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BASEBALL CELEBRATES TWO OF ITS FINEST PLAYERS, PEOPLE

A record crowd is on hand as Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn join the Hall of Fame.

The induction of Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday was notable for many reasons - among them an estimated record gathering of 75,000 fans - but primarily because no one mentioned Barry Bonds' race to supplant Hank Aaron as the career home run leader.

Not a word about history at a ceremony that celebrates history.

Aaron, who rarely joins his enshrined peers at the annual induction, was not here, but 53 other Hall of Famers were. Commissioner Bud Selig was here, but in the Bonds-free zone on a stage in a meadow, welcoming new members into the Hall and posing beside them with their plaques.

Gwynn, 47, his suit soaked with perspiration after three hours in 82-degree heat, told reporters afterward, "What a great day today was." Pause. "Seventy-five thousand people." Pause. "Unbelievable." Smile.

Ripken added: "It's a great celebration for baseball, a way to step back from the controversy. Maybe we'll be back to reality tomorrow."

In his speech, mostly spoken off the top of his head, Gwynn thanked three Little League coaches by name and talked of hiding out in spring training one year to eavesdrop on instruction Rod Carew was giving another team. He smiled at the memory of his wife sparking his devotion to video study by hitting record on the VCR one night, and he choked up when he mentioned his late father.

"I told the fans back in San Diego they'd be standing up here with me," he said. "I hope they're just as nervous as me."

Ripken's main message was respect for the game and remembering your place. On the day he received his sport's highest honor, Ripken remembered back a couple weeks when a 10-year-old at a camp asked whether he played baseball.

"Yeah," said Ripken, 46. "I played a little bit."

The kid then asked for which team, and at what position, and then finally, "Should I know you?"

The highlight of Ripken's speech came when he addressed his wife, Kelly. He pulled a white rose out of his suit pocket and asked for help from his son, who pulled a white rose from his own pocket.

"That was awesome," Gwynn said later. "I should've thought of that."

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