George Bell, Tim Raines headline Canadian Baseball HOF inductees
Rob Ducey, Tom Cheek and Nat Bailey also inducted
He's still waiting for Cooperstown to call, but Tim Raines can finally say he's a Hall of Famer.
The former Montreal Expos outfielder was named for induction Thursday into the Canadian Baseball of Fame. Also included in the class of 2013 are former outfielders George Bell and Rob Ducey as well as former announcer Tom Cheek and longtime minor-league owner Nat Bailey.
No players were elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year. Raines was fifth in voting conducted by the Baseball Writers Association of America with 297 votes (52.2 per cent), finishing short of the 75 per cent required for induction.
"Definitely different types of emotions," Raines said during a conference call. "The emotions of not getting into the Baseball Hall of Fame is something I've been dealing with for five years.
"Getting into the Canadian [Baseball] Hall of Fame . . . is the highest honour I've gotten since I played professional baseball so this is a great moment for me and my family. I was ecstatic about it."
Raines, 53, played left field for six major-league teams from 1979 to 2002 but is best known for his time in Montreal (1979-'90). Nicknamed "Rock", Raines was a seven-time all-star and two-time World Series champion as a player — he added a third in '05 as a Chicago White Sox coach — and retired with a career .294 average with 2,605 hits, 170 homers and 808 stolen bases.
Last month, Raines joined the Toronto Blue Jays as a baserunning and outfield coach.
Raines, a native of Sanford, Fla., said while he'll continue to hold out hope the call from Cooperstown will come one day, at least he can draw solace from already being in one baseball Hall of Fame.
"I'll just keep hoping and keep praying that it will happen," he said. "If not, I'm a Canadian Hall of Famer now and I feel pretty good about that."
Bell, 53, spent 12 seasons in the majors with Toronto, the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox but enjoyed his best success with the Blue Jays. The native of San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, was a three-time all-star and won the American League MVP with the Jays in 1987.
Bell enjoyed his best season that year, hitting .308 with 47 homers and 134 runs-batted in. However, Toronto fell two games short of Detroit in a stirring division title race, which Bell said tarnished his individual accolade.
"I remember winning the MVP but was very, very disappointed," Bell said. "We came so close, I think it was one of the best teams we put on the field in our time and we got beat so bad.
"To win the MVP was nice but coming so close and not coming through, I think, was very painful."
Bell said a regret was leaving Toronto after the 1990 season to sign as a free agent with the Chicago Cubs. A year later, he was dealt to the White Sox for Sammy Sosa and Ken Patterson.
"I was disappointed to leave Toronto but my profession was a baseball player and I just liked to go as a free agent to Chicago," he said. "But the experience I had with the Toronto Blue Jays was the best I ever had in my life.
"I grew up as a player in Toronto and to leave Toronto when I did for the 1990 season was kind of disappointing."
Ducey, a Toronto native who grew up in Cambridge, Ont., had the chance to play for both Toronto and Montreal over his 13-year professional career. He fondly remembers playing his first game in a Blue Jays uniform at Exhibition Stadium in 1987.
"I remember getting three standing ovations from the crowd that night," Ducey said. "A young man growing up an hour west of the city can be very intimidating but emotionally I was on Cloud 9.
"It was like it was two weeks ago, that day. I will always remember that first game."
Cheek, who died in 2005, broadcast 4,306 consecutive Jays games from the franchise's first contest until June 2, 2004. The Hall of Fame induction is the third recent honour for Cheek, who was inducted into the Vermont Association of Broadcasters in December before being selected as the recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award.
"It really was a trifecta to find out about the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame," said Cheek's widow, Shirley "I will accept the award and be proud for him and our family will be there to be proud."
Bailey, who died in 1978, purchased the triple-A Vancouver Mounties in the mid-50's and helped raise the sport's interest in the city. Mark Bailey said his grandfather's passion for baseball made for a very fun upbringing.
"I grew up with players like Brooks Robinson, Sal Bando, Tony La Russa, Dave McKay," he said. "It was all before hockey came to town."