COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (AP) — Former St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Lee Smith, third on baseball’s all-time list in saves, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday, and he credited his family and Louisiana hometown for most of his success during his speech.
Smith pitched for eight teams in the major leagues, most prominently for the Chicago Cubs and Cardinals.
Smiling from beginning to end, Smith congratulated his new classmates before crediting his family and hometown of Castor, La.
“It’s been my family. They’re the main reason I’m standing here today,” Smith said. “To my mom and dad. Your support has meant everything to me.”
Smith pitched 18 seasons for the Cubs, Cardinals, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, California Angels, Cincinnati Reds and Montreal Expos and retired as MLB’s all-time saves leader with 478, a title he held for 13 seasons. That total ranks third all-time, as do his 802 games finished.
A seven-time All-Star, Smith led his league in saves four times and reached the 30-save mark in 10 seasons. And he was a workhorse — of Smith’s 478 saves, 169 required at least four outs and 94 required two or more innings.
The 6-foot-6 Smith was convinced to give up his love for basketball and chose baseball as his sport.
“I was 14 years old and I thought my future was basketball,” said Smith, the first reliever to record 30 saves in 10 different seasons. “It wasn’t just my arm that got me here. It’s the whole community of Castor. I thank you.”
Others who were inducted Sunday included Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez, Harold Baines and the late Roy Halladay.
Rivera is the all-time saves leader with 652. Taking the podium last as he predicted, the former New York Yankees star reliever had to wait for the chants of his name to stop before he began a speech that included a brief thank you to his native Panama and the fans there.
Part of a core with shortstop Derek Jeter, lefthander Andy Pettitte and catcher Jorge Posada, all of whom were in the audience on Sunday, Rivera helped lead the Yankees to five World Series titles from 1996-2009. He posted 42 saves and a 0.70 ERA over 16 postseasons, including 11 saves in the World Series.
Rivera, the first unanimous pick by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, pitched 19 seasons in the big leagues, all with the Yankees, retiring with 952 games finished, also a record. A 13-time All-Star, Rivera led the AL in saves three times and finished with 40 or more saves nine times.
Mussina, a righthander who starred in college for Stanford, pitched for 18 major league seasons and spent his entire career in the high-scoring AL East with the Orioles and Yankees. A five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove winner, he posted a record of 270-153, pitching 3,362 2/3 innings with 2,813 strikeouts, 785 walks and an ERA of 3.68. He also had 57 complete games in 536 starts and was the first AL pitcher to win at least 10 games 17 times.
Mussina thanked his wife and family, his mom, dad and brother Mark and the coaches who guided his career through the years.
“I spent a lot of time reflecting on my time in baseball,” said Mussina, the oldest first-time 20-game winner in MLB history when he reached the milestone at age 39 in 2008, his final season in the majors. “I was never fortunate to win a Cy Young Award or be a World Series champion, win 300 games or strike out 3,000 hitters. My opportunities for those achievements are in the past. Today, I get to become a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. This time I made it.”
TWO DESIGNATED HITTERS MAKE IT
Martinez was a seven-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger Award winner for Seattle, where he spent his entire 18-year career. Martinez delivered the first part of his speech in Spanish before congratulating the other five inductees.
“I am honored and humbled to be standing here,” said the longtime designated hitter who was born in New York and grew up in Puerto Rico. “It is hard to believe that a dream that started when I was 10 years old (ended here). The first time I saw Roberto Clemente all I wanted to do was play the game. What an honor to have my plaque in the Hall alongside his.”
The soft -spoken Baines never displayed much emotion in his 22-year career, but his voice cracked throughout his speech.
“Somehow I acquired a reputation for not saying much. I’m not sure why,” he deadpanned at the start. “From teachers to coaches who showed me kindness and discipline, I thank you all for what you’ve done for me. If I can leave you with one message, it’s to give back to your community. I stand here very humbled. It has taken time to sink in.”
Baines, the first overall pick in the 1977 draft by the White Sox, played 22 seasons for the White Sox, Rangers, Athletics, Orioles and Indians, was a six-time All-Star, and twice won the Outstanding Designated Hitter Award. An eight-time .300 hitter who reached the 20-homer mark in 11 seasons, Baines drove in at least 90 runs eight times and ranks 34th on the all-time list with 1,628 RBIs.
Halladay’s widow, Brandy, delivered his induction speech and fought back tears as she spoke. The 40-year-old Halladay was killed in a plane crash in November 2017.
“I knew I was going to cry at some point. It’s overwhelming the amount of people here today,” she said. “I’m so grateful you’re here. I can’t tell you how many hugs I’ve gotten. They have extended so much love and friendship. I’m so grateful.
Halladay amassed a 203-105 record and a 3.38 ERA and 2,117 strikeouts over 416 regular season games and was 3-2 with a 2.37 ERA through five postseason starts, all with Philadelphia. He spent his last four seasons with the Phils and 12 seasons with the Blue Jays from 1998-2009.