COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. - The day was filled with emotion, with tears streaming down Frank Thomas' face Sunday, but there really were no subtle or hidden messages during the Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
There were no public apologies for the steroid era, only a profuse apology afterward by Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre. He said the New York Yankees made him a Hall of Famer, winning four World Series titles in five years, but he forgot to mention George Steinbrenner, the late Yankees owner.
"As soon as it was over I turned around and said, 'I forgot George.'" Torre said. "Not only George but Hal and the whole family. It was so obvious. I just feel terrible I omitted that."
There was no ranting or raving, no controversial comments, although 2012 inductee Barry Larkin raised a few eyebrows when he told the audience his favorite moment growing up was watching Pete Rose break the all-time hits record.
Yes, while Rose is in town signing autographs, he remains banned from baseball for gambling.
Instead, with the six-member class — consisting of 660 pitching victories, 521 homers and 7,593 managerial wins — providing 1 hour, 40 minutes, 16 seconds of speeches, the underlying theme was quite clear.
The game of baseball, after all of its tumultuous times, and without a single living Hall of Fame inductee a year ago, seems intent on reveling in a clearer conscience.
A throng of 48,000 - third-largest in history - arrived to pay homage to the game, honoring two of the greatest pitchers and slugger who played in the steroid era, along with three of its most decorated managers.
"There is a power to both patience and persistence,'' Torre said. "Baseball is a game of life. It's not perfect. But it feels like it is. That's the magic of it. We are responsible for giving it the respect it deserves.
"Our sport is part of the American soul, and it's ours to borrow. We'll take care of it for a time, and then pass it onto the next generation.''
The six-pack of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Thomas, along with managers Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Torre, devoted most of their speeches to those who helped them along the way.
Thomas, after breaking down talking about his father, Frank Sr., who died in 2001 - "Pops, look at us today, we're a long way from Columbus, Ga.'' - took it to an extreme. He literally thanked every single manager, coach, trainer, clubhouse attendant, public-relations official, traveling secretary and front-office executive during his career, and just about every teammate, too.
Thomas actually wound up thanking 138 former teammates, including Jermaine Dye and Aaron Rowand, who were in attendance, and then apologized for cutting out 50 at the last minute.
It was Saturday afternoon when Thomas blasted those who took performance-enhancing drugs in his heyday, saying "I probably lost more than anybody else in that steroid era."
Yet, this day, he only alluded to performance-enhancing drugs at the end of his 17 minute, 33 second speech.
"To all you kids out there, just remember one thing from today,'' he said. "There's no shortcuts to success. Hard work. Dedication. Commitment. Stay true to who you are.''
When Thomas asked after the ceremony why he didn't specifically mention steroids, he said the day was for celebrating the game, not tearing down the image.
"This is a special weekend. I just didn't think that stuff was necessary,'' Thomas said. "We all know what has happened over the last 15 years of baseball. Today was a bright stage amongst heroes.''
Maddux and Glavine, who won 660 games between them, can't help but wonder the numbers they could have produced if they came along 20 years later. If they were dominating hitters in the 1990s, what in the world would they be doing these days when offenses have disappeared?
"I don't know if it's because of that (steroids),'' Glavine said, "or that nobody knows how to hit anymore.''
Glavine spent most of his speech thanking his former Braves teammates and staff members, in particular Maddux, fellow pitcher John Smoltz and Cox, but the most emotional part was speaking about his role models - his parents, Fred and Millie.
"You have been the great influence in my life,'' Glavine said. "I know I made your proud as a baseball player, and I hope more importantly, that I've made you even more proud as a son and father.''
Maddux, who once threw a 78-pitch complete game, naturally had the shortest speech at 9:58. He certainly provided the most humor, poking fun at Smoltz's receding hairline, foul tips that bounced off his catcher's masks, and yes, his brother, Texas Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux.
"I was very fortunate to have a brother that I could learn from,'' said Maddux, who slipped on a tie for the first time in seven months, actually keeping the same knot. "He even taught me a little bit about science. It has do with a little methane and a lighter. That's funny, huh?''
Mike Maddux busted out laughing, apparently quite proud that he taught his little brother how to turn flatulence to fire. Yet, he won't take any credit for the rest of Maddux's famous clubhouse antics.
La Russa, who won three World Series titles, also apologized after his speech for forgetting to mention Roland Hemond, the Arizona Diamondbacks special assistant he has known for nearly 40 years. Yet, La Russa talked about the impact George Kissell, the former St. Louis Cardinals coach and farm director, had on his life, and looking forward to the day that Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols enters the Hall of Fame.