Martinez, Johnson, Biggio and Smoltz headed to Baseball’s Hall of Fame
The third thrived either starting or closing and was one of the finest postseason pitchers in baseball history.
Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz headlined the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015 Tuesday, gaining entry on their first ballot alongside holdover Craig Biggio, the Long Island kid who played 20 years for the Astros and sits 21st all-time in hits.
It was a historic day for the Cooperstown institution — it’s the first time in 60 years that four players have been voted in by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The last foursome was the Class of 1955, highlighted by Joe DiMaggio.
Ex-Met star Mike Piazza, who some consider the greatest hitting catcher in history, fell short for the third straight season, but his vote totals are increasing. Piazza, who suffers from some voters’ suspicions that he used performance-enhancing drugs, got 69.9% of the vote, shy of the 75% needed for enshrinement.
If Piazza had gotten 28 more votes, he would’ve joined Martinez and company in the Class of 2015.
Sincere Congrats to #HOF2015 class! An Amazing Class! Special Thanks To the Voters!! Very Emotional Thank You to All Fans for the Support.
3:42 PM – 6 Jan 2015
1,009 RETWEETS 1,807 FAVORITES
Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, two players who have the statistics for election but are hurt by links to PEDs, did not get enough votes for election, receiving 37.5% and 36.8%, respectively.
Martinez, always a colorful character who once called the archrival Yankees “My daddy” after a loss, started his press conference with reporters at Fenway Park by saying a cheerful “Hola!” to the gathered throng.
“I’m very honored to actually get the opportunity to thank everybody, all the voters and the Hall of Fame for this beautiful trophy to my career, my life, for the people who followed me throughout my career,” said Martinez, 43, who became the first Hall of Famer born in the 1970s (he was born Oct. 25, 1971). “It’s a great honor, and I dedicate it to every fan out there and every teammate I played with.”
Biggio, who missed election by a scant two votes last year, joked that he took away his kids’ phones so they wouldn’t break the news of his election themselves via the Internet.
“I got goose bumps I felt like I’ve never felt before in my life,” is how Johnson described the moment he heard he got the game’s ultimate call.
With three first-time eligible stars going in, it is the first time the writers have voted in three first-ballot candidates in consecutive seasons, following the election of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas last year.
Piazza, however, will have to “Wait till Next Year” to see if the surge he’s seen in voting in each of his three years on the ballot will pay off. The man many consider the greatest hitting catcher of all time has jumped in the voting from 57.8% his first year to 62.2% last year to just shy of 70% in 2015. If he makes another 7.7% jump next year, when Ken Griffey Jr. is the only slam-dunk candidate, Piazza would be elected.
That’s certainly the way Mets COO Jeff Wilpon forecasts it. “We are confident that in the not too distant future Mike Piazza, the top offensive catcher in the history of baseball, will take his rightful place in the halls of Cooperstown,” Wilpon said in a statement released by the Mets. “We look forward to celebrating that day with him, his family, and our fans, when it happens.”
After the results were announced, Piazza sent out the following on his Twitter account (@mikepiazza31): “Sincere Congrats to #HOF2015 class! An Amazing Class! Special Thanks To the Voters!! Very Emotional Thank You to All Fans for the Support.”
Johnson, a five-time Cy Young Award winner, was the leading vote getter, being named on 534 of the 549 ballots, including one that was left blank. Johnson’s 97.3% is the eighth-highest percentage in the history of the balloting, trailing Tom Seaver (98.94), Nolan Ryan (98.7), Cal Ripken, Jr. (98.5), Ty Cobb (98.2), George Brett (98.2), Hank Aaron (97.8) and Tony Gwynn (97.6).
Martinez, the three-time Cy Young Award winner (once with Montreal, twice with Boston) who was a Met toward the end of his career, got the second-highest percentage of votes this year — 91.1%.
Smoltz, the former Brave who amassed 213 career wins and 154 career saves, was third at 82.9%. As good as he was in the regular season, Smoltz probably got elected for his October resume — he was 15-4 with a 2.67 ERA in 41 postseason outings.
Biggio, who was born in Smithtown and starred at Seton Hall, earned 82.7% of the vote for a career in which he was a catcher, a second baseman and a center fielder at various points. He has 3,060 career hits, and his 668 doubles are fifth all-time and first among right-handed hitters.
Former Yankee great Don Mattingly, on the ballot for the 15th and final time, finished with 9.1%, failing to gain election. Mattingly still has hope, though — he’s eligible for consideration by the Expansion Era Committee in two years. Piazza has hope, too. But for Martinez, Johnson, Smoltz and Biggio, the party’s already started.
“I’m honored,” Smoltz said on the MLB Network. “I’m humbled and when the phone call came I was, for the first time ever, speechless.”
The speech comes July 26, at the induction ceremonies in Cooperstown.
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