Nestor Chylak

Ryan Express Pulls Into Cooperstown Today

Robin Yount, left, Nolan Ryan, center, and George Brett were elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot this year (1999).

Robin Yount, left, Nolan Ryan, center, and George Brett were elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot this year (1999).   They will be inducted today (July 25, 1999).

By Ben Walker
Associated Press
(July 25, 1999)

Cooperstown, N.Y. -  One last stop for the Ryan Express.

   Nolan Ryan, who played longer than anyone in major-league history and surely frightened more hitters than any other pitcher, will take his place in the Hall of Fame today as a humble Texan.

   "I think this is the final chapter of my career," Ryan said.   "Its the highest honor."

   Slugger Orlando Cepeda, and George Brett and Robin Yount, part of the 3,000 hit club and the greatest players of their franchises, will join Ryan in a parade of seven for the induction ceremonies.

Ted Williams inducted into the HOF 1966
Ted Williams
Hank Aaron inducted into the HOF 1982
Hank Aaron
Bob Feller inducted into the HOF 1962
Bob Feller

   The largest Cooperstown class since 1972 also includes late umpire Nestor Chylak, Negro league's ace Smokey Joe Williams and 19th-century manager Frank Selee.

   A record crowd of more than 40,000 is expected to jam this quiet village of 2,300 where baseball is believed to have originated.  A record 39 Hall of Famers, among them Ted Williams, Hank Aaron and Bob Feller, are expected to attend.

   The weekend festivities wrap up Monday with the annual Hall exhibition game.   Appropriately, it matches Ryan's Texas Rangers against Brett's Kansas City Royals at Doubleday Field.

   "So much of it falls into place as it was scripted that way," said Yount, who got his 3,000th hit for Milwaukee three weeks before Brett reached the milestone.

   "George Brett was unquestionably my favorite player to watch play.   And Nolan Ryan is one of the all-time great pitchers the game has ever seen.   And Orlando Cepeda was one of the game's great hitters of the 1960's.  It really is amazing that we all can go in together."

   Cepeda said: "To hear those words - 'Hall of Famer' and know I'm one of them ... it means so many things to me."

Babe Ruth's HOF plaque
Lou Gehrig's HOF plaque
Cy Young's HOF plaque
Walter Johnson's HOF plaque

   And seeing is believing, Ryan said.

   "When you walk into the Hall and you look at the plaques and the displays there with all the great players like Ruth, Gehrig, Cy Young, Walter Johnson and those guys, and they show you where your plaque is going to hang, you realize that you are going to be thought of on that level.

   "During my career, I didn't give much thought to it," Ryan said.   "When I went up there and saw where I stood all-time the wins, innings pitched and strikeout lists and being the all-time walk leader it was nice to see.   Then to walk by the no-hit display, it was really something."

   Squeezing all of Ryan's accomplishments onto one bronze plaque won't be easy.

   He held or shared more than 50 records when he retired in 1993, including most no-hitters (7) and strikeouts (5,714).

   Ryan went 324-292 in a 27-year career with the Mets, Angels, Astros and Rangers.  A special assistant to the Rangers president, he will enter the Hall wearing a Texas cap.

   Ryan, incidentally, struck out 28 Hall of Famers, including Brett, Yount and Cepeda.

   Fitting all the plaques into the main gallery at 25 Main Street, meanwhile, presented another problem.

   The seven newcomers raised the total Hall membership to 244.  Going into this year's votes the Baseball Writers' Association of America election in January and the Veterans Committee meeting in March there was space for only 240 plaques to be properly displayed.

George Brett's HOF plaque Nolan Ryan's HOF plaque Robin Yount's HOF plaque

  So, for now, the last three spots will go to the first three players picked this year Brett, Ryan and Yount.

   The other four plaques will hang through next summer in an adjacent rotunda that houses a home-run chase exhibit.  After that, an expansion will make room for everyone.

Orlando Cepeda's HOF plaque Nestor Chylak's HOF plaque
Joe Williams' HOF plaque Frank Selee's HOF plaque

Nolan Ryan inducted into HOF 1999
Nolan Ryan

   Ryan, his family and about 150 people from Texas were to arrive in upstate New York on, fittingly, "Nolan Ryan Express," a plane in the Southwest Airlines fleet that was dedicated to him in January.

   Brett and Yount also were expected to bring large contingents.  And Chylak, who died in 1982, was to have 20 busloads of supporters from his native Northeast Pennsylvania.

   Brett's son, Robin named for Yount was to attend.  Robin turned 3 on the day Brett and Yount were elected to the Hall.

   "Robin was the guy I most enjoyed playing against in my entire career," Brett said.

George Brett inducted into HOF 1999
George Brett

   Brett, a 13-time All-Star third baseman, hit .305 in a 21-year career spent entirely in Kansas City.  He is 13th with 3,154 hits and tops the Royal's list in hits, doubles, triples, home runs (317), RBIs (1,595) and runs.

   A big-game player and 1960 AL MVP, Brett led the Royals to their only World Series championship in 1985.

   "George put Kansas City on the map," said former teammate David Cone, who pitched a perfect game last Sunday for the Yankees.

   "Before he came, Kansas City was only known for the Negro leagues and the Monarchs and as a farm team for the Yankees.  George Brett made it credible, a big-league town," he said.

Robin Yount inducted into HOF 1999
Robin Yount

Orlando Ceped inducted into HOF 1999
Orlando Cepeda

   Yount ranks 15th on the hits list with 3,142.  He played in 1982 as shortstop and 1989 in center field, joining Stan Musial and Hank Greenberg as the only players to win at two positions.

   Cepeda, who played most of his career with the San Francisco Giants, hot 379 home runs with 1,365 RBIs.  An NL rookie of the year and MVP at first base, he played in nine All-Star games.

Nestor Chylak inducted into HOF 1999
Nestor Chylak

   Chylak is one of eight umpires in the Hall.  He worked in the AL from 1954-78 and called five World Series and six All-Star games.

Joe Williams inducted into HOF 1999
Joe Williams

   Selee, one of 15 managers enshrined, guided Boston and Chicago to a .598 winning percentage in the NL.  He put together the Cubs' famed Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance infield.

   Williams, who starred for the Homestead Grays and several other teams before retiring in 1932, was picked in the 1952 poll by the Pittsburgh Courier as black baseball's greatest pitcher, edging out Satchel Paige.

Baseball bat

Baseball bat

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