hitting champion George Brett. Prominent executives Pat Gillick and John Schurholz traded in his place. As a rookie prodigy in 1995, Jones helped McGriff win a title with the Braves. Tampa Bay teammate and hitting master Wade Boggs encouraged him to look at the fastball on every pitch.
“I did, and it worked,” McGriff said.
Third baseman Lauren took a different approach to the speech. In the six months since his election, he said, he has sent private letters to thank the people who have made the biggest impact on baseball. On Sunday, he focused almost entirely on his family.
“It was a simple childhood with simple expectations and lessons,” said Lauren, who grew up in Jasper, Indiana, about 80 miles north of the Kentucky line. “Family first; we are loved. And always choose the highway.”
“And then I was drafted, and 20 years of hypertension and reflux started. Nothing was worth it.”
The Phillies acquired Lauren in the second round in June 1993, but he intended to play baseball and basketball at the University of Georgia. Before abandoning his professional career, Lauren was on the roster for his basketball game at the Indiana/Kentucky All-Star at his Square Arena in Marquette, Indianapolis. Feeling unprepared, he turned to his father, Ed, for advice.
“Yes, Dad,” said Lauren. “I can’t handle the ball, I can’t shoot, I’m completely out of basketball, and everyone in the gym, including my coach, is better than me.”
“Okay,” replied Ed Lauren, to Scott’s confusion.
Ed Lauren repeated Scott’s words and listed all the reasons for his concern. Then Ed asked, what? can you do? Scott speculated that he could rebound, defend, fight for loose balls and outsmart others. Ed said it was fine.
“And here comes the word of wisdom: ‘So do it,'” Lauren said, pausing again as the crowd cheered. “At the end of the day, the words ‘So do it,’ got me into the minor leagues and gave me the simple mindset that I would never allow myself to be unprepared or cornered.” “
After taking his father’s mantra into himself, Lauren said he never played to prove people wrong. Instead, he just played his best every day and lived by accepting the results of that process.
Ultimately, he won eight Gold Glove Awards, hit 316 home runs, and won the Cardinals in 2006. It was his first destination after the Phillies before the Blue Jays and Cincinnati Reds.
Well, McGriff and Lauren finally join their forever team, the greatest team. They are members of the Hall of Fame.