7/27/2014 12:00 A.M. ET
Hall's Class of '14 set to take place in history
Six inductees whittling down speeches in advance of anticipated ceremony
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- The speeches are written and a crowd perhaps in excess of 40,000 is expected today for the induction ceremony of this memorable Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2014 -- 300-game winners Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, slugger Frank Thomas and managers Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa.
Weather permitting -- and there is rain in the forecast -- the induction ceremony is slated to be staged as usual behind the Clark Sports Center. Even if it is moved inside, Hall of Fame coverage will begin at noon ET with MLB Tonight live from Cooperstown on MLB Network and simulcast on MLB.com and the At Bat app, with the induction ceremony beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET. Because of time constraints, the six inductees have been asked this year to keep their remarks to 10 minutes each.
"I'm still running a little heavy," Thomas said. "I practiced it yesterday live, and it was about 14 minutes. But it's all there. Nothing can be changed. I can't leave teammates out. I can't leave friends and family out. So it is what it is, and it's got to stay."
La Russa said a first draft of his speech came in at 17 minutes.
"Did I cut it down a little bit? Yes, but I didn't like it. Now we're [fixing] it a little bit," said La Russa, who managed the White Sox, A's and Cardinals over the course of 33 years. "I think all six are going to have a problem getting something appropriate said in 10 minutes. But it's a particular problem for a guy like me. I have a lot of people to thank."
The largest class of living inductees since 1971 offers a number of historic angles.
Eleven were there in 1939, the year the red-brick museum opened its doors on Main Street, as 23 players, managers and pioneers were inducted from the first four classes, elected beginning in 1936. Last year, the three inductees elected by the Pre-Integration Committee -- Yankees seminal owner Jacob Ruppert, catcher Deacon White and umpire Hank O'Day -- were all deceased.
On a rainy Sunday, the crowd was estimated at about 2,000. This year, 50 of the 66 living Hall of Famers returned for the ceremony.
Maddux and Glavine are the only first-ballot pitchers to be elected together since Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson were part of the inaugural class of 1936 with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner. They are the first living pair of 300-win pitchers to be elected in the same year and only the third pair in Hall of Fame history. The last starter to be elected by eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America was Bert Blyleven in 2011, his 14th year of eligibility.
Add Thomas, who played the first 16 seasons of his 19-year career with the White Sox, and the BBWAA elected three players on the first ballot for the first time since 1999, when Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount all attained baseball immortality.
"I'm looking forward to it," said Thomas, the right-handed power hitter who batted .301 with 521 homers and 1,704 RBIs, becoming the first Hall of Famer to have played a majority of his games as a designated hitter. "For me, it's still a dream. I don't think it will hit me until I get up there. It's pretty serious at this point. I've put a lot of thought into it, getting my family prepared and my speech prepared. I want to have a great celebration being inducted into the Hall of Fame."
Maddux won 355 games, the eighth-highest figure in Major League history and the most of any pitcher since Warren Spahn retired with 363 in 1965. He had 97.2 percent of the BBWAA vote, appearing on all but 16 of the 571 ballots cast. The right-hander called "Mad Dog" earned 194 of his wins in 11 years with the Braves, but his 300th came with the Cubs, the team that drafted him and for whom he played 10 seasons in two stints.
Glavine, who won 305 games, fourth most among left-handers, was at 91.9 percent, and Thomas finished at 83.7. Glavine spent 17 of his 22 seasons with the Braves but won his 300th near the end of a five-year tenure with the Mets.
"I'm certainly inside the window of great anticipation here," Glavine said. "[Now] it's starting to sink in a little bit more so. I'm certainly excited about [the] weekend and getting inducted officially into the Baseball Hall of Fame. There are more emotions than I can count right now, so I'm really looking forward to it all."
About his speech, Glavine added: "They gave me a red pen and told me to start shaving minutes off. I'm going to try my best to stick to it. Maybe Greg's speech will be like his pitching -- it will be real quick -- so I will have extra time."
The 16-member Expansion Era Committee was even more magnanimous than the BBWAA, electing La Russa, Cox and Torre unanimously late last year. The three rank third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in managerial victories in Major League history, each having won more than 2,000 games.
Here's the list, one through five: Connie Mack (3,731), John McGraw (2,763), La Russa (2,728), Cox (2,504) and Torre (2,326), whose additional 84 postseason wins are by far the most in history. The three combined to win the World Series eight times, with Torre's four in Yankees pinstripes leading the pack. La Russa won three titles -- one with the A's and two for the Cardinals -- and Cox won one with the Braves amid a record 14 division titles in a row.
Cox, Maddux and Glavine, of course, were together for 10 of the 29 seasons over two stints that Cox managed the Braves, including their 1995 World Series victory in six games over the Indians. In the finale, a 1-0 Atlanta victory, Glavine pitched eight innings of one-hit ball, David Justice hit a home run and Mark Wohlers earned the save. Maddux won Game 1 of that series, a 3-2 complete-game two-hitter in which he allowed no earned runs.
"It's fun being around Tony and Joe, because we're no longer competitors anymore, so we can become a little closer than we have," Cox said on Saturday. "It's also fun hanging with Tommy and Greg as retirees. It's a different situation, a different feeling. It's unusual to have three from one organization going in at one time. Greg's not going in wearing a hat, but he spent a lot of years with the Braves. That's exciting."
As far as the logos on their caps are concerned, Cox and Glavine are going in as Braves, Thomas as a member of the White Sox and Torre with the Yankees, with whom -- in addition to the World Series rings -- he won six American League pennants and went to the playoffs in every one of his 12 seasons. Torre also managed the Mets, Braves, Cardinals and Dodgers, retiring in 2010 after three seasons in Los Angeles.
La Russa and Maddux decided to go in without affiliation in deference to their bifurcated careers with a number of clubs.
"I figured that I was in Atlanta for 11 years and I was in Chicago for 11 years, if you count the Minor Leagues," Maddux said. "It was kind of 50-50. Obviously, I did a lot better in Atlanta than I did in Chicago. I never felt like I had to pick. When it was suggested that I go in this way, it sounded right to me."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.