Baines joins Orioles Hall of Fame
Baltimore slugger was thrilled to wear his hometown uniform
BALTIMORE -- As a player, Harold Baines was a man of few words, avoiding reporters so he could focus on the game. As the 46th inductee into the Orioles Hall of Fame, Baines spoke briefly but glowingly of the sacrifices his family made for his career success and the pride a native Marylander felt experiencing an unexpected honor.
Baines was inducted into the Orioles' shrine, which is administered by the nonprofit Oriole Advocates and housed at the Sports Legends Museum adjacent to Camden Yards, in ceremonies before Saturday's game against the Cleveland Indians.
"Growing up in Maryland, it was a real thrill to wear an Orioles uniform," Baines said before donning a green blazer emblematic of the honor. "Thank you all for always treating me like family."
Baines, a native and resident of St. Michael's on Maryland's Eastern Shore, spent parts of seven seasons during his 22-year career in Baltimore, including three separate stints with the Orioles. Baines hit .301 with 107 homers and 378 RBIs while with Baltimore.
"When I got the call in Spring Training that said that they wanted to put me in the Orioles Hall of Fame, I said, 'You must be kidding.' I think I played here seven years and I [thought] you had to play here at least 15 years to get an honor like that," said Baines after the ceremony. "I'm very appreciative of it."
Baines was introduced by former Orioles general manager Roland Hemond, who signed the then-teenager to his first professional contract after the Chicago White Sox drafted him first overall in 1977 out of high school. Hemond used the opportunity tick off the names of 13 current members of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., who did not achieve the 1,628 career RBIs amassed by Baines.
Hemond remembered Baines as "one of the most consistent and clutch hitters in Orioles history." A video montage of Baines' Orioles career was shown on the center-field scoreboard before Baines was introduced out of the home team's dugout.
As part of his acceptance speech, Baines recognized his wife, children and family members seated behind home plate. At Friday's luncheon kicking off the Hall of Fame weekend, Baines became emotional and had to stop to compose himself three times during a 10-minute speech while talking about his family's sacrifice and the recent contract son Harold signed with the White Sox.
"When I talk about my family, that's the toughest part, because I love them so much," said Baines, who is in his sixth season as a first-base coach with the White Sox. "They've done so much for me. You try to share the fame you get from playing baseball with them. So anytime I can praise them, I love to praise them."
Baines was joined on the dais on the field at Camden Yards by another inductee, former Orioles community relations director Julie Wagner, who became the first woman inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame. She received the Herbert Armstrong Award for meritorious service to the club and community by non-uniformed personnel.
In her acceptance speech, Wagner noted the contributions of former Orioles player, coach and Hall of Fame member Elrod Hendricks, who passed away in December 2005.
"Elrod Hendricks made thousands of appearances," said Wagner, who created and managed dozens of community-based programs, many of which are still operating today. "He came through when we needed him and gave a lot of time to community relations."
Wagner spent 26 years with the Orioles, starting as an intern in the public relations department and moving into the community relations role when few Major League clubs focused on off-the-field events or employed women in significant positions. She left the team in April 2008 to take a job with the American Cancer Society.
Pete Kerzel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.