Sunday's induction ceremony in Cooperstown drew one of the largest crowds in the history of the Hall of Fame, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
Nearly 50,000 fans packed the upstate village and the field at the Clark Sports Center to see the enshrinements of Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa.
Cooperstown merchants say it was the best induction weekend in years.
Gene Marra, owner of Cooperstown Distillery, told The Daily Star of Oneonta that his revenues for the weekend were “historical.” The business got a boost Saturday when the wives of 42 Hall of Famers visited his distillery.
Last July, business in Cooperstown suffered because no living person was inducted.
RELEASE FROM THE HALL OF FAME AND MUSEUM
Larger-Than-Life Heroes, Crowds Celebrate on Induction Sunday in Cooperstown
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y.) – The largest class of living Hall of Fame inductees in more than 40 years was greeted by one of the largest gatherings in National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony history on Sunday.
It was a big weekend in Cooperstown. And as usual, it was baseball’s best.
Baseball’s most exclusive club welcomed six new members on Sunday in front of 44 returning Hall of Famers on the Clark Sports Center stage, a nation-wide audience on MLB Network and an estimated crowd of 48,000 fans.
The Class of 2014 featured longtime Atlanta Braves rotation mates Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, 500-home run club member Frank Thomas and managers Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre – who rank third, fourth and fifth, respectively, on the all-time wins list.
Maddux led off the ceremony, thanking his family and mentors that helped him amass 355 wins and four Cy Young Awards.
“I learned to want to be great,” Maddux said. “That made the difference.”
Cox followed with a light-hearted speech that drew several ovations from the huge group of Braves fans, who broke into their traditional war chant as Cox stepped to the podium.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think this would happen,” Cox said. “But I’m sure glad it did.”
Glavine acknowledged his hometown of Billerica, Mass., his doctors and trainers in the big leagues and his teammates. But when he began speaking about his parents, Fred and Millie, Glavine’s voice began to crack.
“My parents gave me the two things you want the most as a kid: Their time and a good example,” Glavine said. “Saying ‘thank you’ is certainly not enough. But thank you.”
La Russa followed the Braves trio in the cleanup spot and credited his family – and some good fortune – for his Hall of Fame election.
“Since December when I was elected, I have not been comfortable with it,” La Russa said. “I never had one day (as a manager) that we felt we didn’t have total support from the people up top. I’m very, very fortunate – and being really lucky is a Hall of Fame credential.”
Thomas received a rousing ovation from a large Chicago contingent among the crowd, and then gathered himself at the podium while his voice wavered. The Big Hurt wiped away the tears while thanking his family, friends and his fellow Hall of Famers.
“You can be someone special if you really work at it,” Thomas recalled his father saying. “I took that to heart, Pops, and look where we are today.”
Torre closed the memorable program by recounting his path through six decades of big league ball as a player and manager.
“I knew failure. But the only way you get better is to experience setbacks,” Torre said. “And when I took the Yankees job, I knew if I was ever going to find out if I could do this stuff that this would be the way. New York fans, I’m here because of you.”
Other highlights from Sunday included:
**The 2014 Award Winners were honored on the Induction Ceremony stage: J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Roger Angell of The New Yorker; Ford C. Frick Award winner Eric Nadel, the longtime Texas Rangers broadcaster; and Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award winner Joe Garagiola. The award winners accepted their honors and delivered their speeches on Saturday during the fourth annual Hall of Fame Awards Presentation at Doubleday Field.
**Sunday’s estimated crowd of 48,000 fans at the Clark Sports Center is the third-largest estimated crowd in the history of the Induction Ceremony. The 2007 Ceremony drew an estimated 82,000 fans, and the 1999 Ceremony crowd was estimated at 50,000.
**Eric Bliss, a Cooperstown Central School graduate, performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” and was accompanied by the crowd as the words and melody echoed off the surrounding rolling hills of Cooperstown.
**During the introduction of returning Hall of Famers, thunderous standing ovations came for several Hall of Famers, including Henry Aaron, Phil Niekro and Cal Ripken. Fifty Hall of Famers – including the Class of 2014 – returned to the stage in Cooperstown to participate in the Induction Ceremony. The six living inductees marked the most at any one Induction Ceremony since 1971.
Transcripts of the Induction Ceremony speeches of Bobby Cox, Tom Glavine, Tony La Russa, Greg Maddux, Frank Tomas and Joe Torre will be available Sunday evening online at www.baseballhall.org/media.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2015 Induction Weekend will take place July 24-27, with the Induction Ceremony scheduled for July 26. For more information, please visit www.baseballhall.org/hall-famers/rules-election/future-eligibles.