Longtime Atlanta Braves teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and slugging first baseman-designated hitter Frank Thomas became baseball Hall of Famers on Wednesday, following a contentious, history-making vote that revealed rifts in the voting process and further blocked the gates of Cooperstown to steroids-tainted superstars.
The history-making: Maddux and Glavine became the first pair of rotation-mates elected to the Hall in the same year in 68 years, while Thomas became the first player who played the majority of his games at designated hitter to earn election. It also was the first time three first-ballot candidates were elected at the same time since Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount in 1999.
Maddux was named on 555 of the 571 ballots (97.2 percent) cast by 10-year members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America — falling short of Tom Seaver’s 1992 record of 98.8 percent approval.
Glavine (91.9 percent) and Thomas (83.7) easily surpassed the 75 percent threshold required for election.
A backlog of candidates created by voters’ annual shunning of drug-tainted candidates, coupled with the 10-player limit mandated by voting rules, appeared to have cost some players further down the ballot. Nearly half of all voters this year named the maximum 10 players for inclusion, up from just 22 percent last year, and many voters have lobbied in recent weeks for the removal of the 10-player limit.
Longtime Houston Astros second baseman Craig Biggio may have been the biggest victim. With 74.8 percent, Biggio missed election by an excruciating, record-tying margin — two votes — in his second year on the ballot. The majority of ballot holdovers lost ground, including pitcher Jack Morris, who fell from 67.7 percent in 2013 to 61.5 percent this year. Because it was Morris’s 15th and final year on the BBWAA ballot, his case will next be considered by the Expansion Era Committee in 2016.
This year’s voting results also accelerated the downward trend for admitted or suspected performance enhancing drug users, with Roger Clemens (35.4 percent), Barry Bonds (34.7) and Mark McGwire (11.0) all losing ground, and Rafael Palmeiro (4.4) falling off the ballot by failing to hit the 5 percent threshold.
After Maddux, Glavine and Thomas, the next-best debut by a first-ballot candidate was former Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina, who was named on 20.3 percent of ballots cast.
That portends a long wait for Mussina, but not necessarily a fruitless one. For context, Bert Blyleven, who was elected in 2011 on his 14th try, received just 17.5 percent his first time on the ballot.
The July 27 induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y., will have a Georgia flair.
Maddux and Glavine will be joined in enshrinement by their longtime Braves manager Bobby Cox — an Expansion Era Committee electee, along with fellow skippers Joe Torre and Tony La Russa — while Thomas, who spent the bulk of his career with the Chicago White Sox, is a native of Columbus, Ga.