Lopez leads class of three into Braves Hall of Fame
MAY 23, 2014 8:14p ET
ATLANTA -- A woman walked through the concourse in Turner Field wearing an Atlanta Braves shirt, with LOPEZ, No. 8 across the back. When asked about the more than a decade-old tee, with its number and letters cracked, she responded "Oh, I'm wearing this for Javy."
In his time in Atlanta, Lopez was known for his popularity with female fans, and he received the loudest ovation during Friday's pregame processional, in which he and the as he led a group of three into the Braves Hall of Fame.
"It means everything," Lopez told FOXSportsSouth.com as he rode on a golf cart through the bowels of the stadium. "This is more than I was expecting. My dream as a kid was to someday play professional baseball and I got that accomplished -- and after playing 14 years, I wasn't expecting this and it happened."
Joining Lopez, who caught for the Braves from 1992-2003, were shortstop Rabbit Maranville and former trainer Dave Pursley.
Lopez was among a new breed of catcher, bringing power to the equation as he set a MLB record for the position with 43 in '03 and hit more home runs than any Braves catcher with 214. He was a three-time All-Star, and the MVP of the 1996 National League Championship Series, but it was something that Lopez could only watch that was his lasting memory of playing in Atlanta.
"That's a photograph memory right there," Lopez said.
He followed the ball off Carlos Baerga's bat to the glove of Marquis Grissom in left-center, giving the Braves a 1-0 win over the Indians in Game 6 the '95 World Series, clinching the franchise's first and only championship in Atlanta.
"Once I saw that ball in the air, a lot of things went through my head," Lopez said. "From the beginning of spring training, all the issues, all the things we went through to get to that point when the ball was still in the air. Once (Grissom) caught it, it was like the greatest thing in the world."
Lopez left after '03 for Baltimore and spent a season and a half there before ending his career with the Red Sox in '06. He would finish with 260 home runs, ninth all-time for a catcher and has the third-highest total of anyone at the position in less than 2,000 games, trailing only Mike Piazza (427), Lance Parrish (324) and Jorge Posada (275).
Along with Piazza, Posada and Pudge Rodriguez, Lopez helped set a new power standard at catcher, one that he's seen the Braves carry on. First with Brian McCann, who hit 176 before signing this past winter with the Yankees, and Evan Gattis, whose 29 homers in 141 games are tied for eighth on the franchise's record book.
"Gattis is a tremendous guy, strong enough to hit 40 home runs any time," Lopez said. "It's just a matter of time. ... I believe he has the chance to hit a lot of home runs."
He smiled, before continuing.
"I don't know about breaking the record ... but records are made to be broken," Lopez said.
Part of the Braves dynasty that strung together 14 consecutive division titles, Lopez was all too familiar to those fans in attendance Friday. He shared the stage with a player whose name isn't as well known, but his accomplishments put him among the organization's greats.
Walter Maranville, dubbed Rabbit for his speed and small stature at 5-foot-5, 155 pounds, the shortstop played 23 seasons in the NL, a record that would stand until Pete Rose broke it in 1986.
He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1954.
A career .258/.318/.340 hitter, Maranville, who died in 1935 at age 43, played 15 years for the Boston Braves (1912-20, 1929-33 and '35). He is one of just 17 players with at least 2,600 hits, 1,200 runs and 150 steals, putting him in a class with Ty Cobb, Rogers Horsnby, Lou Gehrig, Honus Wagner, Stan Musial and Roberto Clemente.
Pursley began with the team in Milwaukee in 1961 and followed the Braves to Atlanta, where he continued working until 2002. He is already a member of the National Athletic Trainers Association's HOF.
While there were other members of the Braves Hall in attendance, the night, unequivocally belonged to Lopez.
He climbed into the back of a maroon Corvette and as the caravan made its way toward the Braves dugout, Lopez mugged toward a camera, pointing down as he came past.
"I'm very thankful and very grateful for what I accomplished today," Lopez said. "It's a great honor to be part of a great organization for the rest of my life. You can't ask for anything better."