Ken Griffey Jr., the dazzling outfielder whose backwards cap signified joy to a generation of young fans and who hit more home runs than all but five players in major league history, and Mike Piazza, the best hitter the Dodgers have developed since moving to Los Angeles more than half a century ago, were elected Wednesday to baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Griffey, in his first year of eligibility, was selected on a record 99.32% of the ballots. The previous record: Tom Seaver, elected with 98.84% in 1992.
Piazza, in his fourth year on the ballot, was selected on 83% ballots. He repeatedly has expressed his preference to enter the Hall of Fame wearing the cap of the New York Mets, the team with which he appeared in his only World Series. The slugging catcher played one more year with the Mets than the Dodgers; his .331 batting average remains the highest in Los Angeles Dodgers history.
Griffey became the first player drafted with the first overall pick to be elected to the Hall of Fame. Piazza became the lowest-drafted player to be elected. The Dodgers picked him – as a favor to his godfather, Tom Lasorda – in the 62nd round of the 1988 draft. John Smoltz, a 22nd-round pick, had been the lowest-drafted among the Hall of Famers.
Jeff Bagwell finished third at 71.6%, with Tim Raines fourth at 69.8% and Trevor Hoffman fifth at 67.3%. Raines will appear on the ballot for a final time next year. A player must receive 75% of the vote for election.
The two candidates on the ballot for the final time this year fell short of election, with Alan Trammell at 40.9% and Mark McGwire at 12.3%. A veterans’ committee can consider them in future years.
Griffey hit 630 home runs. Of the five players with more, three are in the Hall: Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays. The other two: Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez were both tied to steroid use. Rodriguez still is an active player.
Bonds, baseball's only seven-time MVP, and Roger Clemens, the only seven-time Cy Young winner, each took a significant leap toward the required 75%. Neither had received more than 37.6% in three previous appearances on the ballot, but Clemens got 45.2% and Bonds 44.3%.
Among the factors: The Hall of Fame’s board of directors purged voting rolls of older writers who had not actively covered baseball in the last 10 years – and who tended to take a more hard-line stance against players associated with performance-enhancing drugs. Bonds and Clemens each have six more years on the ballot.
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin
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