Ripken had given Ryan a flower earlier to hand to his mother and Ripken’s wife, Kelly, when Ripken spoke about her. “Ryan, I might need a little help transporting this,” Ripken said, and Ryan pulled a flower out of his sportcoat to give to Kelly.
Gwynn also got emotional when talking about his family, talking about his father, who died in 1993. After the ceremony, Gwynn said, “I figured if we had trouble today, it would be when we got to the family part.”
It was personal, but so is what has happened to the game Gwynn and Ripken love. In his speech, Gwynn said, “When you sign your name on the dotted line, it’s more than just playing baseball. … You have a responsibility to make good decisions and show people how things are supposed to be done.”
Not with a syringe. Not with “the cream” and “the clear.”
The steroid controversy was almost the unspoken theme of the 2007 induction. Gwynn admitted as much when asked whether the record turnout was partly because of what both he and Ripken represented to fans.
“Yeah, I think so,” he said. “Fans feel comfortable with us because they could trust us. Especially in this era of negativity, they felt we did things the right way.”
Finally, when both men were asked yet again about Barry Bonds and his tainted run at Hank Aaron’s 755 career home run mark, the frustration came out. “What a great day for baseball, 75,000 people,” was Gwynn’s response, and Ripken said, “Maybe we could go back to reality tomorrow.”
Here’s some reality — the Cooperstown newspaper, the Freeman’s Journal, published this editorial on the most important day in the town:
“Baseball should protect baseball for good of all. … Five years from now, when he becomes eligible — and every year thereafter — the Baseball Writers Association of America should categorically reject Barry Bonds for Hall of Fame enshrinement.”
I wonder whether Mark McGwire was sitting in a dark room somewhere, watching the ceremony, wondering where he might have sat on the stage.