Nearly unanimous: Griffey Jr. elected to hall of fame

The Associated Press
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Published on January 06, 2016

In this May 26, 199, 5 file photo, Seattle Mariners' Ken Griffey Jr. makes a leaping catch of a ball hit by Kevin Bass of the Baltimore Orioles during a baseball game in Seattle.  Ken Griffey Jr. seems assured of election to the Baseball hall of Fame on the first try Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, possibly with a record vote of close to 100 percent. Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines also were strong candidates to gain the 75 percent needed for baseball's highest honor.

Published on January 06, 2016

In this Oct. 2, 2005, file photo, New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza acknowledges fans' applause following a tribute to Piazza's seven-year career with the Mets during the seventh inning of the team's 11-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies at Shea Stadium in New York. Ken Griffey Jr. seems assured of election to the Baseball hall of Fame on the first try Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, possibly with a record vote of close to 100 percent. Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines also were strong candidates to gain the 75 per cent needed for baseball's highest honour.

Former Dodgers, Mets catcher Piazza also receives required votes

Next place to catch Mike Piazza: Cooperstown.

Baseball's greatest hitting catcher was elected to the Hall of Fame on Wednesday, powering his way past steroids suspicions in his fourth year on the ballot.

Piazza was picked by 365 out of 440 voters (83 per cent) from the Baseball Writers' Association of America, comfortably eclipsing the 75 per cent needed for induction. The lone holdover selected, he'll join Ken Griffey Jr. when the class of 2016 is enshrined on July 24.

“Incredibly special. Wow,” Piazza said on a call with MLB Network. “I sat here with my mouth on the floor.”

A prodigious slugger on both coasts, Piazza belted most of his 427 home runs for the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets during a prolific, 16-year career that nearly never took flight.

Famously drafted in the 62nd round as a favour to his father's close friend, Hall of Fame Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, Piazza took a mighty rip at those drastically long odds and knocked them over the fence.

He converted from first base to catcher as a pro and blossomed into one of the game's most fearsome hitters, breaking the big league record for home runs by a catcher and compiling a .545 slugging percentage that ranks 28th all-time.

“Congratulations to Mike, an outstanding ballplayer and a great man,” Lasorda said in a statement released by the Dodgers. “I couldn't be prouder of him.”

In an era when offence ruled, few batters (if any) hit the ball as hard as Piazza, the incredible hulk of the National League who clubbed opposing pitches with brute force to all fields.

And on a day when Griffey became the first No. 1 overall pick to make the Hall of Fame since the amateur draft began in 1965, Piazza established a polar-opposite mark that may never be approached.

Until now, the lowest draft pick in the Hall was pitcher John Smoltz, selected on the 22nd round in 1985 and enshrined just last year.

“We are really thrilled that Mike Piazza has taken his rightful place among the other greats in Cooperstown,” Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said in a statement. “Mike's offensive prowess, ability to deliver in the clutch, and tireless work ethic helped him become one of the great catchers of all-time.”

Piazza was the 1,390th player chosen in 1988, long before the draft was shortened to its current length of 40 rounds.

Yet his unexpected rise to stardom proved at first a blessing, later a curse.

During a time when some of baseball's biggest stars were linked to performance-enhancing drugs - power hitters in particular - doubters looked at Piazza's brawny frame and questioned how a guy who initially languished so far off the radar for scouts could ascend to such heights against elite competition.

There were no direct allegations or federal investigations, unlike Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Just whispers about pimples on Piazza's broad back.

Years after he retired following the 2007 season, Piazza wrote a memoir entitled “Long Shot” and in it said he never took illegal steroids. He did acknowledge using androstenedione, amphetamines, Creatine, ephedra and a type of asthma medicine that made him more alert and focused.

Some of those substances were allowed at the time but later banned by Major League Baseball.

In his first appearance on a crowded Hall of Fame ballot, Piazza received 57.8 per cent of the vote in 2013. With his career numbers at the plate - simply astounding for a catcher, regardless of his weak arm - seemingly more than good enough for induction, many observers naturally figured those PED suspicions were keeping Piazza out of Cooperstown.

“I've always wanted to kind of just let the process play out. It's frustrating at times because you can't hit any more home runs when you're sitting at home,” he said.

But his total increased to 62.2 per cent in 2014 and 69.9 per cent last year, when he fell only 28 votes short. And this time, it was Piazza's turn - after writers elected seven players ahead of him over the past two years, and the Hall's board of directors culled about 100 no-longer-active BBWAA members from the voting body.

A 12-time All-Star who also played for the Marlins, Padres and Athletics, Piazza became the first catcher elected by the BBWAA since Gary Carter, another ex-Met, in 2003.

