White Sox honor Hall of Famer Harold Baines
Former manager Tony La Russa and teammates Ron Kittle and Ozzie Guillen addressed the crowd before Baines, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 21.
During the ceremony Sunday honoring Harold Baines’ Hall of Fame enshrinement, the White Sox played a video of his career highlights on the center-field scoreboard.
Seated on the field near home plate and with their backs to the outfield, Baines’ family members and former teammates turned their heads to watch.
If Baines turned to take a peek, it was briefly and reluctantly. Then again, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the quiet and soft-spoken Baines wouldn’t want to take in those highlights, even if he was always a fan favorite.
‘‘I like it, but I don’t get involved as part of it,’’ Baines said before the ceremony. ‘‘It’s part of the game, yes, but I’d rather, like the old saying, get the work done and go home. But I appreciate all the fans liking the way I played the game.’’
Before the game against the Athletics, Baines was feted again by the Sox. Former manager Tony La Russa and former teammates Ron Kittle and Ozzie Guillen addressed the crowd before Baines, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 21. True to form, Baines’ own speech clocked in at less than five minutes.
La Russa, who managed Baines with the Sox and also with the A’s, recalled Baines’ propensity for coming through when his teams needed him the most.
‘‘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 in his coolness, his toughness under pressure and his statistics, for how many times he was involved with helping us win a game.’’
Baines fell 134 hits short of 3,000, and there were questions about his worthiness for the honor when he was voted into the Hall. During his speech, Kittle alluded to Baines’ stats and echoed La Russa’s sentiments. Baines’ numbers, Kittle said, only told part of the story.
‘‘For anyone who played alongside you, 3,000 hits from you was irrelevant because the hits that you had when you had them were more meaningful than milestones,’’ Kittle, who said he would take a bullet for his old teammate, told Baines. ‘‘From my personal perspective, you’re in the top three of any player in history that I would want to come up to bat in the clutch.’’
Milestones reached or not, Baines is now a Hall of Famer. La Russa said he appreciated how Baines kept playing through injuries. Baines said he had nine knee surgeries during his career.
‘‘And the other thing about him, which I think gets ignored because you just don’t talk about it much, during his day, he was an above-average right fielder,’’ La Russa said. ‘‘But to have the toughness to have [nine] knee surgeries and still play 20-plus years shows you the love of the game and a toughness that we all should appreciate.’’
Baines said the reality of being in the Hall hasn’t sunk in yet. But the experience of being inducted and sharing the stage with the legends of the game is something he clearly appreciated.
‘‘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,’’ Baines 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.’’