White Sox honor new Hall of Famer Harold Baines at Guaranteed Rate Field
The Harold Baines love continued on Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field.
The new Hall of Famer was honored before the White Sox and Athletics wrapped up a three-game series, and it was quite a turnout for the low-key slugger.
In addition to a crowd of 30,951, former manager Tony La Russa was on hand for the celebration, as were coaches and ex-teammates ranging from Hall of Famers Frank Thomas, Carlton Fisk and Tim Raines, to close friends Ozzie Guillen and Ron Kittle, to former stars Robin Ventura and Joe Crede.
"It's special," Baines said. "When a team honors you with a day like today, I'm very grateful. I appreciate all the fans liking the way I played the game."
With replica Hall of Fame plaques in hand courtesy of a giveaway, fans chanted "HAROLD!" during and after Baines' five-minute speech on the field.
"A lot shorter (than the HOF speech), but it's still nerve racking," Baines said.
During his 22-year playing career -- 14 of them spent with the Sox -- Baines liked to let his bat do much of the talking.
"I think the best part for me with Harold is that he had a great demeanor," said Hall of Famer Jim Thome, who often played against Baines when he was with the Indians before retiring and joining the White Sox's front office. "He was always level, no matter if he struggled or he did well. You got the same guy every day.
"And his talent was off the charts. You add that to that demeanor and I think you are going to get a guy that's going to the Hall of Fame."
Baines was inducted into Cooperstown on July 21, mainly because he had 2,866 career hits and 1,628 RBI.
La Russa, who was Baines' manager when be broke in with the Sox in 1980, said the left-hander had another special quality.
"If there's one thing that stood out for guys that were on his team and those that competed against him, in a close game late Harold was the guy you wanted to go to bat," La Russa said. "Harold was the guy you didn't want to come to bat against you. That showed his coolness, his toughness under pressure and his statistics, for how many times he was involved with helping us win a game."
In 1983, Baines had 22 game-winning RBI, which set a major-league record.
While he never got more than 6.1% of the Hall of Fame vote from the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Baines got the Cooperstown green light in December.
The 60-year-old native of St. Michaels, Md., was voted in by the 16-member Today's Game Era Committee, which included La Russa and White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.
Three weeks after being enshrined in Cooperstown, Baines is still not completely sure it happened.
"It hasn't really kicked in yet," he said. "Very grateful, very honored, but it really hasn't hit me yet."
Baines does remember being on the stage with other Hall of Famers in Cooperstown.
"I think when you see a guy like Hank Aaron and guys like that, and you're in their midst, yeah, that's very special," he said. "I never envisioned myself being on the same stage with a person like that. All of them, they all deserve to be there and it's very special to be a part of that."