COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Chipper Jones didn’t bow to the pressure of the moment, and it was considerable.
Jones was inducted Sunday into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and he stood there delivering his speech with wife Taylor staring up at him, hours away from giving birth to a son to be named Cooper in honor of the special day.
Faced with that daunting task, Jones delivered flawlessly, just as he did during a 19-year career with the Atlanta Braves.
“She changed my life forever,” Jones said as his wife brushed away tears. “It took me 40 years and some major imperfections in me along the way to find my true profession. Now we’ve taken our two families and blended them together. It has given me what I’ve been searching for my entire life —true happiness.”
A crowd estimated at about 50,000 gathered on a sun-splashed day to honor six former players. Also enshrined were Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman and former Detroit Tigers teammates Jack Morris and Alan Trammell.
Jones was one of the greatest switch-hitters in baseball history, in the mold of his dad’s favorite player, Mickey Mantle, and finished with a .303 career batting average, 468 home runs, and 1,623 RBIs, credentials that earned him election on the first try.
Emotional during a Hall of Fame visit in February to tour the museum in preparation for this day, Thome held it together despite having to wipe away tears after his daughter Lila sang the national anthem. Like Jones, he heaped praise on his wife, Andrea.
“Obviously, induction into the Hall of Fame is one of the greatest honors of my life,” Thome said. “The best thing, though, that’s ever happened to me is the day you agreed to marry me. You are without a doubt the best teammate I could ever have and, with the world as my witness, I love you more today than ever.”
The lefty-swinging Thome hit 612 home runs, eighth all-time, and had an MLB record 13 walk-off homers, mostly for the Cleveland Indians.
Greeted by hundreds of fans waving Dominican Republic flags, Guerrero spoke in his native Spanish in a speech that was translated from Spanish and lasted just five minutes. He thanked his father and mother, who cooked dinners for him and does the same now for his son, and the fans and the people in his hometown of Don Gregorio. His son Vladimir Jr., the top prospect in the minor leagues with the Blue Jays, was in attendance.
The nine-time All-Star outfielder batted .318 with 449 homers and 1,496 RBIs and is the first player inducted wearing the cap of the Angels, the team where he enjoyed his greatest success.
Hoffman played the bulk of his career with the San Diego Padres before finishing with the Milwaukee Brewers. After failing to impress the front office in three years as a shortstop, he switched to the bullpen and became a star. Using a stultifying change-up, Hoffman recorded 601 saves over 18 seasons, second all-time to former Yankees star Mariano Rivera’s 652.
Morris, now 63, spent 15 years on the ballot before getting the call from the Hall of Fame last December. Known for his toughness on the mound, he pitched 18 seasons for the Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays and Indians, and played on four World Series champions. The crowning achievement of his career was his 1-0, 10-inning complete-game victory in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series while pitching for his hometown Twins against the Braves.
Trammell, who played shortstop for 20 seasons — all for the Tigers — and Morris were selected together by a veterans committee, which made the day extra special for the Motor City.
“We signed together in 1976, spent 13 years together in Detroit, and now 42 years later, Cooperstown. Wow!” Morris said.
Trammell earned six All-Star Game selections, four Gold Glove Awards and three Silver Slugger Awards. His .977 fielding percentage ranks sixth among shortstops with at least 2,000 games played. During his tenure, the Tigers had one of the great double play combinations in MLB history in Trammell and second baseman Lou Whitaker, who was in the audience on a special day for the Motor City.