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Basic Biittner : Hall of Fame vote coming

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It has been well documented (by me) that I am a "Hall of Fame" afficianado. Whether it's the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Basketball Hall of Fame or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I love the anticipation of seeing a sports or music hero of mine elected to his or her Hall. Part of that, too, is the occasional disappointment when one of my faves misses out - but, as Cub fans (and yes, now Yankee fans too) say ,"Wait 'Til Next Year."

My favorite Hall though, remains the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. I have been there three times in my life so far, and hope to make at least one more trip to the picturesque village in upstate New York. This year's inductees (if any) will be announced on January 12, 2009. 0

A candidate must receive 75% of the votes cast by the Baseball Writres of America to win election. Another left fielder , Jim Rice, one of the 13 holdovers from the 2008 ballot, is getting his final opportunity for election by the writers. Players may remain on the ballot for up to 15 years, provided they receive at least five percent of the vote each year. This is the 15th and final year for Rice, as well as for pitcher Tommy John. Rice missed out being elected last year by merely 16 votes.

Rice knocking at the door a year ago, with 392 votes among the 543 ballots cast , for 72.2 percent. That percentage was the highest ever for any player not elected. A .298 career hitter with 382 home runs and 1,451 RBIs over 16 seasons, all with the Boston Red Sox, Rice had four seasons of more than 200 hits, led the American League in home runs three times and RBIs twice, and was the AL Most Valuable Player in 1978.

Among the other 21 players on the ballot this year, leading candidates is Tim Raines, who received 132 votes (24.3 percent) last year, and could benefit from Henderson's appearance among the contenders, considering their careers were similar. Raines had 808 stolen bases, fifth all-time, with the highest success rate (84.7 percent) of any base stealer with 300 or more attempts. Raines hit .294 over 23 seasons, won a batting title, and holds Montreal Expos career marks in runs (947), triples (82) and stolen bases (635). Also returning to the ballot are pitchers Bert Blyleven, Jack Morris and Lee Smith; first baseman Don Mattingly; shortstop Alan Trammell; outfielders Andre Dawson, Dale Murphy and Dave Parker, and outfielder-DH Harold Baines.

Making his third appearance on the ballot will be Mark McGwire, slugger of 583 home runs, but recipient of only 128 votes in each of the past two elections for less than a 25-percent plurality, as voters assess the careers of players from an era in which the Mitchell Report documented widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Dawson, a former National League Rookie of the Year (1977) and MVP (1987), is on the ballot for the eighth time. He got close to the two-thirds mark last year with 358 votes (65.9 percent). Blyleven, who ranks fifth on the all-time strikeout list and is on the ballot for the 12th time, was at 61.9 percent in 2008 with 336 votes.

Former Yankee second baseman Joe Gordon was recently elected to the Hall by the Veterans Committee for players whose careers began prior to 1946, but the Veterans Committee for more recent players again failed to elect anyone this year.

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner