Sunday, July 23, 2000
Hall of Fame induction colored Red
By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- The greatest day of distinction in the history of the Reds franchise was celebrated here by one of the largest crowds ever for the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
About 25,000 fans, who were split between honoring Big Red Machine leading men Tony Perez, Sparky Anderson, broadcaster Marty Brennaman -- and the man whose career will be forever linked with them (Carlton Fisk) -- listened with delight as the Class of 2000 expressed their appreciation.
I doubt a king on his coronation day could feel any better than I do here today, said Tony Perez, who led a distinguished Reds aggregation into the Hall that also included 19th century second baseman Bid McPhee.
Perez, who saw his nine-year wait for induction evaporate in the blue skies and billowing white clouds of a perfect upstate New York day, gave a speech that cemented his reputation as the man that held the Big Red Machine together.
When he recognized his former manager, Sparky Anderson, in reverence that struck a perfect pitch in the hearts of the Reds faithful, a murmur of appreciation wafted through that was spread across the hill 300 yards distance to the front rows that were close enough to to see the sparkle in Perez's brown eyes.
I think they (the baseball gods) made me wait so long so we would be inducted together, Perez said.
Sunlight burst between the clouds and bathed the 50-acre spread of deep green grass in a bright yellow glow. A large video board providing closeups of the speakers and the crowd, showed a youngster waggling his bat in a baseball game being played at the far reaches of the crowd.
The spectators, many of them clothed in red,
were loving this.
It's just been wonderful, said Kimberly Jackson, 39, of Dayton. It is the culmination of 25 years of loving a team that is very special to all of us.
The crowd ranked among the 10 biggest in induction ceremony history, Hall officials said. It ranked just behind the 30,000 who attended the inductions of Johnny Bench and Carl Yastrzemski in 1989.
Anderson's speech blended his old perfesser wisdom (Players make it here on their skills; managers come here on their backs) and candor (I want to thank the writers in Detroit because they often had to come to my office with boots on -- I learned long ago, when things start going back you have to throw them off with a lot of baloney) and melancholy (This is a sad day, because I know I'll never speak to this large of a group again.)
And, of course, as always, Anderson had 'em laughing.
Please, please sit down, he said to the crowd that rose to its feet when he came to the dias. I've learned from my many years in baseball that when the fans come to their feet, they're gettin' ready to boo you.
Brennaman was at his best, as he mixed humorous stories from his
baseball childhood. He said his baseball-playing career began and ended with the Chubby's team in Little League when not even hiding him in right field could keep him from being embarrassed. A ball flew over his head when he was sidetracked by paying more attention the girls nearby.
He paid eloquent tribute to the announcers whose descriptive language in major-league games being carried on radio to his home in Virginia inspired him to become a broadcaster. (Actually, his first choice was to be an actor, but he fell off the stage just before he was to deliver his soliloque in the school play, The Remarkable Incident at Carson Corners.)
He thanked Al Michaels for vacating the job that opened the doors for him, and he thanked Dick Wagner and Bob Howsam for hiring him, and for the man whose mentoring and fellowship who has meant the world to him -- his broadcast partner, Joe Nuxhall.
I gratefully share this honor with the Ol' Lefthander, said Brennaman, and this reference brought the Reds' house down.
Nuxhall was in attendance.
This honor of being inducted into the Hall of Fame couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of guys, Nuxhall said.
They were all great speeches. They all have great reverence and respect for the game, and that came through loud and clear, Nuxhhall said. It was Nuxhall who first called Perez The Mayor of Riverfront, because the big first baseman had never been booed there.
Perez made reference to that Sunday, and got choked up a bit upon thanking the fans of Cincinnati for sticking with him through some tough times, including an 0-for-15 start to the 1975 World Series.
Perez alternated humor (Thank you, Carlton Fisk, for calling for that blooper pitch from Bill Lee) and emotion (when I went to Geneva, N.Y., for my first season of professional baseball I missed the heat of my country and the warmth of my family) and eloquence (Dave Bristol -- who said that if the game goes long enough, Perez will find a way to win it -- proved to me my prophet.)
Among the big hits in Perez's career was a 15th inning home run to win the 1967 All-Star game, which he called his favorite personal moment in baseball. His favorite hit for the team was the two-run home run off the blooper pitch from Lee that narrowed a 3-0 defict to Game 7 of the 1975 World Series and set
the stage for the Reds 4-3 victory.
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