“I was definitely nervous. I still can’t speak French, even when I’m not nervous,” Raines said. “We’ve been thinking about [this day] for a long time. We [knew about this] since January.
“It seems like when each day passed, one day was gone and then it was one day closer, it was one minute closer. Last night, I went to bed. I don’t think I closed my eyes because I knew I had to get up there and speak.”
Raines then winged the rest of the speech and was emotional when he started talking about his family ranging from his parents — Ned and Florence Raines — to his four children. Raines’ speech lasted about 40 minutes.
Raines was inducted into the Hall of Fame because of what he did as a member of the Expos, who moved to Washington and are now the Nationals. He spent 13 of his 23 seasons with Montreal, which included seven All-Star appearances, an All-Star MVP Award in 1987 — his go-ahead triple in the 13th inning helped the National League edge the American League, 2-0 — and capturing four NL stolen-base titles from 1981-84.
Raines was often compared to Rickey Henderson. Raines acknowledged he didn’t like the comparison because he felt all along that Henderson was the best leadoff hitter ever.
“I wasn’t concerned about what he was doing,” Raines said. “I just enjoyed the way he played the game. He ran, he hit, he hit for power. Everybody tried to compare us because he was in the American League and I was in the National League. I thought that was unfair, because he was a lot better than I was.”
Raines mentioned several teammates he played with in Montreal, including Gary Carter, Tim Wallach and Steve Rogers. But it was Andre Dawson he gave the most credit to. Without Dawson, Raines said, he would not be in the Hall of Fame. Raines called him a big brother and father figure. Raines had a substance abuse problem during the early part of his career, and Dawson was one of the people who helped Raines overcome that.
“Without Andre Dawson, there is no telling what would have happened in my career,” Raines said. “There was a point in my career that I felt I needed someone to guide me in the right direction. … Thank you so much, Andre Dawson.”
Raines even talked about how much he treasured his three years with the Yankees. He was never an everyday player in New York, but he proved to be a valuable reserve, helping the Yankees win World Series titles in 1996 and ’98. In his three years in New York, Raines had a .395 on-base percentage and a .299 batting average.
“I wasn’t quite sure if I was ready for the big lights in New York, but I took a chance. Thank God I did,” Raines said.
Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002 and does a podcast, Newsmakers. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.