NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Fifty years after ending his days as a teacher to enter the baseball world, John Schuerholz has been honored with the privilege of being immortalized alongside the game's other legends who have received the exclusive call to Cooperstown.
Schuerholz received the message he was seeking early Sunday evening, when he was informed he and former Commissioner Bud Selig had been elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame, courtesy of the Today's Game Era ballot. Schuerholz and Selig will speak about the honor at the Winter Meetings at 11 a.m. ET on Monday, which can be seen live on MLB Network and MLB.com.
Schuerholz was elected unanimously, providing further indication of the impact he has made since he walked away from the teaching profession to join the hometown Orioles as a low-level member of their baseball operations department.
"This honor almost puts me in a position where I seldom am, and that is to be without words to adequately describe what this means to me," said Schuerholz, the Braves' current vice chairman who has long been widely considered one of the greatest general managers in baseball history.
When Schuerholz goes to Cooperstown, N.Y., to be inducted on July 30, he will become the latest Braves legend to receive this honor. His leadership and vision constructed the organization's greatest era. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Bobby Cox will all likely be there on that same stage as their leader officially becomes a member of baseball royalty.
With Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Cox and future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones serving as the cornerstone, Schuerholz guided the Braves to 14 consecutive division titles, five National League pennants and one World Series championship.
Schuerholz will also have the pleasure of sharing this honor with his good friend and fellow Hall of Famer George Brett, who was present as a young Schuerholz influenced the Royals' growth as an expansion franchise and ultimately formed the roster that led Kansas City to a World Series title in 1985.
"To now know that I get to join [Bobby Cox] and the others who have been recognized from our organization is a thrill and an honor beyond words and beyond belief," said Schuerholz, who celebrated with Cox and the other members of the Braves' contingent who were at the Gaylord National Harbor Hotel for the start of the Winter Meetings.
Schuerholz is just the sixth Hall of Fame electee whose primary job function was team building (among non-owners). He was the first general manager to ever win a World Series in both the American League and NL. His time as Atlanta's general manager ('91-2007) might have cemented his Hall of Fame credentials, but his highly successful tenure in Kansas City paved the way for him to gain legendary status.
Cox is among the many who have long lauded the leadership skills shown by Schuerholz, who has drawn utmost respect from the scouts, managers, players, coaches and staff members he has worked with. Schuerholz entrusted them with their respective roles and also allowed their voices to be heard when it came time to make decisions.
When Schuerholz was inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame in August, Hall of Fame executive Pat Gillick and Royals general manager Dayton Moore traveled to Atlanta to partake in the ceremony. Moore worked for Schuerholz in Atlanta from 1996-2006 and has long considered him to be a father figure.
"John had an amazing way of transferring responsibility and giving power to his people," Moore said. "Because of that, we all felt extremely loyal to him and wanted to make him proud. He taught me to use whatever platform or position I had to do good, and that's what we've all tried to do."
Schuerholz's entry into the baseball world was orchestrated by a letter he sent the Orioles during a free period that enabled him to briefly escape his teaching duties in 1966. He reluctantly left his hometown team a couple years later and accepted the challenge of helping his mentor Lou Gorman build the expansion franchise in Kansas City.
Armed with his mantra, "Winners make commitments and losers make excuses," Schuerholz accepted countless different tasks, learned the art of organization building and strengthened the leadership skills that continue to benefit current Braves general manager John Coppolella, who has had the benefit of learning his craft while working with Schuerholz over the past decade.
Schuerholz was 41 years old when Kansas City made him baseball's youngest general manager in 1981. His close relationship with Cox was similar to the one he shared with the late Dick Howser, the highly regarded manager who guided the Royals to their World Series title in 1985.
When Howser died two years later after being diagnosed with a brain tumor, thoughts of Schuerholz remaining in Kansas City forever began to evaporate. He ultimately went to Atlanta at the end of the 1990 season, after first turning down Braves president Stan Kasten's offer to become the general manager of a team that had languished throughout most of the '80s.
This proved to be the most influential decision made by Schuerholz, who benefited from a young crop of talent and Cox's managerial skills. He certainly didn't envision the Braves going from worst to first in 1991 and ultimately winning those 14 division titles.
But Schuerholz also never expected that letter he sent in 1966 would ultimately bring him to what he experienced Sunday night, when he received congratulatory calls from the likes of Al Kaline and Joe Torre, a couple of longtime friends who he can now refer to as fellow Hall of Famers.
"My heart is beating at a different pace than it has for many, many years," Schuerholz said.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.