“Congrats to Mike Piazza! I love to have another catcher on board!” Hall of Fame backstop Johnny Bench tweeted.


Baseball Hall of Fame Year-by-Year Inductees

Year-by-year inductees to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame:

BBWAA: Elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America; VC: Elected by the Veterans Committee; NL: Elected by the Veterans Committee based on Negro League career; SCNL: Elected by the special committee on the Negro Leagues and the Pre-Negro League; PI: Elected by Pre-Integration (1871-1946) committee; G: Elected by Golden Era (1947-72) committee; E: Elected by Expansion Era (1973-present) committee:

2016 - BBWAA: Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Piazza

2015 - BBWAA: Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz.

2014 - BBWAA: Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas. E: Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, Joe Torre.

2013 - PI: Hank O'Day, Jacob Ruppert, Deacon White.

2012 - BBWAA: Barry Larkin. G: Ron Santo.

2011 - BBWAA: Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven. E: Pat Gillick.

2010 - BBWAA: Andre Dawson. VC: Whitey Herzog, Doug Harvey.

2009 - BBWAA: Rickey Henderson, Jim Rice. VC: Joe Gordon.

2008 - BBWAA: Goose Gossage. VC: Barney Dreyfuss, Bowie Kuhn, Walter O'Malley, Billy Southworth, Dick Williams.

2007 - BBWAA: Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken Jr.

2006 - BBWAA: Bruce Sutter. SCNL: Ray Brown, Willard Brown, Andy Cooper, Frank Grant, Pete Hill, Biz Mackey, Effa Manley, Jose Mendez, Alex Pompez, Cum Posey, Louis Santop, Mule Suttles, Ben Taylor, Cristobal Torriente, Sol White, J.L. Wilkinson, Jud Wilson.

2005 - BBWAA: Wade Boggs, Ryne Sandberg.

2004 - BBWAA: Dennis Eckersley, Paul Molitor.

2003 - BBWAA: Gary Carter, Eddie Murray.

2002 - BBWAA: Ozzie Smith.

2001 - BBWAA: Kirby Puckett, Dave Winfield. VC: Bill Mazeroski. NL: Hilton Smith.

2000 - BBWAA: Carlton Fisk, Tony Perez. VC: Sparky Anderson, Bid McPhee. NL: Turkey Stearnes.

1999 - BBWAA: George Brett, Nolan Ryan, Robin Yount. VC: Orlando Cepeda, Nestor Chylak, Frank Selee. NL: “Smokey” Joe Williams.

1998 - BBWAA: Don Sutton. VC: George Davis, Larry Doby, Lee MacPhail. NL: “Bullet” Joe Rogan.

1997 - BBWAA: Phil Niekro. VC: Nellie Fox, Tommy Lasorda. NL: Willie Wells.

1996 - VC: Jim Bunning, Ned Hanlon, Earl Weaver. NL: Bill Foster.

1995 - BBWAA: Mike Schmidt. VC: Richie Ashburn, William Hulbert, Vic Willis. NL: Leon Day.

1994 - BBWAA: Steve Carlton. VC: Leo Durocher, Phil Rizzuto.

1993 - BBWAA: Reggie Jackson.

1992 - BBWAA: Rollie Fingers, Tom Seaver. VC: Bill McGowan, Hal Newhouser.

1991 - BBWAA: Rod Carew, Ferguson Jenkins, Gaylord Perry. VC: Tony Lazzeri, Bill Veeck.

1990 - BBWAA: Joe Morgan, Jim Palmer.

1989 - BBWAA: Johnny Bench, Carl Yastrzemski. VC: Al Barlick, Red Schoendienst.

1988 - BBWAA: Willie Stargell.

1987 - BBWAA: Catfish Hunter, Billy Williams. NL: Ray Dandridge.

1986 - BBWAA: Willie McCovey. VC: Bobby Doerr, Ernie Lombardi.

1985 - BBWAA: Lou Brock, Hoyt Wilhelm. VC: Enos Slaughter, Arky Vaughan.

1984 - BBWAA: Luis Aparicio, Don Drysdale, Harmon Killebrew. VC: Rick Ferrell, Pee Wee Reese.

1983 - BBWAA: Juan Marichal, Brooks Robinson. VC: Walter Alston, George Kell.

1982 - BBWAA: Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson. VC: Happy Chandler, Travis Jackson.

1981 - BBWAA: Bob Gibson. VC: Rube Foster, Johny Mize.

1980 - BBWAA: Al Kaline, Duke Snider. VC: Chuck Klein, Tom Yawkey.

1979 - BBWAA: Willie Mays. VC: Warren Giles, Hack Wilson.

