Each Saturday, El Profe digs into moments in baseball history captured by a camera lens. These Iconic Images stir the soul, capturing more than a moment in a game. This weekend El Profe celebrates the two Latino legends elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
It was a long time coming, not just for Edgar Martínez, but for Latino baseball fans. We’ve seen the all-around greatness of Roberto Clemente, the pitching domination of Juan Marichal and Pedro Martínez, the power-hitting of Orlando Cepeda and the sweet-swing of Rod Carew, the amazing defense and speed of Luis Aparicio and Roberto Alomar.
All of these Latinos, and a handful more, have had their greatness recognized with election into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Some went in on their first ballots. Others waited years. But until this year we had not seen a Hall of Fame election result of this sort.
Edgar Martínez had to wait until his 10th appearance on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot before he received the call from BBWAA secretary-treasurer Jack O’ Connell informing the Puerto Rican he had been elected to the Hall. Mariano Rivera didn’t have to wait as long, garnering the first unanimous vote from the writers in his first appearance on the ballot.
This photo captures a unique moment in baseball history. Latinos have waited a long time to witness such a moment. The election of Edgar Martínez and Rivera marked the first time two Latinos were elected together into the Hall of Fame by voting members of the BBWAA. The lone time more than one Latino had been elected into the Hall in the same year was in 2007. That year a special committee on the Negro Leagues elected two Latino players (Cristobal Torriente and José Mendez) and one Latino executive (Alex Pompez) into the Hall, all posthumously.
Knowing how close Latinos have come in recent years made this photo of Martínez and Rivera from Hall of Fame press conference extra special. Let the record show that it was taken on Wednesday, Jan. 24, at the St. Regis Hotel at around 4:01 p.m. EST, less than 24 hours after Rivera and Martinez learned that they had been elected into the Hall of Fame.
Election of two living Latinos almost happened the previous two election cycles. In 2017 Iván Rodríguez was elected in his first appearance on the ballot, but Vladimir Guerrero fell 15 votes shy of reaching the 75 percent threshold needed. The following year was another close call. Guerrero joined the 2018 Hall of Fame class with 92.9 percent of the vote, but Edgar Martínez fell short, appearing on 70.4 percent of submitted ballots. He was only 20 votes shy of the 317 needed that year.
The news of Rivera’s unanimous election spurred a celebration not only in his New Rochelle, N.Y., home but also throughout Panama. Rivera joins Rod Carew as the lone players from Panama elected into the Hall.
The election has seemingly put Rivera’s radiant smile on regular display. He beams in the photo alongside the New York-born and Puerto Rico-raised Martínez. At the Hall of Fame Press Conference at the St. Regis Hotel in New York, Rivera was the life of the party. This clearly was not the Rivera that opposing teams got to see when he was on the mound.
He was joyful, joking and effusive.
One senses that Martínez is savoring his long-awaited moment. Quiet and understated are part of the Puerto Rican’s personality. Yet, it’s clear he is pleased that he can don the cap and jersey of baseball’s most exclusive club.
His election enables him to join the four other Puerto Ricans in the Hall: Clemente, Cepeda, Alomar and Rodríguez.
These two Latinos mastered their crafts to the extent that Major League Baseball had already named annual awards after them. Each year the American League’s best reliever receives the Mariano Rivera AL Reliever of the Year Award. The top designated hitter receives the Edgar Martínez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award. Interestingly, Latinos claimed both awards in 2018 with Edwin Diaz (then with Seattle) and Khris Davis (Oakland).
This July’s Hall of Fame Weekend and the induction ceremony will hold special meaning for supporters of Martínez and Rivera as well as those who rooted for the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees, the sole teams on which the two appeared, respectively.
It will also be a unique celebration for Latinos who will witness the first time two living Latinos get enshrined in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Featured Image: Alex Trautwig / Major League Baseball