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Fred McGriff and Scott Rolen were inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday during a ceremony on the grounds of the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, New York, when two players who often shunned the limelight were tasked with speaking to a throng of fans in attendance as well as a national television audience on the MLB Network. Both responded with eloquent speeches.


"This is baseball's biggest honor," McGriff said. "This is like icing on the cake. You see, my goal was simply to make it to the big leagues." Now McGriff has made the biggest league of all after his long wait for enshrinement finally ended on Sunday. Passed over during his 10-year stay on the BBWAA ballot, McGriff was unanimously voted in at the winter meetings in December by one of the Hall's era-based veterans committees.

 

McGriff finished with 493 career homers, likely missing the ballyhooed 500-dinger club because of the 1994-1995 work stoppage that cost him parts of two seasons when he was producing the best numbers of his career. His speech recounted his childhood in the Tampa, Florida, area, not far from the spring training complex of the Big Red Machine-era Cincinnati Reds teams.

While Rolen didn't have to wait as long as McGriff -- he was voted by the BBWAA in his sixth year of eligibility -- his starting point was historically low. In 2018, the first time Rolen's name appeared on the ballot, he received just 10.2% of the vote, the lowest initial percentage for a player who eventually was inducted. His rise from a ballot afterthought to a Hall of Famer was as startling as it was unlikely.


"I assumed that this group would be quite intimidating," Rolen said in acknowledgment of the thousands of fans gathered across the vast lawn on which the ceremony is held every summer. "It is, but way more intimidating is the group behind me and standing here in front of these legends. On this stage is baseball greatness."

Rolen becomes the 12th Hall of Famer to feature a St. Louis Cardinals logo on this Hall plaque. Rolen was traded to the Cardinals from the Phillies at the 2002 trade deadline. He went on to play in four All-Star Games and win three Gold Gloves during his time in St. Louis for his highlight-reel work at third base. He was a member of two pennant-winning Cardinals teams (2004 and 2006) and won a ring in 2006.

If there was one overriding connection between Rolen and McGriff, it might simply be that after years of uncertainty, both stars entered the Hall despite many moments of wondering whether Sunday would ever arrive. The days of wondering are over.

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