1978 - BBWAA: Eddie Mathews. VC: Addie Joss, Larry MacPhail.

1977 - BBWAA: Ernie Banks. VC: Al Lopez, Amos Rusie, Joe Sewell. NL: Martin DiHigo, Pop Lloyd.

1976 - BBWAA: Bob Lemon, Robin Roberts. VC: Roger Connor, Cal Hubbard, Fred Lindstrom. NL: Oscar Charleston.

1975 - BBWAA: Ralph Kiner. VC: Earl Averill, Bucky Harris, Billy Herman. NL: Judy Johnson.

1974 - BBWAA: Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle. VC: Jim Bottomley, Jocko Conlan, Sam Thompson. NL: Cool Papa Bell.

1973 - BBWAA: Roberto Clemente, Warren Spahn. VC: Billy Evans, George Kelly, Mickey Welch. NL: Monte Irvin.

1972 - BBWAA: Yogi Berra, Sandy Koufax, Early Wynn. VC: Lefty Gomez, Will Harridge, Ross Youngs. NL: Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard.

1971 - VC: Dave Bancroft, Jake Beckley, Chick Hafey, Harry Hooper, Joe Kelley, Rube Marquard, George Weiss. NL: Satchel Paige.

1970 - BBWAA: Lou Boudreau. VC: Earle Combs, Ford Frick, Jesse Haines.

1969 - BBWAA: Roy Campanella, Stan Musial. VC: Stan Coveleski, Waite Hoyt.

1968 - BBWAA: Joe Medwick. VC: Kiki Cuyler, Goose Goslin.

1967 - BBWAA: Red Ruffing. VC: Branch Rickey, Lloyd Waner.

1966 - BBWAA: Ted Williams. VC: Casey Stengel.

1965 - VC: Pud Galvin.

1964 - BBWAA: Luke Appling. VC: Red Faber, Burleigh Grimes, Miller Huggins, Tim Keefe, Heinie Manush, John Montgomery Ward.

1963 - VC: John Clarkson, Elmer Flick, Sam Rice, Eppa Rixey.

1962 - BBWAA: Bob Feller, Jackie Robinson. VC: Bill McKechnie, Edd Roush.

1961 - VC: Max Carey, Billy Hamilton.

1960 - None.

1959 - VC: Zack Wheat.

1958 - None.

1957 - VC: Sam Crawford, Joe McCarthy.

1956 - BBWAA: Joe Cronin, Hank Greenberg.

1955 - BBWAA: Joe DiMaggio, Gabby Hartnett, Ted Lyons, Dazzy Vance. VC: Home Run Baker, Ray Schalk.

1954 - BBWAA: Bill Dickey, Rabbit Maranville, Bill Terry.

1953 - BBWAA: Dizzy Dean, Al Simmons. VC: Ed Barrow, Chief Bender, Tom Connolly, Bill Klem, Bobby Wallace, Harry Wright.

1952 - None.

1951 - BBWAA: Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott, Harry Heilmann, Paul Waner.

1950 - None.

1949 - BBWAA: Charlie Gehringer. VC: Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, Kid Nichols.

1948 - BBWAA: Herb Pennock, Pie Traynor.

1947 - BBWAA: Mickey Cochrane, Frankie Frisch, Lefty Grove, Carl Hubbell.

1946 - VC: Jesse Burkett, Frank Chance, Jack Chesbro, Johnny Evers, Clark Griffith, Tommy McCarthy, Joe McGinnity, Eddie Plank, Joe Tinker, Rube Waddell, Ed Walsh.

1945 - VC: Roger Bresnahan, Dan Brouthers, Fred Clarke, Jimmy Collins, Ed Delahanty, Hugh Duffy, Hugh Jennings, King Kelly, Jim O'Rourke, Wilbert Robinson.

1944 - VC: Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

1943 - None.

1942 - BBWAA: Rogers Hornsby.

1941 - None.

1940 - None.

1939 - BBWAA: Eddie Collins, Lou Gehrig, Willie Keeler, George Sisler. VC: Cap Anson, Charles Comiskey, Candy Cummings, Buck Ewing, Hoss Radbourn, Albert Goodwill Spalding.

1938 - BBWAA: Grover Cleveland Alexander. VC: Alexander Joy Cartwright, Henry Chadwick.

1937 - BBWAA: Nap Lajoie, Tris Speaker, Cy Young. VC: Morgan Bulkeley, Ban Johnson, Connie Mack, John McGraw, George Wright.

1936 - BBWAA: Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner.

Organizations: Mets, Montreal Expos, Association of America

Geographic location: Cooperstown

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