Dennis Eckersley can still come up with the save in a tough spot.
Flanked by 50 Hall of Famers, cheered by hundreds of fans and staring out at his parents, Eckersley repeatedly fought back tears Sunday and managed to complete his induction speech into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The cocky right-hander with the mustache and shaggy hair was humbled.
"It was brutal. I've never been through something like this. I can't explain it," said Eckersley, who was elected on the first ballot in January with former Milwaukee Brewers star Paul Molitor.
In 24 seasons with five teams, Eckersley appeared in 1,071 games, the most of any Hall of Fame pitcher, and finished 197-171 with 390 saves.
The sweet-swinging Molitor accumulated 3,319 hits in his 21-year career with Milwaukee, Toronto and Minnesota.
Also inducted were longtime Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants broadcaster Lon Simmons, who won the Ford C. Frick Award for major contributions to baseball broadcasting. The New York Times' Murray Chass gained entrance as the J.G. Taylor Spink Award recipient for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.
Eckersley, who broke in with Cleveland in 1975, began his career anew after the Chicago Cubs dealt him to Oakland at the start of the 1987 season -- when his baseball life seemed all but over because of a drinking problem.
Under the guidance of manager Tony La Russa and bullpen coach Dave Duncan, Eckersley was converted from a starter into an overpowering reliever and quickly became the game's dominant closer, expected to pitch only the ninth inning when the Athletics had a lead.
Eckersley grew up in the Oakland area and his parents were always near when he was playing. They were there on Sunday, even though his father is confined to a wheelchair and breathes with the help of an oxygen tank because of emphysema.
"My parents were there for me, and they're here for me now," Eckersley said.
Molitor also praised his parents, who are deceased.
"Somehow, in the midst of raising eight kids, she managed to see me play a lot of games," Molitor said of his mother, who died in 1988. "But my mom always thought she was a jinx. She'd come to the games and watch them from her car or she'd hide behind a tree. It continued even to the major leagues. I'd leave her seats in the family section and I couldn't find her. She'd walk around looking for an empty seat."
His father died of cancer two years ago but knew this day would come.
"I know how much he wanted to be here," Molitor said.