Monday brings reflection for new Hall of Famers

Written by: Evan Gerike

They walked into the Legends of the Game Roundtable on Monday wearing polos and sweats, reclining in an atmosphere much more laid back than Sunday’s. No suits, a smaller crowd, less pressure.

It was a chance for new Hall of Fame inductees Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva and David Ortiz to relax and just chat. But the crowd reminded them of their status as legends as soon as they walked onto the stage by breaking into chants of “Tony” and “Papi”.

Now, though, they are free to enjoy the rest of their lives as Hall of Famers.

“I was on the run all the time, I never had time to sit down, not even to have a cup of coffee,” Ortiz said. “Now I have plenty of time.”

They lounged in their seats with relaxed postures and began cracking jokes and reminiscing on their careers, teammates and championships as host Peter Gammons of MLB Network guided them through the program.

“To be honest with you, sometimes I have a hard time believing that we won in 2004,” Ortiz said. “That was crazy. No disrespect, but I think we were playing the best New York Yankees team of all time, based on offense.”

Kaat’s championship came in 1982, his 24th and penultimate season of his career.

No player in a major sport has had to wait as long for their first ring, he said.

While Oliva never won a World Series ring in his 15-year career with the Twins, he did reach the World Series in 1965 alongside Kaat as Minnesota won the AL pennant.

“You see all these ballplayers crying and having a great time,” Oliva said. “To be a champ, to be able to go to the World Series, that was a huge thing for me.”

During each of their careers, Kaat, Oliva and Ortiz played with numerous Hall of Famers – Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew, Mike Schmidt and Pedro Martínez, to name a few.

Kaat is hoping to hear one more teammate of his inducted in the near future.

Kaat, who received the required 12 of 16 votes needed for induction in the Golden Days Era Committee voting, picked up one more vote than his teammate in Chicago and longtime friend, Dick Allen.

Kaat and Allen became friends while playing together for the White Sox in 1974 and remained friends until Allen’s death in 2020.

Allen’s wife, Willa, called Kaat to congratulate him upon his election and tell him how happy Dick would’ve been to see Kaat inducted.

“I said, ‘Willa, think about this. They could only vote for four. Dick missed by one vote,’” Kaat said. “‘If it came down to that last voter and he had to choose between Jim Kaat and Dick Allen, and he said ‘I’m going with Dick Allen,’ I’d be calling you.’”

Their legacies have extended beyond the field through their career and into their inductions. Kaat has been a broadcaster for nearly 40 years, and Ortiz has dived into philanthropy with the David Ortiz Children’s Fund, which helps raise money for heart surgery for children in New England and the Dominican Republic.

In Boston, days after the Marathon bombings, Ortiz couldn’t be held back from giving his now infamous “Our City” speech. Gammons said he remembers how angry Ortiz was in the tunnel before going onto the field, unprompted and unscripted.

“That was something that was unexpected and to me, it hit me hard, it hit me deeply,” Ortiz said about the bombing. “I always say this: the same reaction I have, I’m pretty sure anyone around the world would feel the same way.”

At Sunday’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, Ortiz discussed how Boston had become his second home, a place he cared for as deeply as the Dominican Republic. One fan in the crowd Monday made it clear how Boston had accepted Ortiz in return, yelling “Thank you Papi!” after he finished talking about his reaction.

The Legends of the Game Roundtable put the exclamation point on Hall of Fame Weekend 2022, which featured the inductions of Bud Fowler, Gil Hodges, Minnie Miñoso and Buck O’Neil along with Kaat, Oliva and Ortiz. The 2023 Induction Ceremony is scheduled for July 23.


Evan Gerike is the 2022 public relations intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development
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