NEW YORK (AP) — Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman sat on a dais and were asked whether they would trade their new Hall of Fame memberships for a World Series title, an honor that eluded the trio during their distinguished careers
“I’m glad I didn’t have to answer that one,” Chipper Jones interjected with a big smile.
“Yeah, because you guys beat us,” Thome quickly replied.
Baseball’s four newest Hall of Famers gathered for a news conference Thursday, a day after they were elected to Cooperstown. They combined for 75 major league seasons and 29 All-Star selections yet just one championship, earned by Jones when his 1995 Atlanta Braves defeated Thome’s Cleveland Indians in six games.
For that, Jones received a 10-karat yellow gold ring with 115 points of diamonds, including a 3/4-carat center stone. The sparkler is stashed in his safe.
“I wore it for the first year,” he said. “Every once in a while, a special occasion, I’ll pull it out, but it’s kind of faux pas to wear it. While you’re world champs, it’s OK to wear it. But once they crown somebody else, you put it away.”
For the others, the lack of rings stings.
They received new threads, cream-colored Hall of Fame jerseys, and were lauded with hosannas as glowing family members looked on. Hall President Jeff Idelson reminded all of how rare the honor is: There have been 19,183 men to appear in a major league game, and the Hall has just 323 elected members, including 226 players. Of those, 128 have been voted in by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Players who had responded to thousands of questions struggled for answers to the proposed Hall-for-title swap. Not winning a title left holes in their resumes and egos.
“It’s very heartbreaking, I have to tell you,” Thome said. “It’s something that you will never lose sight of. You will never lose what it meant to prepare all winter and then to finally be introduced in a World Series is just the ultimate. … A day like today is special, but I can only envision what it would have been like to win a World Series.
Thome reached the World Series only one other time, in 1997. The Indians were two outs from a title before the Florida Marlins rallied in the bottom of the ninth and won Game 7 in 11 innings.
Hoffman, a minor league infielder for three seasons before switching to the mound, made his only appearance when the San Diego Padres got swept by the New York Yankees in 1998. He made it to the mound in just one game, allowing Scott Brosius’ go-ahead three-run homer in the eighth inning of Game 3.
“I think you selfishly prepare and you unselfishly become a teammate,” Hoffman said. “And so I’ll stand on the fence and basically say both are pinnacles in our game.”
Guerrero’s only Series appearance was in his next-to-last season, when the Texas Rangers lost to the San Francisco Giants over five games in 2010. He hit a go-ahead RBI single against Tim Lincecum in his first at-bat, then went hitless in his next 13 along with a sacrifice fly.
“Even though we did not win the World Series, it is an experience that I’ll share for a long time,” he said through a translator.
Jones was in the playoffs each year from 1995-2005 and again in 2012, and he hit .273 with one homer and six RBIs in 16 World Series games. A year after the Braves beat the Indians, they took a 2-0 Series lead against the Yankees only to lose four in a row. In 1999, they got swept by New York.
He joins teammates Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine in the Hall along with manager Bobby Cox and general manager John Schuerholz. In winning a record 14 straight division crowns, the Braves expected to keep on winning the World Series — as did their fans.
“We get bashed for only winning one,” Jones said.
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