CHICAGO – Harold Baines never called attention to himself during his 22 seasons in the major leagues, 14 of them spent with the White Sox.
Look for that character trait to continue when the 60-year-old designated hitter/outfielder is enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Meeting with the news media Tuesday at Guaranteed Rate Field, Baines was asked about the speech he’ll give July 21 in Cooperstown, New York.
“It will be about others; it won’t be about me,” Baines said. “It will be about my community, it will be about my coaches, my teammates and last but not least, my family. Not hardly anything about me.”
Speaking for Baines, he batted .289/.356/.465 with 2,866 hits, 384 home runs and 1,628 RBIs while playing for the Sox, Orioles, A’s, Rangers and Indians.
The left-handed hitter was a six-time All-Star, and his highest MVP ranking was ninth, in 1985.
Baines initially was on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot, but he never garnered more than 6.1% of the Hall of Fame vote.
In December, a 16-member Today’s Game Era Committee, featuring Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and former Sox manager Tony La Russa, got Baines to Cooperstown.
“Once I was on the original ballot, no, I didn’t think about it,” Baines said. “When you get 4% or 5%, you don’t sit around thinking about it. I don’t think any player plays the game to try to get into the Hall of Fame. If that happens, it’s the icing on the cake.”
Two of his former teammates – Ozzie Guillen and Ron Kittle – lauded Baines on Tuesday.
“I think it’s going to be emotional for a lot of people just because it’s Harold Baines,” said Guillen, who will be in Cooperstown for the big day. “Harold Baines was always cool, man. Harold Baines was a White Sox when the White Sox were nothing. Not too many people went through it. They won in '83, they had great players, but Harold Baines went through a lot of bad teams.
“It’s not easy to put up numbers when you don’t have that many players around you that can help you. I think Frank [Thomas] was a better hitter than Harold. Clutch? Nobody was better than Harold Baines in this organization.”
Said Kittle: “Everybody knew he was the No. 1 draft choice in the country [in 1977]. From that day on, he prepared and practiced just for that. He was not afraid to work. Very soft-spoken, if he said anything. But he talked with his bat.”