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Emotion on display at Hall, too
07/25/2004 10:54 PM ET
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- At the end of all the numbers, the hits and the runs and the saves and the victories, and all the things that we add up to baseball greatness, there is this one other thing:

Human emotion.

That is what will stay with you as you recall the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies Sunday. Yes, the greatness of Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor was forever validated by their inductions into the Hall. But you will remember them on this day, not only as transcendent baseball players, but as men, as human beings.

You could not fail to be moved, for instance, by Eckersley's comments about his battle with alcoholism. You could not fail to be moved, either, about his love for the game -- "baseball lives in my soul ... in every fiber of my being."

And in fact, Molitor, listening to Eckersley's induction speech, was himself welling up with tears.

Eckersley's was the more emotional speech of the two, but then he is the more openly emotional of the two. He would be the one who would be much more likely to discuss his problems with the entire world watching. This is neither better nor worse, but simply a difference between two human beings.

Molitor revealed more of himself when, after the ceremonies, he was asked about his reaction to Eckersley's remarks.

Molitor said that he was deeply moved, in part because he knew of Eckersley's problems. And also, Eckersley's remarks reminded him of his own issues, of going through his own divorce, of a problem with drug abuse that he had early in his own career.

And as far as being revealing, Molitor, in addressing comments to members of his family in his own speech had mentioned "Joshua" and said: "I know that better days are ahead for us."

For many people, this was not a recognizable name in Molitor's family, so he was later asked about Joshua.

"I had a little son, Josh, when I was up in Toronto," Molitor said. "Haven't really seen him very much. Working on a way to improve that relationship."

It ought to be noted in this context, that both Eckersley and Molitor, in their speeches, thanked their ex-wives. That there were ex-wives who needed thanking was probably not so much a commentary on baseball marriage as it was a commentary on contemporary marriage in general.

Molitor acknowledged that he had practiced the personally difficult passages of his speech so many times that he had been able to work through his emotions in that way. Eckersley, who again, showed more visible emotion during his speech, was asked if he had practiced the portions of his speech dealing with his recovery from alcoholism. He responded: "Yeah, I practiced. And I cried every time."

There were other moments, too, that were full of genuine emotion. The special tribute to Harmon Killebrew, widely known not just as a slugger, but as a fundamentally decent human being, was touching. And the tribute to all the members of baseball's family who had passed away in the last year, leading off with the great Warren Spahn, was poignant.

You could pick your own moments, and come up with a score of them. But a special commendation ought to go out to Hall of Fame right-hander Ferguson Jenkins for his rendition of the Canadian National Anthem.

Jenkins is the Hall's only Canadian. He volunteered for this duty. They didn't have to draft him. He is clearly not a professional singer. And here he had to follow Daniel Rodriguez, "America's Beloved Tenor," singing "The Star-Spangled Banner." This was the pure rendition of our anthem, with a world-class talent carrying it.

But Jenkins sang his nation's anthem in a voice that was strong and on-key and carried considerable feeling. You know how people will say that one thing or another makes them proud to be an American? On this day, Jenkins singing "O Canada," made you proud to be a North American.

In total, this Sunday, this day of Hall of Fame inductions at the Clark Sports Center was a day in which baseball greatness was fully recognized. But it was also a day when the hearts of the people inside that greatness could be seen, too.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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