Friday, February 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

La Russa admits to being overwhelmed by Hall of Fame

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Riding across Cooperstown on Saturday with good buddy Jim Leyland, Tampa's Tony La Russa realized just how significant his Hall of Fame induction is.

"Once you see what's going on, it overwhelms you," La Russa said. "You try not to get overwhelmed. But I think it's okay to be overwhelmed. It's really a big deal."

La Russa's primary remaining task — the one still "looming there" — was refining the speech he will give at today's ceremony, fighting what sounded like a losing battle to cut it down to the requested 10 minutes.

"It's difficult to give credit without personalizing it," he said. "And if you go that route, three clubs, 30 years, there's a lot of persons."

In addition to the 30-plus relatives (led by older sister Eva Fojaco) and lifelong friends from Tampa (Paul Ferlita, Frank Permuy, Bobby Carrasco), a number of La Russa's past players and coaches have come in on their own. Representatives of all three teams — the A's, White Sox and Cardinals — have official contingents here, and they all came together for a memorable evening Friday.

There have been other social events for the Hall of Famers — including the newbies — La Russa has enjoyed as well; "Seeing Al Kaline (Friday) night at the party, Ernie Banks was dancing, it doesn't get better than that."

FAMILY AFFAIR: As a beloved former Yankees manager, Joe Torre figures to have the most fans in the crowd of the induction class, which also includes manager Bobby Cox and players Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas.

Though brother Frank couldn't make it for health reasons, Torre will definitely have the most family between his relatives and his wife's, as she is one of 16 kids. "She said if we're going to do this, we have to do this right," Torre said. "So she invited all her siblings, and they all accepted."

Also on Torre's guest list: comedian Billy Crystal and former football coach Bill Parcells. "It's amazing," he said.

GAME DAY: Glavine and Maddux said they had found the weekend relatively calm. But unlike the ex-managers, who are used to holding news conferences, they have plenty of nerves about giving their speeches. "I'm sure when I wake up … it's going to feel like I'm going out on the mound for a big game," Glavine said.

MAC FAN: La Russa said he supported Mark McGwire's Hall candidacy despite steroid suspicions/allegations: "I definitely think he's a Hall of Famer; 95 percent of Mark McGwire was legit."

VOTING CHANGE: The Hall announced a significant change to the voting procedure that seems to target "steroid era" candidates such as McGwire, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens: It reduced the time players can stay on the ballot from 15 years to 10. Hall chairman Jane Forbes Clark said "steroid era" candidates had "nothing to do" with the decision; it was made to maintain relevance and integrity. The Hall also will now require voters — members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America — to complete a registration form and sign a code of conduct, though Clark said that is unrelated to last year's controversy when ESPN's Dan Le Batard turned his ballot over to deadspin.com.

MEDIA HONORS: Noted author Roger Angell received the J. G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing, Rangers radio man Eric Nadel the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcast excellence and Joe Garagiola the Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award.

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