Rolen, McGriff thank those who helped them make HOF

Published 8:17 pm Sunday, July 23, 2023

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (AP) — The greatest moment of Scott Rolen’s 17-year career didn’t come during his 2006 World Series run with the St. Louis Cardinals or even during his outstanding first full season in 1997 with the Philadelphia Phillies, which earned him unanimous National League Rookie of the Year honors.

For Rolen, one of two players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, that honor was reserved for an unexpected moment with his parents after he was called up for his first major league game in 1996.

“Seeing Mom and Dad walk to their seats from my position at third base was a feeling never topped again in my 17 years,” Rolen said during his 16-minute acceptance speech.

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It took six tries, but Rolen’s parents, Ed and Linda, finally got to see their son earn his bronze Hall of Fame plaque. He was joined by Fred McGriff, elected unanimously by the Contemporary Baseball Era Players Committee in December after falling off the writers’ ballot in 2020.

Rolen was the only player to receive more than the 75% of the votes needed to qualify for induction. He received 297 votes (76.3%) from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in January. A year earlier, he got 63.2% of the vote.

“I’m grateful for this grand gesture,” Rolen said. “At no point in my lifetime did it ever occur to me that I would be standing on this stage.”

Rolen, a multi-sport high school star from Indiana, received a Division I offer to play basketball before the Phillies selected him straight out of Jasper High School in the second round of the 1993 amateur draft.

The third baseman spent six of his 17 seasons with the Cardinals, where he earned four of his seven All-Star selections and three of his eight Gold Gloves.

Rolen batted .281 with 316 homers and 1,287 RBIs in 2,038 games. He batted a team-best .421 during the 2006 World Series, which St. Louis won in five games over Detroit.

Rolen credited his parents for the values they instilled in him.

“I was not raised to be a Major League Baseball player,” he said. “I was raised to be honest, to work hard, to be accountable for my words and actions, and to treat people with kindness and respect.”

Joining Rolen on the stage was McGriff, who made sure to shake the hands of nearly all of the 50 Hall of Famers who welcomed him.

“I’m humbled and honored to be standing in front of you and now to be part of this fraternity,” McGriff said during his 20-minute speech. “When your career is validated by former players and executives that saw you play, that’s as good as it gets.”

The lanky first baseman was drafted by the New York Yankees in the ninth round of the 1981 amateur draft out of Thomas Jefferson High School in Tampa, Florida.

McGriff, who was affectionately nicknamed “Crime Dog” by ESPN’s Chris Berman, batted .284 with 493 homers and 1,550 RBIs in 2,460 games over 19 seasons. He played for six teams, was a five-time All-Star and helped the Atlanta Braves win the 1995 World Series.

The players on the writers’ ballot who fell short of induction this year included Todd Helton (72.2%), Billy Wagner (68.1%), Andruw Jones (58.1%), Gary Sheffield (55%), Carlos Beltrán (46.5%), Jeff Kent (46.5%), Alex Rodriguez (35.7%), Manny Ramirez (33.2%), Omar Vizquel (19.5%), Andy Pettitte (17%), Bobby Abreu (15.4%), Jimmy Rollins (12.9%), Mark Buehrle (10.8%), Francisco Rodriguez (10.8%) and Torii Hunter (6.9%).

Three others were honored during Hall of Fame weekend. Former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Carl Erskine received the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award, longtime Detroit Tigers beat writer John Lowe won the BBWAA’s Career Excellence Award, and Cubs radio broadcaster Pat Hughes was the recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award.