Utican Mark Lemke couldn't be happier for his former Atlanta Braves teammate Fred McGriff's election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

"Not at all," Utica native Lemeke said when hearing of McGriff's being unanimously  elected on December 4 to the Hall of Fame by the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee.  "I don't know what took them so long."

McGriff, at first base and Lemke covering second base for Braves clubs from 1993 through the 1997 season, together they shared in the best of times in Atlanta baseball.  Four National League Division titles, two league pennants, a 1995 World Series championship, success on the diamond  for the Braves in the '90's overflowed.

Kentucky Derby Fillies & Stallions Party
LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 02: Fred McGriff attends Black Rock Thoroughbreds Presents 5th Annual Fillies & Stallions Sponsored By Red Bull And Tito's Vodka on May 1, 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images)

Now the 341st member of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, McGriff  has no bigger fan than Lemke.

" He (McGriff) wasn't a self-promoter, but laid back, and quiet.  There was consistancy in his game. Fred was just a great teammate."

Lemke, who shuttles between homes in Atlanta and Florida's west coast, labeling his former teammate a "dream for a manager" comes after much thought.  Averaging 127 games a season in manager Bobby Cox's (Hall of Fame Class of 2014) line-up, and slugging 130 of his 493 career home runs during that span of his career, it's no wonder Lemke, who began his career with Atlanta as a 23-year-old in 1988, recalls McGriff as "real important" to the Braves dominating the National League.

McGriff becomes the fifth player of the Braves' glory days in Atlanta to get the call to Cooperstown.  Chipper Jones, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and John Smoltz have made induction speeches in recent years.

Along with hitting home runs, McGriff, a five-time MLB All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger (award presented to the best offensive player at each position in both leagues determined by coaches and managers), had an uncanny ability to spray the ball to all parts of the field.

World Series 4 Neagle
23 Oct 1996: Denny Neagle of the Atlanta Braves flips the ball to Fred McGriff #27 to get out Joe Girardi of the New York Yankees in the fifth inning of game four of the World Series at Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. Mandatory Credit: Doug Pe

"Look at Fred's total bases.  He's up there with the all-time greats.  When Fred was on the field, his presence affected all of us," says Lemke, who played all but 31 of his 1,069 MLB games with Atlanta.

Born in Tampa, Florida, McGriff, who gained the nickname 'Crime Dog' by ESPN's Chris Berman in referencing McGruff - a cartoon dog who raised awareness to crime prevention, played in his last MLB game for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on July 15, 2004.

The Hall of Fame's Induction Ceremony is scheduled for Sunday July 23 on the grounds of the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown.

On January 24 the results of the 2023 Baseball Writers' Association of America election will be announced from Cooperstown.  One name on the writers' list that gets a thumbs up from Lemke is former third baseman Scott Rolen . A seven time All-Star and winning eight Gold Glove Awards, Rolen received 52.9% of the writers' votes in 2021. For election, a player must receive 75% of votes in a given Hall of Fame election.

"I could see that," said Lemke regarding Rolen's chances of joining McGriff in the Hall of Fame's Class of 2023.

Kristine Bellino, WIBX

Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter from the Mohawk Valley, now living in Florida. He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio, and on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at WIBX950.com. Don can be contacted via email at Don@icechipsdiamonddust.com. 

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