By Greg Klein THE COOPERSTOWN CRIER
---- — After a shutout on last year’s Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, the Baseball Writers' Association of America hit a triple for 2014.
HOF president Jeff Idelson announced Wednesday that the BBWAA members had voted to enshrine three new members, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas.
The trio will join managers Tony LaRussa, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox, who were selected by the Expansion Era Committee, on the stage at the Clark Sports Center on July 27. One day earlier, on July 26, the Hall will also honor Ford C. Frick Award winner Eric Nadel, Spink Award winner Roger Angell and Buck O’Neil Award winner Joe Garagiola.
It is the first time that three inductees have been voted in by the BBWAA since 1999 when Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount were enshrined.
Maddux, who won four consecutive National League Cy Young Awards from 1992 to 1995, was not listed on 16 ballots. He got 97.2 percent of the vote, or 555 votes out of 571 ballots.
Tom Seaver has the highest vote percentage in the history of HOF voting with 98.84 percent in 1992. Nolan Ryan, elected in 1999, with 98.79 percent, Cal Ripken, Jr., 98.53 percent in 1997, and Ty Cobb, 98.23 percent in 1936, have the next highest percentages.
Since Maddux split much of his career between two teams, the Atlanta Braves and the Chicago Cubs, HOF officials said they will announce which team's cap will appear on his plaque next week. He played for the Cubs from 1986 to 1992 and from 2002 to 2004. He played with the Braves from 1993 to 2003. He also played with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres.
Maddux said that getting enshrined with his longtime Braves' teammate Tom Glavine and their manager Bobby Cox will make the day more special than if he had been inducted alone.
“It is almost a fairy tale ending,” he said. “They only thing that screwed it up was Smoltzy (teammate John Smoltz) waited one more year (to retire.)”
Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz were the top three pitchers for the Braves team that won the 1995 World Series. They also lost the World Series in 1996 and 1999.
Maddux said that he has been to Cooperstown several times, including 2009 when his son, Chase, played with a team at the Cooperstown Dreams Park.
“What a great little town,” he said.
Maddux and Glavine, who got 91.9 percent of the vote, are the first pair of same-year inductees to get percentages in the 90s since 2007 with Ripken (98.5) and Tony Gwynn (97.6). They are the first pair of pitchers and pair of teammates to be elected together since Ferguson Jenkins and Gaylord Perry in 1991. But Jenkins and Perry only played on the same team for parts of two seasons, both with the Texas Rangers, in 1975 and 1980. Maddux and Glavine, or to some, Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz, are spoken almost as one word by many Braves fans.
“The thing that would have disappointed me the most, had it not happened,” Glavine said, “would have been missing the opportunity to go in with Bobby and Greg.”
Thomas, a slugger who got 83.7 percent of the vote in part because of his 521 home runs, will be the first player inducted to have played the majority of his games as a designated hitter. In his 2,322 career games, he played 1,310 as a DH, or 54 percent. Paul Molitor, who was elected in 2004, played 44 percent of his games as a DH.
“I look at that and I think some people tried to make that an issue,” Thomas said, “but I was the every day first baseman for the Chicago White Sox for a very long time.
“I would like to put together a highlight tape of my greatest defensive plays (for the critics),” he added.
In an era tainted by performance enhancing drugs, Thomas has often been lauded as a “clean” player, something he said he took great pride in.
“What I did was real and that’s why I’ve got a big smile on my face,” he said. “I did it the right way.”
Thomas said that he didn't mind what other players were doing, but he thought that maybe his success and his strength and size – which he credited to being a college football player at Auburn – caused some players to turn to steroids.
“I look at a couple of guys, one in particular and we all know who it is, who was a Hall of Famer before he ever started using steroids,” he said. “I’ll be honest, I think I was one of those guys, because of my size and strength from football, who caused some of those other players to turn to (steroids.)
“I don’t fault them at all,” he continued, “but it never bothered me because I always knew I was going to get (my numbers). If I didn’t get hurt for a three and a half year period, I think I would have been right there at the top with some of them, in terms of the numbers.”
Maddux, Glavine and Thomas were all selected on their first times on the ballot. The newcomers may have hurt the chances of other long-term candidates as all but two returning players – Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza – had their percentages decline from last year’s results.
Biggio, the catcher and second baseman for the Houston Astros who was the top vote getter in 2013, came within two votes of making the induction a foursome. He got 74.8 percent of the vote and was named on 427 of 571 ballots. He tied Nellie Fox in 1985 and Pie Traynor in 1947 for the smallest margin of not getting selected. Traynor was elected in 1948. Fox was in his last year on the ballot and was elected by the Veterans Committee in 1997.
“As surprised as I was last year about him not getting in,” Glavine said, “I almost feel heartbroken for him this year. It is just a matter for time.”
Added Thomas: “I don’t want to use the word tragic, but it has got to be a tragic day for him.”
Piazza, the former New York Mets catcher, also increased his vote percentage, from 57.8 percent in 2013 to 62.2 percent in 2014.
Glavine also played with the Mets, for five seasons from 2003 to 2007. While he was a Met, he won his 300th game on Aug. 5, 2007 against the Cubs in Chicago.
“I had a lot of fun in New York,” he said. “It was a great five years. Certainly it was tough for my family, to have me gone, but it was a great five years. I will always have fond memories for the Mets organization, because it is a good organization, but also because I got my 300th win for them.”
Pitcher Jack Morris, on his 15th and final ballot, went down significantly in voting percentage, from 67.7 percent in 2013 to 61.5 percent, or 351 votes, this year. Morris, who was the World Series MVP in 1991 and played on three other series winners, will now have his HOF fate decided by the Expansion Era Committee, which will vote again on candidates for the 2017 Induction.
“I know how much it meant to him,” said Thomas, who has worked with Morris on the MLB network. “We’re not going to lose hope now because hopefully the veterans committee will get him in.”
In addition to Smoltz, the top new candidates to be on the ballot for 2015 are Nomar Garciaparra, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Garry Sheffield.