MLB.com's Barry M. Bloom says the induction ceremony is "the largest in terms of the number of living electees since 1971":
"The more you learn about baseball, the more you love it, Tony La Russa told a crowd of approximately 48,000 spread in droves across the meadow behind the Clark Sports Center for Sunday's National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony, the larget in terms of the number of living electees since 1971.
"'And the more you love it, the more you want to learn,' La Russa added.
"It was a baseball love fest as the big day finally arrived for the memorable Hall of Fame Class of 2014 -- 300-game winners Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, slugger Frank Thomas and managers Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and La Russa.
"'You're on the bus and you see it and you get goosebumps,' La Russa said afterward about the crowd. 'It's like the greatest rock concerts that you've ever been to.'
"The Big Six were inducted in front of the third-biggest throng in history behind the Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn induction of 2007 (75,000) and the Robin Yount-George Brett-Nolan Ryan induction of 1999 (50,000). As always, Commissioner Bud Selig read the inscriptions on the plaques of the six newcomers, who were joined by another 44 of the 66 living Hall of Famers on the big stage.
"'I was shocked when we turned that corner this morning,' Thomas said. 'Ozzie Smith was in the back of the bus with me and he said,'This is for real now. Look at all those people. Just take it all in. You've got to be tough when you get to the stage. These are the true fans. The world is watching. Do what you've got to do.'
"'So for me today, to be honest with you, I was Cool Hand Luke sitting there watching everyone's speeches. As soon as I stood up, my knees started knocking and the first thing I looked at was my mom. It hit me right in my heart. My mom hadn't left Columbus, Ga., in 15 years. She was here today, so I just started crying.'
"Thomas didn't stop crying for his entire speech of nearly 18 minutes, during which he thanked many family members, his late father, players, coaches, managers, trainers, you name it, from the three organizations for which he played: the (Chicago) White Sox (1990-2005), (Oakland) A's (2006, '08) and (Toronto) Blue Jays (2007-08).
"The speeches were supposed to be limited to 10 minutes each. Cox and Maddux basically hit it on the button, while Glavine, Thomas, La Russa and Torre went long. Torre hit it out of the ballpark with his speech that went 29 minutes, although he seemed devastated afterward because he failed to thank the late Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner and the Steinbrenner family. Steinbrenner's youngest son, Hal -- the club's current principal owner -- was in the crowd along with a contingent of Yankees executives and former coaches who worked under Torre.
"'I missed mentioning and thanking the most obvious guy in the world when you're talking about the Yankees,' said Torre, the winner of four World Series titles with New York, before taking questions at the post-ceremony media conference. 'My plan was to thank him and (mention) the fact that we had a great relationship. It was so obvious that I was going to do it that I just went right past it and the whole Steinbrenner family. It was the proudest time in my career.'
"Maddux and Glavine are the first set of first-ballot pitchers to be elected together since Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson were part of the inaugural class of 1936, along with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner. They are the first living pair of 300-win pitchers to be elected in the same year and only the third pair in Hall of Fame history.
"'It's obviously the biggest honor you can give to a ballplayer,' said Maddux, the first inductee to speak. 'To put me here in Cooperstown with all of my childhood heroes, it's sort of hard to believe I'm standing here today. I never gave a thought to the Hall of Fame as I was going through my career. My goal as a baseball player was very simple -- all I wanted to do was try and get better for my next start. And to think it all ended up here is pretty cool.'
"Add Thomas, who played the first 16 seasons of his 19-year career with the White Sox, and the Baseball Writers' Association of America elected three players on the first ballot for the first time since that grand induction of 1999.
"'I'm so humbled and honored to be a part of this historic class of first-ballot Hall of Famers,' Thomas said in his address. 'I'm speechless, I want to thank you all for being great role models and making this game what it it is today. Hard work, dedication, commitment, no shortcuts to success. Thanks for having me in your club.'
"Maddux won 355 games, the eighth-highest figure in Major League history and the most of any pitcher since Warren Spahn retired with 363 in 1965. He garnered 97.2 percent of the BBWAA vote, appearing on all but 16 of the 571 ballots cast. The right-hander, called 'Mad Dog,' won 194 of those games over 11 years with the (Atlanta) Braves. But his milestone 300th came for the (Chicago) Cubs, the team that drafted him and for which he played 10 seasons covering two tenures.
"Glavine -- who won 305 games, fourth most among left-handers -- was named on 91.9 percent of the ballots, while Thomas was selected on 83.7. Glavine spent 17 of his 22 seasons with the Braves, but he won his 300th game near the end of a five-year tenure with the (New York) Mets.
"'It's hard to imagine a day like this would get any better,' Glavine said. 'But for me, it does. I'm honored to go into the Baseball Hall of Fame with such a great group of men. All of you guys represent what is great about the game of baseball. I'm humbled to be a part of this class.'"
In a related development, The New York Times' Richard Sandomir reported on July 26 that the Baseball Hall of Fame reduced the window for election from 15 years to 10:
"Since 1962, candidates for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame have had 15 years of eligibility, as long as they received at least 5 percent of the vote totals by the Baseball Writers' Association of America each year. But on Saturday, the Hall changed the process, reducing the period of eligibility to 10 years.
"Jeff Idelson, the president of the Hall of Fame, said, 'In a study of Hall of Fame voting over its history, it's become evident, especially over the past 30 years or so, that after 10 years, the likelihood of election after 10 years is incredibly minimal.'"