David Ortiz, the first career designated hitter to be selected on the first ballot, headlines the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony

COOPERSTOWN, NY – The National Baseball Hall of Fame inducted seven new members during induction ceremonies on Sunday. But the afternoon of speeches, emotions and memories belonged to Big Papi.

“Wow! Cooperstown!” began David Ortiz, kicking off his speech to the crowd sprawled on the grounds of the Clark Sports Complex. The rally was heavily flavored with Red Sox gear emblazoned with Ortiz’s No. 34, not to mention numerous flags representing the Dominican Republic, where Ortiz was born.

Ortiz became the first career designated hitter to be selected on his first ballot when this year’s results were announced in January. Ortiz thanked the baseball writers for the honor in his typically forceful manner, saying, “You made it.”

Ortiz becomes the fourth Dominican-born player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, joining longtime friend Pedro Martinez, Vladimir Guerrero Sr. and Juan Marichal.

Ortiz, who has dual citizenship, also thanked America before offering a travel promotion for his original home, saying, “To all my American friends, consider this an open invitation to visit my island. The Dominican Republic has a special flavor. We have a lot of good and happy people, beautiful beaches where you can go when it’s freezing here.”

During his 20-season MLB career, Ortiz hit 541 homers while finishing in the top five for AL MVP voting in five straight seasons over a span ending in 2007. In 2016, he had the one of the great final seasons in history, hitting 38 home runs with a league-leading 127 RBI while pacing the home run in doubles, slugging percentage and OPS.

When Ortiz joined Boston in 2003, the Red Sox were still under the curse of the Bambino, the tag given to Boston’s title drought that began after their World Series victory in 1918. The Red Sox ended that streak during Ortiz’s second season with the club. By the time he retired, Boston had added two more championships.

In 2013, Ortiz was named MVP for the World Series win over St. Louis, going 11-for-16 at the plate with eight walks in six games.

And he did it all while living up to his nickname, Big Papi, which encapsulates the gregarious, larger-than-life personality that has been on display so often over the course of his career and was on full display on Sunday.

Delivering his remarks in both English and Spanish, Ortiz said, “It’s such an incredible day. An incredible honor.”

Joining Ortiz in being inducted Sunday was Tony Oliva, who won three batting titles, led the AL in hits five times and hit .304 over a 15-year career for the Twins. Oliva praised Ortiz during his speech, alluding to Papi’s early career in Minnesota with a bit of melancholy while suggesting that a move to the Red Sox was the best thing about Papi’s career.

Still…”We missed you in Minnesota,” Oliva said.

Oliva, who was born in Cuba, also paid tribute to the late Minnie Minoso, who, as the first black Latino player in the American League or the National League, opened the doors to the generations of Latino players who followed him. . Minoso was another of the inductees on Sunday.

“As Minnie would say if he were here with us this afternoon, ‘Thank you, my friends from the bottom of my heart,'” Sharon Rice-Minoso said, speaking on behalf of her husband.

Minoso was as famous for his fan connection as he was for his outstanding career, a quality he shared with the late Buck O’Neil, who was inducted on Sunday.

Before the ceremony, the room warmed up the gathering by replaying a video of O’Neil leading the crowd in a rendition of “The Greatest Thing of My Life Is Loving You.” The memorable moment came at the ceremony in 2006, two months before O’Neil’s death, as he spoke on behalf of 17 inductees selected for their contributions to baseball from the Negro Leagues, a group that era, should have included O’Neil.

O’Neil, as he did throughout his life, chose to celebrate those who succeeded rather than lament the fact that he hadn’t.

“Uncle John would also probably weave into his lyrics this afternoon the notion of priming,” said O’Neil’s niece, Dr. Angela Terry. “That is, the positivity with which he viewed the majority of events in his life.”

Longtime MLB pitcher and broadcaster Jim Kaat focused on giving thanks to those who helped along the way during a career that spanned from 1959 to 1983. Kaat is the only player to have faced both Ted Williams, who retired in 1960, and Julio Franco, who retired in 2007.

Kaat won 283 games during his career and is considered the best pitcher of his time, accumulating 16 Golden Gloves in that position. He won his only World Series late in his career, earning a ring with the 1982 St. Louis Cardinals.

Kaat, who was selected by the Hall era committee made up of former players, executives and expert journalists of his era, said: “When your career is validated by players you have played with, the media and club officials who have actually seen you play, that’s the highest honor you can get.”

Brooklyn Dodgers great Gil Hodges was also selected. A beloved member of ‘The Boys of Summer’ teams in the 1950s, Hodges achieved perhaps his greatest fame as manager of the ‘Amazin’ Mets’, the New York club that won the 1969 World Series. had never won before this campaign. more than 73 games in one season.

Hodges died of a heart attack at age 47, at the end of spring training before the start of the 1972 season. Long a popular choice for those pointing to Hall’s omissions, Hodges hit 370 home runs during his career, primarily for the Dodgers during their time in Brooklyn. Hodges moved in with the Dodgers when they moved to Los Angeles for the 1958 season.

“He was a very humble man, but he would be so proud to be here with the creme de la creme of baseball,” said Hodges’ daughter, Irene, who delivered a moving speech on behalf of her father.

19th-century pioneer Bud Fowler, considered the first black professional baseball player, was also welcomed into the hall. Fowler played for over 50 teams in a long career that stretched into the 20th century, although he was hailed as one of the best players wherever he went. Often he was forced to change teams because a teammate or opponent refused to take the field with him.

Fowler died in 1913. Speaking on his behalf, Hall of Famer Dave Winfield said: “Some fans liked him, but a lot of his own teammates and opposing teammates didn’t like him. They didn’t want to play with him. a black man.”

Fowler, who learned the game growing up in Cooperstown, is buried about 25 miles from the Hall of Fame, a site Winfield said he visited to prepare for his speech.

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