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Tampa native Fred McGriff is inducted into the Hall of Fame

 Hall of Fame inductee Fred McGriff poses for a picture during the National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Sunday, July 23, 2023, at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Bryan Bennett
Hall of Fame inductee Fred McGriff poses for a picture during the National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Sunday, July 23, 2023, at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, N.Y.

The original Tampa Bay Devil Ray hit 493 home runs during his 19-year major-league career.

Fred McGriff, elected unanimously by the Contemporary Baseball Era Players Committee, and Scott Rolen, making it on his sixth try, were inducted Sunday into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

McGriff, a Tampa native and original Devil Rays first baseman, played for six teams during his 19-year major-league career, including two stops with the Rays.

During his induction speech on Sunday, McGriff credited the support he received from his parents.

"My mom was a school teacher, my dad owned a TV repair shop," McGriff said. "They never pushed me to play baseball, but they always supported me. They both drove me to my games, to practices, and I know they're both looking down smiling today, so proud of their youngest son."

McGriff, known as Crime Dog, hit .284 with 493 home runs and 1,550 RBIs with six major-league teams. The five-time All-Star helped Atlanta win the 1995 World Series.

His 493 homers were tied for 10th in major-league history among left-handed hitters when he retired, but McGriff wondered what his numbers would have looked like had he played his entire career with the New York Yankees, the team that drafted him.

“That little, short porch in right field? That would’ve been a beautiful thing for me,” McGriff said. “And the stadium they have now? That is a real bandbox they have now. That place is unbelievable.”

But he has no regrets, especially concerning his time with Atlanta.

“My time with the Braves was awesome. At the time we didn’t have the Tampa Bay Rays, Florida Marlins,” McGriff said. “Atlanta was closest to my home (in Florida). For my parents to have a better opportunity to see me play was great for me.

“And of course, winning.”

Rolen, a seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove winner, was selected on 297 of 389 ballots cast by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America — or 76.3%. In his first year of eligibility, Rolen received just 10.2%, the lowest first-ballot percentage of a player later elected. His Hall vote rose steadily. It wasn’t until the past year that Rolen felt he had a great shot to get in. Along with that realization came some stress.

“The first five years there wasn’t much pressure at all,” Rolen said. “The first year we were trying to get to a certain number (to stay on the ballot). The last year, yeah, I knew there was a chance with this one. This last one caught up to me when I thought it would be a real thing. The chest gets a little tight and then you hear the news.”

Rolen batted .281 with 316 homers and 1,287 RBIs for Philadelphia (1996-2002), St. Louis (2002-07), Toronto (2008-09) and Cincinnati (2009-12). He was a unanimous pick as the 1997 NL Rookie of the Year and hit .314 in 2006, when the Cardinals won the World Series.

The careers of McGriff and Rolen overlapped, and they spoke glowingly of each other.

“I was always enamored of him; just how strong he was. How he flew the bat head,” Rolen said. “I always looked up to Fred and his career for sure.”

“He played the game the right way,” McGriff countered. “If you hit the ball to third base you were going to be out. He was going to make all the plays and he came up with big hits. He was a professional all the way and played the game the way it should be played.”

Two others honored Saturday were Pat Hughes, winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting and John Lowe, who received the BBWAA Career Excellence Award.

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