COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – For Mariano Rivera, it was the culmination of a storied career, dreams of being the next Pelé long since forgotten. For Brandy Halladay, the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony was a tearful moment to reflect on the accomplishments of her late husband, and she handled a difficult task admirably.
Rivera, the career saves leader and the first player unanimously voted into the Hall by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, was greeted by chants of his name from the adoring crowd as he stepped to the podium in a fitting close to Sunday's ceremony. He spoke in both English and at the end in Spanish, rarely looking down at the speech he had prepared.
“I think I choose that because sometimes you write words and it doesn't sound right,” Rivera said. “But when you come from the heart, it comes right. My intention was always to speak from the heart.”
Rivera and fellow closer Lee Smith, starters Mike Mussina and Roy Halladay, and designated hitters Edgar Martinez and Harold Baines were feted on a sun-splashed afternoon in Cooperstown. A crowd estimated at 55,000, the second-largest for an induction ceremony, quickly made Rivera feel at peace.
Brandy Halladay fought back tears as she spoke for her late husband, who had two sons.
“I knew I was going to cry at some point. It's overwhelming the amount of people here today,” she said, tears welling in her eyes, her voice quavering with emotion. “I'm so grateful you're here. I can't tell you how many hugs I've gotten. There are not enough words to thank you.
“I know how honored Roy would be to be sitting here with such accomplished men. Thank you for being such a good example to him and to supporting him in his career. This is not my speech to give.”
The son of a commercial pilot, Roy Halladay was 40 when he was killed in a plane crash in November 2017 into the Gulf of Mexico while piloting his own plane alone off the Florida coast. A toxicology report showed high levels of amphetamines and morphine in his system and hints of an antidepressant.
Mussina, who pitched for 18 major league seasons, posted a record of 270-153 and was a seven-time Gold Glove winner. He spent his entire career in the high-scoring AL East with the Orioles and Yankees.
Smiling from beginning to end, Smith congratulated his new classmates before crediting his family and hometown of Castor, Louisiana, for much of his success.
“It's been my family. They're the main reason I'm standing here today,” Smith said. “To my mom and dad – your support has meant everything to me.”
Smith pitched 18 seasons for the Cubs, Red Sox, Cardinals, Yankees, Orioles, Angels, Reds and Expos and retired as MLB's career saves leader with 478, a title he held for 13 seasons.
Martinez was a seven-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger Award winner for Seattle, where he spent his entire 18-year career.
Baines, a Maryland native who still lives there, never displayed much emotion in his 22-year career, but his voice cracked throughout his speech.
“Somehow I acquired a reputation for not saying much. I'm not sure why,” he deadpanned at the start. “From teachers to coaches who showed me kindness and discipline, I thank you all for what you've done for me. If I can leave you with one message, it's to give back to your community. I stand here very humbled. It has taken time to sink in.”
The late Frank Robinson and Willie McCovey were honored with a moment of silence before Mussina was introduced to start the ceremony. The two Hall of Famers died since last year's induction ceremony.