Pitchers Tom Seaver and Rollie Fingers have been voted into baseball’s Hall of Fame, in an election likely to be remembered for Pete Rose’s absence from the ballot.
In results announced Tuesday night, Seaver, 311-205 during a 20-year career with the New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox, and Fingers, who had a record 341 saves in 17 years with the Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres and Milwaukee Brewers, were the only players to receive more than the required 75% of 430 votes cast by 10-year members of the Baseball Writers Assn. of America.
With 323 votes required, Seaver, in his first year of eligibility, got 425 for 98.8%, breaking Ty Cobb’s 1936 record of 98.2, set in the first year of balloting.
Fingers, who missed by 41 votes last year when eligible for the first time, received 349 votes for 81.1%.
Orlando Cepeda finished third with 246 votes, followed by Tony Perez (215), Bill Mazeroski (182), who was on the ballot for the 15th and last time, Tony Oliva (175), Ron Santo (136), Jim Kaat (114) and Maury Wills (110).
Rose, who would have been eligible for the first time, received 41 write-in votes (which do not count toward election). His absence from the ballot was a factor in three of the five votes Seaver did not receive.
Considered a shoo-in for the Hall as baseball’s all-time hit leader, Rose was put on the sport’s ineligible list after an investigation into his gambling activity by the late commissioner, Bart Giamatti, on Aug. 24, 1989. The Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors responded last year by ruling that the name of anyone on the ineligible list cannot appear on the ballot, otherwise compiled by a baseball writers’ committee.
Although Rose asked the writers to refrain from any protest that might hinder the chances of eligible candidates, three writers submitted signed ballots affecting the 75% total but were devoid of a vote for any of the 36 candidates.
Paul Hagen of the Philadelphia Daily News and Bob Hertzel of the Pittsburgh Press both said they believed Seaver deserved to be voted in but did nothing more than sign their ballots as protest against what Hagen called baseball’s “heavy-handed” slap at the writers by taking the Rose decision out of their hands.
Former baseball writer Bob Hunter, whose freelance columns appear in the Los Angeles Daily News, wrote in Rose’s name three times, according to BBWAA executive secretary Jack Lang, but did not vote for anyone else.
Hunter said he, too, believed Seaver should be in, but that this was his way of emphasizing that a decision on Rose should have been left to the writers.
Rose, in a statement after the vote was announced, congratulated Seaver, said he was disappointed that former Cincinnati teammate Perez wasn’t elected in his first year of eligibility and expressed hope that he will eventually be reinstated and get his chance at the Hall.
Rose also thanked the writers who wrote his name in but reiterated that he had hoped the process would have been devoid of a potentially harmful protest.
Of the 427 writers who cast legitimate votes, two simply excluded Seaver. Deane McGowen, who is retired from the New York Times, said he does not vote for a player in his first year of eligibility as a matter of policy. Bud Tucker, a former columnist with several papers in the Los Angeles area and now owner of an FM radio station in Barstow, said his failure to vote for Seaver was pure oversight, a result, perhaps, of stress stemming from bypass surgery in December, when ballots had to be mailed.
Seaver, who chose to reserve comment until a news conference in New York today, is the 23rd player elected in his first year of eligibility. Among his accomplishments: three Cy Young awards with the Mets and 3,640 career strikeouts, including a National League record-tying 19 against the Padres on April 22, 1970--10 of the 19 coming in succession.
Fingers, a member of the A’s dynasty of the early ‘70s and a winner of three Fireman of the Year awards with San Diego, called his election the ultimate honor.
He said he was saddened that his father, George, passed away in April and couldn’t share it “but I have to believe he knows,” said Fingers, who had a party at his house last year, only to be disappointed.
“People last year said I was a shoo-in and I think I listened too much,” he said. “It was a letdown. This year, I didn’t get too caught up in it, but it’s a day I’ll never forget.”