The high point of Scott Rolen’s 17-year career didn’t come during his 2006 World Series run with the St. Louis Cardinals or even during his outstanding first full season in 1997 with the Philadelphia Phillies, which earned him unanimous National League Rookie of the Year honors.
For Rolen, one of two players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, that honor was reserved for an unexpected moment with his parents after he was called up to his first major league game in 1996.
«Watching Mom and Dad walk to their seats from my position at third base was a feeling never surpassed in my 17 years,» Rolen said during his 16-minute acceptance speech.
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It took six tries, but Rolen’s parents, Ed and Linda, finally got to see their son earn his Hall of Fame bronze plaque. He was joined by Fred McGriff, chosen unanimously by the Players of the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee in December after falling on the writers’ ballot in 2020.
Rolen was the only player to receive more than 75% of the votes needed to qualify for induction. He received 297 votes (76.3%) from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in January. A year earlier, he obtained 63.2% of the vote.
«I am grateful for this great gesture,» Rolen said. «At no time in my life did it occur to me that I would be standing on this stage.»
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A multi-sport star out of Indiana high school, Rolen received a Division I offer to play basketball before the Phillies drafted him outright out of Jasper High School in the second round of the 1993 amateur draft.
The third baseman spent six of his 17 seasons with the Cardinals, where he won four of his seven All-Star selections and three of his eight Gold Gloves.
Rolen hit .281 with 316 home runs and 1,287 RBIs in 2,038 games. He hit a team-best .421 during the 2006 World Series, which St. Louis won in five games over Detroit.
Rolen credited his parents for the values they instilled in him.
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«I wasn’t raised to be a major league baseball player,» he said. «I was raised to be honest, to work hard, to be responsible for my words and actions, and to treat people with kindness and respect.»
McGriff was joined onstage by Rolen, who made sure to shake hands with nearly all of the 50 Hall of Famers who received him.
«I’m humbled and honored to stand before you and now to be a part of this fellowship,» McGriff said during his 20-minute speech. «When your career is validated by ex-players and executives who watched you play, that’s the best there is.»
The lanky first baseman was drafted by the New York Yankees in the ninth round of the 1981 amateur draft out of Thomas Jefferson High School in Tampa, Florida.
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Affectionately nicknamed «Crime Dog» by ESPN’s Chris Berman, McGriff hit .284 with 493 home runs and 1,550 RBIs in 2,460 games over 19 seasons. He played for six teams, was a five-time All-Star and helped the Atlanta Braves win the 1995 World Series.
Players on the writers’ ballot who did not make it to induction this year included Todd Helton (72.2%), Billy Wagner (68.1%), Andruw Jones (58.1%), Gary Sheffield (55%), Carlos Beltrán (46.5%), Jeff Kent (46.5%), Alex Rodríguez (35.7%), Manny Ramírez (33.2%), Omar Vizquel (19.5%), Andy Pettitte (17%), Bobby Abreu (15%). 4%), Jimmy Rollins (12.9%), Mark Buehrle (10.8%), Francisco Rodríguez (10.8%) and Torii Hunter (6.9%).
Three others were honored over the Hall of Fame weekend. Former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Carl Erskine received the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award, veteran Detroit Tigers hit writer John Lowe won the BBWAA Professional Excellence Award, and Cubs radio host Pat Hughes received the Ford C. Frick Award.