You may think that because the announcement made here in December about Harold Baines making the Hall of Fame addressed his worthiness more than it celebrated his election, perhaps I have it out for Harold.
But those are two distinct issues, which that piece should have made clear.
I was lucky enough to meet Baines on a couple of occasions before covering the team after the World Series, and eventually working on one of the Chicago White Sox beats.
The first time was a strange bit of kismet; I got Harold’s autograph on a ball on the day of May 8, 1984. You might recall that date as the beginning of the longest game in White Sox history, the 25-inning marathon vs. the Milwaukee Brewers.
The second meeting was in a hotel in Minneapolis. My dad and I had trekked up to see the Metrodome at the end of the 1996 season, in our quest to see every major league ballpark. Apparently we were staying at the team hotel, because after one of our meals, we spotted Harold off, eating by himself. My dad, gregarious to a fault, said his hellos and then asked “why did they ever trade you?” Harold’s answer? “I don’t know.”
It’s not Roy Hobbs magic, but yeah, I loved Baines just as much as any fan. He was a mainstay for the White Sox during the formative years of my fandom. And I am proud that while we debate the merits of those torn by PED scandal or inane politics, a person as great as Harold is being enshrined this year.
That hit home during the press conference during the Winter Meetings, and more so when Chuck Garfien spoke to Harold about the election, and what it meant to him and his family:
There were more emotional moments on Tuesday, when Baines visited the Hall of Fame for the first time. Bill Francis’ full article is just gold, so check it out.
Baines apparently had particular interest in all the White Sox memorabilia he saw during his Hall tour, including Luis Aparicio’s jersey, Al Lopez’s spikes, or even the Bill Veeck shorts that Baines narrowly avoided one day wearing in a game. And there was another, personal piece of memorabilia, that beat him to Cooperstown:
Baines was also reunited with a bat he generously donated 35 years ago. The Hall of Famer used it on May 9, 1984, to hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 25th inning in the longest game in American League history, a 7-6 win for the White Sox over Milwaukee.
“That got here first,” Baines recalled, “but now I’m fortunate enough to be here with it.”
A team could do a lot worse than having Harold Baines represent them in the Hall of Fame. Not sure we deserve you, Harold.