Some Stories I Have With Each Member of the 2018 Baseball Hall of Fame Class

Before I get into this blog, I just wanted to say that nothing is harsh enough for Larry Nassar. I will get into the ramifications a little more at a later date as it pertains to Michigan State when more information becomes public. But as it stands right now, Michigan State could be facing charges in a similar fashion to Penn State in the Jerry Sandusky case. Not good.

Now on to the more positive stuff, 6 men will be enshrined in Cooperstown, New York on July 29. 2 from the Veteran’s Committee and 4 from the Baseball Writer’s Association. From the Veteran’s Committee we have Jack Morris and Alan Trammell. From the BBWA, we have Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome, and Trevor Hoffman. I won’t get too deep into their backgrounds and resumes because I already did a month or so ago. But I do have some memories of each one. This will qualify as both a baseball blog and a personal story because I actually do have some kind of attachment to each.

I’ll start with Chipper Jones, who made the class of 2018 with 97.2% of the vote. I never got a chance to see him play live in a traditional MLB game, however I did get a chance to see him play in a Spring Training game back in 2011. My high school baseball team took a trip to Disney’s Wide World of Sports for our own Spring Training and the Atlanta Braves’ facility was a part of this complex, so one night a bunch of us went to a Braves-Nationals game. That was the one time I got to see Chipper play. The Braves won the game 7-6, but nearly blew a 6-0 lead after a couple innings. I believe Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, and Dan Uggla homered. Now that I think about it, I know Heyward did, not sure about the others. I’m not even sure if Jones played, to be fair, because I can’t find any boxscores of that game. Step up your Spring Training databases MLB!

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Next up is Vladimir Guerrero, who got in with 92.9% of the vote. I remember the first time I saw Vlad play was in 2006 when he was a member of the Angels. This was quite frankly the best game I think I’ve ever attended. The Red Sox came back from down 6-3 in the bottom of the 8th and won 7-6 in 11 innings on a David Ortiz single up the middle to drive in Alex Gonzalez from second with two outs. However Vlad was NOT a factor in this game at all. He had two at bats before he left the game with a bad back. He saw six pitches. He struck out twice. Luckily for Vlad, I knew what he was capable of going into this game so it didn’t tarnish my opinion of him, it more hyped up Josh Beckett for me, who was Boston’s starting pitcher that day. I believe I saw Vlad play again when he was with the Rangers in 2010, I’ll have to fact check that one. Just fact checked it, I did. Vlad went 3-5 with an RBI and 2 runs scored in a 7-2 Rangers win. Now that I think about it, I think that was the game I went to where Tim Wakefield got yanked before finishing the third inning. His knuckleball was just not working. In fact, another thing I remember from that is the very next day, Bengie Molina hit for the cycle. What a world we lived in back in 2010. But yeah, I got to see Vlad play twice. First time he was awful, second time he was really good. But a Hall of Fame career nonetheless.

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Next we have Jim Thome, who made the Hall of Fame with 89.8% of the vote and became the third first baseman ever to reach the Hall of Fame on his first try. It’s actually a funny story about how Thome became my favorite non-Red Sox player. I was in first grade and a friend of mine had brought in this little booklet with a bunch of baseball activities for kids our age. One of these was a word search with players’ names. I noticed that one player was named Jim and I immediately grew attached to him, thinking “wow, that’s awesome!” A few weeks later I was at another friend’s house and he had the Red Sox game on. The Sox were playing the Phillies in Interleague action and I saw the screen show a graphic of the Phillies first baseman being Jim Thome. I thought to myself, “wow! That’s the guy from the word search!” Thome had been my favorite ever since that day. I only got to see him play once and that was back in 2008 when he was a member of the White Sox. I was in Florida with my grandparents and they took me to a game at Tropicana Field. Thome was hitting third that game and he homered off of Rays starter Edwin Jackson in his first at bat as the White Sox beat the eventual American League champions 6-0. I actually have another funny story regarding this game that doesn’t relate to Thome. So my grandpa LOVES to spoil me and he got us some PRIME tickets to this game. We were sitting about three rows back from the on deck circle right by the Rays dugout. Well while I was sitting there, I looked over to the Rays dugout and there’s Johnny Gomes right at the edge fixing up his gear. Earlier that day, my brother had told me to get him an autograph, kind of out of jest. But now I had an opportunity to actually get one. My grandpa gave me a pad of paper and a pen and I walked over towards the dugout and yelled “Johnny!” Instinctively, Johnny looked up and had this deer-in-the-headlights look of “oh shit, I shouldn’t have reacted to that.” I probably had the look of “oh shit, he looked up,” so as soon as I got the chance, I held out my pad of paper and said “can you sign this?” He said no but then immediately after the Rays took the field. I didn’t get an autograph, but I was such a big baseball fan/nerd that the fact that I had an interaction with Johnny Gomes was more than enough for me. My dad thinks he’s an asshole for not taking two seconds out of his day to sign a 12 year-old kid’s pad of paper, but I didn’t care at the time and I don’t care now. But yeah, that’s my Jim Thome story.

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Finally we have Trevor Hoffman. In 2016, I did a volunteership with Major League Baseball and helped move the DJ’s stage for the Home Run Derby. A benefit of this was I had free access to MLB’s fan fest for each day they were holding it. I unfortunately missed out on Trevor Hoffman twice. The first time was for getting his autograph, as he was doing a signing when I arrived. While I was in line, his hour was up and I missed my opportunity for him. However, I learned that next up was Steve Garvey, so I couldn’t complain. Here’s a picture of me getting the 1974 NL MVP’s autograph.

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The next day I actually got that hat I was wearing signed by Fred Lynn. It’s smudged now, but I know whose it is and I never had any intention of selling it. But after I got Garvey’s autograph, I wandered around the San Diego Convention Center and saw that Hoffman was giving pitching lessons. I immediately hopped in line, but once again, the line was too long and his hour was up. So I just watched him give lessons to other people, which was totally fine by me.

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I don’t have any stories about Trammell or Morris except that my mom loved both of them, as she’s from Canton, Michigan and grew up a big Tigers fan, though I’m pretty sure Lou Whitaker was her favorite. That’s going to do it for this blog, congratulations to the inductees. I’m a little peeved that Edgar Martinez and Curt Schilling got snubbed once again, but Martinez got 70.4% of the vote meaning he’s pretty much a lock for 2019. Schilling, I’m not as sure. Let me know what you think of the balloting results in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

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