It surprised us all, to some degree. Roughly 2,700 miles from Seattle, around 2,000 from Maguayo, on a grassy field alongside the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, the roars grew louder with every mention of the names.
Randy. Griffey. Edgar.
The crowd fed on the encouragement they’d sampled all weekend - amidst a sea of pinstripes a proud archipelago emerged. Teal, navy, white, and gray. The shades were split but the sentiment was consistent. Nearly 40 years after he’d been signed out of Puerto Rico, the love people bore Edgar Martinez grew to a crescendo. That love was emboldened en masse, so unmistakable it shocked MC Brian Kenny, who remarked on how well Seattle fans traveled. For Edgar, it was worth it.
For Edgar, anything.
Six players were honored above all Sunday afternoon, joined by a record 52 returning Hall of Famers. All five in attendance made moving speeches, as did Brandy Halladay, the wife of the late Roy Halladay who spoke in his stead. Halladay poignantly noted how imperfect people can still have perfect moments. Mike Mussina spoke stoically of how a career full of “almosts” led him to the greatest recognition of all. Harold Baines proudly held his family and community up as his greatest source of pride and strength. Lee Smith marveled at a journey that could’ve ended at a dozen stops along the way. Mariano Rivera ad-libbed on his faith, the Yankees, and his parents’ excellent copulation efforts.
Every new member of the Hall hit the key notes - their love for their friends, families, coaches, teammates, and everyone along the way. Edgar did the same. It would be easy to say he had the most moving speech of the day, and while that was true for me, it’s impossible to isolate that analysis when it was made through tears of joy as he spoke. Most impressive instead was his ability to deliver his remarks in a way that remained as genuine and moving as they have his whole career. Despite decades of retelling, exposure, and the potential for burnout thanks to 20 years short on joyful stimulation in the psyche of Mariners fans, Edgar’s affirmations of his love and appreciation rang true.
Love, in all its forms, is at the heart of everything this weekend. It’s as hokey as a Disney moral, but stands up all the same. The love of baseball itself that led to the Hall of Fame’s creation. Love for the game - within the players themselves or those who love them - spurred them all to immortality. The love fans from Seattle, Chicago, New York, Puerto Rico, Baltimore, Panama, and all over the country feel that meant enough to spur this pilgrimage, both to thank their heroes and celebrate years of shared celebrations. Love built by parents with their children, or newly-met friends, or even total strangers, facilitated by the brilliance of the people on the stage.
Carlos, Norbert, Angel, and Lenny said they’re here for Edgar and Mariano, seemingly in the way I go to dinner for steak and a salad. pic.twitter.com/yvLEs4kXD5— John Trupin (@JohnTrupin) July 20, 2019
In front of 55,000 people, Edgar shared his love with the world. With the assistance of the best production work of the day by the Induction ceremony’s camera crew, Edgar enumerated the people who had got him there. Late Mariners scout Marty Martinez, who offered him a chance. His cousin Carmelo, who “won the argument” to convince him to take that chance. His grandparents, the training staff, the Mariners PR department, his teammates, and every group received the same cadence. A few sentences of thoughtful reflection, followed by three simple words - I love you.
Interjected between hours of stoicism, juxtaposed by the raucous adoration of the Dodger Stadium-sized crowd, Edgar spoke to each of his assembled nuclear family. To his son, Alex, he spoke of his “beautiful soul”, and the joy and pride it brought Edgar to be able, in retirement, to join his son in classes. Both father and son chuckled at the notion, but beamed through the final sentence, and repeated the most important thing.
“I love you.”
To his eldest daughter, Tessa, Edgar alluded to the time that has passed as he’s waited, 10 long years on the ballot, for a call that seemed like it might never come. “I can’t believe you’re off to college so soon. You are so smart, so kind, so beautiful.” She beamed back and returned his affirmation.
“I love you.”
To his youngest, his daughter Jacqueline, Edgar couldn’t help but chuckle. “You fill our house with joy, you make me so proud, and I’m so impressed you know all the words to every Hamilton song.” In a day buried in nostalgia and deference to the past, it was an amusing and wonderful reminder that life has gone on since the players on stage retired. Once again, the final sentiment was simple.
“I love you.”
Penultimate was Holli, his partner, who brought him pride for her ingenuity and independence. Edgar commended her for her determination to finish school, become a successful businessperson, and provide a sterling example to their children of the type of person they can become. Perhaps they have been supplanted by Russell Wilson and Ciara as Seattle’s First Family, but on Sunday no quintet meant more to the thousands of weeping, cheering, jubilant Mariners fans. Certainly none meant more to Edgar.
“I love you.”
Last of all, Edgar raised his gaze. Despite the sunglasses shading his face his eyes could be seen scanning the field, appraising the scene on the home stretch. He thanked Mariners fans for supporting him, always, and helping ensure for the rest of his life he has two homes - Puerto Rico and Seattle.
“I love you.”
“We love you too!” reflected back across the field. Across the country. Across Maguayo and Seattle and everywhere in-between. Despite the sun beating down on our arms, tears rained down the faces of every Mariners fan in my vicinity, and even those attending on behalf of other inductees.
Edgar made only one mistake - he’d forgotten a third home; The National Baseball Hall of Fame, where his name will remain enshrined until the building returns to dust. It’s been said that Griffey belonged to everyone, but Edgar was ours, and that will always be true in some respect. But on the field that day, surrounded by fans from all across the world exclaiming with wonder as they learned of his accomplishments, the Edgar we loved - all of him - became everyone’s too.