Baerga and Hart Join Indian Legends

Over 1,700 baseball players have worn the word “CLEVELAND” across their chest and on Saturday evening, Carlos Baerga will become only the 40th one to be inducted into the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame.

“It’s very special,” Baerga said.  “To be selected to be put in there is an honor that I’m never going to forget.”

Baerga was an infielder for the Indians from 1990-96 and briefly again in 1999.  Primarily a second baseman, he earned three trips to the All-Star Game (’92, ’93 & ’95) two Silver Slugger Awards (’94 & ’95) and led the Indians in hits four times.   In 1992 and 1993, Baerga became the first second baseman since Rogers Hornsby in 1922 to hit 20 homeruns with 100 RBI and 200 hits in consecutive seasons.   In 1995, Baerga hit third in arguably the Indians best lineup of all-time and he helped lead the Tribe to its first pennant in 41 seasons.

“I knew that I had the ability to play the game,” Baerga added, “but to be in the Hall of Fame—no matter where—you have to be good.  You have to put up numbers.”

Joining Baerga in the Indians Hall of Fame class of 2013 is the architect responsible for building the Indians juggernaut of the mid to late 90’s; former General Manager John Hart.  Hart will be inducted into the club’s Distinguished Hall of Fame for non-uniformed personnel.

Hart was the Indians GM from 1991-2001.  During his tenure, he became arguably the Indians greatest GM ever with the team compiling an 870-681 record, six American League Central Division Championships and American League Pennants in both 1995 and 1997.  In addition to the team’s success, Hart was also named The Sporting News Major League Executive of the Year in both 1994 and 1995.

“It’s one of the most special things that I’ve done in my life,” Hart said.  “I loved my time in Cleveland and to be honored with this award is special.”

It is fitting that Baerga and Hart will enter the Indians Hall of Fame together, as the two were integral cogs in the Indians machine during one of the most successful and exciting eras that the franchise has ever seen.

“I think it just validates the great run that we had in Cleveland with the great players, the front office staff and the ownership,” Hart said.  “It’s real special.”

“John is a very good friend of mine,” Baerga added.  “He is the guy who made me the captain of the team and the guy who made me believe that I can play this game.”

The Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame was established in 1951, when Earl Averill, Mel Harder, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Ken Keltner, Nap Lajoie, Steve O’Neill, Joe Sewell, Tris Speaker, Hal Trosky and Cy Young made up the inaugural class.  The tradition continued strong through 1972, when Early Wynn was the lone inductee.

From there, as the franchise was nearly two decades into a historic tailspin on the field, the Indians either ignored or forgot about their Hall of Fame and did not induct another person until the opening of Heritage Park at Progressive Field in 2006 when seven new members were inducted.  When Charles Nagy was inducted in 2007, he then became the first member of the 90’s teams to join the elite group.

Since Nagy’s induction, the Hall’s inductees have certainly had a 1990’s flavor.  Including Nagy—and now with Baerga and Hart—members from the 90’s teams include Mike Hargrove (2008), Sandy Alomar (2009), Kenny Lofton (2010) and Roberto Alomar (2011).

Baerga and Hart will be honored on the field prior to Saturday night’s 7:15 contest against the Minnesota Twins.  The two newest Hall of Famers will have plaques hanging in Heritage Park behind centerfield later this summer.

“(Saturday) when I get there, I know I’m going to cry,” Baerga said.  “I know myself.  When I get out there, I’m going to (visualize) all that I went through in my life and all of the special moments that I had here.”

From now on, Tribe fans can relieve those special moments whenever they visit Heritage Park as well.

Photo: MLB.com

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