Tears of Joy in Cooperstown

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Top photo information:Ken Griffey, Jr., springs from the batter’s box on April 27, 2000, during his first season with the Cincinnati Reds. He hit 40 home runs that year with 118 runs batted in. Credit: © Ezra Shaw, Allsport/Getty Images

On Sunday, July 24, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Mike Piazza became the newest members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown,New York. At a ceremony attended by previous Hall of Fame members and some 50,000 fans, both players paid tribute to supportive parents and—with baseball-sized lumps in their throats—they each broke down in tears. Griffey, a graceful outfielder with a legendary swing, dedicated his inauguration “to my dad, who taught me how to play this game and to my mom, the strongest woman I know.” Piazza, one of the game’s all-time great catchers, was grateful for the freedom and opportunity to play baseball: “Dad always dreamed of playing in the major leagues. He could not follow that dream because of the realities of life. My father’s faith in me, often greater than my own, is the single most important factor of me being inducted into this Hall of Fame.” Griffey is the highest draft pick—number 1 overall in 1987—ever to enter the Hall of Fame. Conversely, Piazza was drafted in 1988 in the 62nd round at number 1,390—the lowest draft pick to end up in Cooperstown. The Major League Baseball (MLB) draft was first held in 1965 and is now limited to 40 rounds.

Griffey played 22 seasons in his MLB career, split mainly between theSeattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds. He hit 630 home runs (sixth all time), drove in 1,836 runs, made 13 All-Star teams, won 10 Gold Gloves in center field, and was the 1997 American League Most Valuable Player. Griffey is the first Mariners player enshrined in Cooperstown. In Hall of Fame voting (cast by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America), he was named on 437 of 440 ballots. His vote percentage of 99.3 was the highest since Hall of Fame voting began in 1936.

Mike Piazza steps to the plate in a 2005 Spring Training game in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It was Piazza’s last year with the New York Mets.
Credit: © Aspen Photo/Shutterstock

Piazza played 16 years in the big leagues, primarily as a catcher. He spent most of his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Mets. Piazza retired with a .308 career batting average and 427 home runs, including an MLB record 396 as a catcher. He was selected to 12 All-Star teams. He is the second Mets player (after Tom Seaver) to enter the Hall of Fame. Piazza received 83 percent of the Hall of Fame vote. No other players reached the minimum of 75 percent.

Other World Book articles:

Baseball (1997) – A Back in Time article
Baseball (2008) – A Back in Time articl

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