St. Michaels’ Baines Is A Surprise Hall Of Fame Inductee
LAS VEGAS - Harold Baines answered the phone and learned he was a Hall of Famer.
"Very shocked," he admitted.
So were many others around the baseball world.
In fact, in the hours after his selection by a Hall-picked panel was announced Sunday at the Mandalay Bay resort, a lot of conversations at the winter meetings started the exact same way: "Harold Baines?"
No one doubted Baines was a top player - a six-time All-Star with 1,628 RBIs, 384 home runs and 2,866 hits.
"I had a great career. I'm very proud of it," he said.
But a couple other numbers stood out, too.
Baines never drew more than 6.1 percent in five elections by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, far from the 75 percent required. In the key WAR stat compiled by baseballreference.com, Baines' lifetime total was tied for 545th.
Behind the likes of Placido Polanco, Jim Sundberg and Rafael Furcal in wins above replacement, not to mention Gil Hodges, Dick Allen, Don Mattingly, John Olerud and dozens more.
The vote by the Today's Game Era Committee was sure to spark renewed cries of cronyism at Cooperstown. Especially because the 16-member panel appointed by the Hall board included longtime Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
"I'm glad he was on that committee this year to help to get into the Hall of Fame," Baines said.
Baines spent nearly all of his first 10 seasons with the White Sox and currently serves as a team ambassador in their community relations department.
"So happy for Harold. He's a great player and a great human being," Reinsdorf praised in a statement. "I am so honored that I was a member of the committee. He deserved to be in long ago. I am just so excited."
"Not only was Harold one of my favorite players to watch, but I have nothing but admiration for him as a player and as a human being," he said.
Tony La Russa, Baines' first big league manager, also was on the panel that elected him.
Baines was a dominant high school player at St. Michaels. During his senior season, he hit for a .532 average. That production is why the White Sox took the Eastern Shore native as the first overall pick in the 1977 Amateur Draft.
In the past, Phil Rizzuto and Bill Mazeroski were among the players who benefited from friendly faces on Veterans Committees to reach the Hall. That panel has been revamped over the years, and the Today's Game Era group was created as part of changes in 2014.
"The era committees were established as a sort of a court of appeals for an opportunity in the event that over time it was felt that maybe somebody slipped through the cracks," Hall President Jeff Idelson said. "And in the case of someone who received 6 percent of the vote in the BBWAA election, the reason that may have happened could be for many, many reasons."
It took 12 votes for election by the panel - longtime reliever Lee Smith was unanimous, Baines got 12 and former outfielder and manager Lou Piniella fell just short with 11.