Hall inductees share memories of long careers
NEW YORK (AP) From the moment John Smoltz stood on a chair to place a cap atop 6-foot-10 Randy Johnson's head, it was clear this gathering of baseball's newest Hall of Famers was going to be different than those in past years.
''I just wanted to be funny,'' Smoltz said Wednesday at the Waldorf Astoria hotel. ''He's 6-10 and he was struggling with his jersey. I was trying to help him with his hat.''
The always canny Pedro Martinez greeted Craig Biggio with an apology of sorts.
''I'm extremely honored to be here with all of you. Craig. I know I brushed you back a couple of times. It wasn't intentional,'' he said.
On this day, the fierce competitors were all teammates in jerseys with ''Hall of Fame'' in red script stitched across the chest.
''I still love you,'' Biggio said. ''It's OK.''
There was a lot of love, laughter and admiration among the largest induction class elected by the writers since 1955. Some of the highlights of the nearly hour-long news conference:
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On his connection with former Braves teammates Gregg Maddux and Tom Glavine, who were known for pitching on the corners - sometimes getting a wider strike zone than usual:
''Everyone kind of assumes the three of us together and links us together,'' Smoltz said. ''Everyone's feeling is we got 6 inches off the plate. I didn't, by the way. So don't believe that. I didn't. I didn't.''
Biggio answered Smoltz several minutes later: ''I agree with John. It wasn't 6 inches off the plate. It was more like 6 to 10.''
Martinez on being elected to the Hall, where he visited when he was a young player with the Montreal Expos and had an immediate appreciation of the game's history:
''I couldn't imagine how the game was. I could only wonder, but I'm extremely honored to be going back now, being part of it, being looked at as an old goat. That's what we all became. We became old goats now. They're going to be like, `Oh, look, that's Pedro, that's John. That was back then.' So we all became old goats after yesterday.''
Smoltz got some good advice on how to put away batters:
''I learned it from Tom Glavine who never really showed any emotion, which is the reason why he won 300 games and was a Hall of Famer. I learned if you didn't have what you needed that day, fake it; don't let them know.''
Johnson had a different take on faking it:
''For me it was hard to fake. You either saw 95 to 100 (mph) or you didn't. ... The one thing I had going for me is I could throw really hard. I was kind of like that Sports Illustrated story that came out a long time ago (`The Curious Case of Sidd Finch' from April 1, 1985), a kid wearing overalls in a hay field, being able to throw a hundred miles an hour. That was me. I was like Nuke LaLoosh in `Bull Durham' that hit the mascot. I was a combination of all that until it finally came together for me.''
As an 18-year-old playing for the Dodgers' rookie team in Great Falls, Montana, Martinez was called up to pitch for Class A Bakersfield in the playoffs, a little more than 100 miles from Dodger Stadium, where his brother Ramon was pitching. Martinez went to visit his brother and came across a memorabilia auction:
''As a kid, I remember watching Reggie Jackson. He was the only one that could pimp a homer back in those days. ... Ramon's friend goes, `You want that ball?' I'm like, `Yeah, I would like to have it.' `You have the 250 bucks?' All I had to do was reach in my pocket, pull it out. I knew it was 250. So I was handing it to the person, `Here, buy it.'`'No, no, no. You don't get it that way. You sign your name there. If it happens that nobody bets on it, then you get it.' All 250 bucks, 1990, that I made in my last 15 days of work in Montana, I paid for a Reggie Jackson signed ball.''
Smoltz isn't so nostalgic:
''I'm pretty bad at it, I'll admit. I never really asked for autographs growing up. I'm better today, but I've been known to play catch with my 200th win ball with my son. I don't know where a lot of stuff is.''
NEW YORK, NEW YORK
Johnson made his first start after being traded from the Montreal Expos to the Seattle Mariners in the Bronx on May 30, 1989. It didn't take the University of Southern California pitcher long to meet a fellow Trojan - and baseball Hall of Famer:
''Tom Seaver is walking behind me as I'm going into the clubhouse with my suitcase. I played for the legendary college coach Rod Dedeaux at USC. He called everybody Tiger. ... It's also a calling card that when you hear someone say `Tiger' to you. You know that's USC alumni baseball. Tom Seaver yelled out, `Tiger, Tiger, Tiger, you can't be carrying your own bags. You're pitching today.' ... I went on to win that game. But more importantly someone of that stature, who I've become friends with now since then, the great Tom Seaver, helped me with my suitcase on my pitching day in Yankee Stadium.''
Johnson ended up pitching for the Yankees from 2005-06, and he got to know several of the team's Hall of Famers:
''I'm good friends with Reggie Jackson. He called me asking: `Randy, how did you get more votes to the Hall of Fame than I did?' I mean, who does that? Friends do. Reggie's the greatest. I love Reggie.''