Hall ceremony full of tears, wisdom

Tony La Russa

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Greg Maddux joked about how he always got a chuckle watching his catchers take foul balls off the mask. Tony La Russa summarized his feelings about baseball with the observation, "The more you learn, the more you love it. And the more you love it, the more you want to learn.'' And Frank Thomas cried -- a lot.

Induction day at Cooperstown is always an emotionally charged event, and the 2014 ceremony will go down as some of the most jam-packed in history. A crowd of 48,000, the third biggest ever, did a Tomahawk chop in honor of Bobby Cox, waved "HRT 35'' license plates for Thomas, and held a moment of silence for recently departed baseball greats Tony Gwynn and Ralph Kiner.

Here are some other sights, sounds and observations from a very eventful summer Sunday in upstate New York:

Most well-rounded speech

Tom Glavine hit all the right notes in his speech. He evoked some cherished memories with reminiscences about throwing snowballs over trees and playing squirt hockey as a kid in Billerica, Massachusetts. At the same time, Glavine provided one of the most poignant moments of the day with a heartfelt tribute to his parents, Fred and Millie. Glavine revealed that he got his work ethic from his father and his stubbornness from his mother, and said his main objective was always to make them proud.

"I can honestly say when I was a kid, I wanted to be a professional athlete,'' Glavine said. "Red Sox or Bruins -- I didn't care. I loved Bobby Orr, Yaz [Carl Yastrzemski], Pudge [Carlton Fisk] and Jim Rice. But my role models were and always have been my parents. They gave me the two best things you can ever ask for as a kid. They gave me their time and their example.

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I've always said if I can be half the parents to my kids that my parents were to me, I will have been successful. To say thank you would never be enough.''

Most appreciative inductee

Frank Thomas was the biggest emotional wreck to take the stage at a Hall induction since 2001, when Bill Mazeroski began weeping uncontrollably and exited the stage after 2 minutes, 30 seconds. That remains the shortest induction speech in Cooperstown history.

Thomas' voice cracked with emotion from the outset, but he soldiered on for 18 minutes. At one point the fans rose and gave him a standing ovation to help pull him through. He cried when reminiscing about his late agent and advisor, Robert Fraley, and had difficulty keeping it together when reflecting upon his relationship with long-time White Sox hitting coach Walt Hriniak. But his most heart-rending tributes were reserved for his wife, Megan, his mother, Charlie Mae, and his late father, Frank Sr.

"I was Cool Hand Luke sitting there watching everyone's speeches,'' Thomas said later. "As soon as I stood up, my knees started knocking and the first person I looked at was my mom. It hit me right in the heart. My mom hadn't left Columbus, Georgia, in 15 years, and she was here today. It was a huge day for me and my family. I just felt really blessed.''

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