Still chasing your dreams? Keep it up because this could be your year. It is for me and Jackie, after all. In the matter of a few months, we’ll finally see our book in print. And it was the year for Rich “Goose” Gossage, who yesterday was dubbed officially a Hall of Fame baseball player. There were many who already viewed him as Hall of Fame caliber. But, yesterday, it was made official when he and his bushy handlebar mustache snagged 85.8 percent of the 543 votes cast by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. He is only the fifth relief pitcher elected to the Cooperstown, NY shrine.
Last year’s Hall of Fame vote brought great fanfare. Not only were Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn first ballot inductees, the steroid “issue” was brought to the doorstep of the hallowed museum when Mark McGwire’s name appeared on the ballot for the first time. It wasn’t his year. Needing 75 percent of the total vote to be inducted, he came up short with only 23 percent – the same percentage as he received in this year’s vote. In fact, McGwire received the exact same number of votes in 2008 as he did in last year’s balloting: 128. Who knows when he’ll get in, if ever? He may languish on the Hall of Fame ballot for fifteen years before his name is removed.
This is exactly what happened to Dave Concepcion. The Cincinnati shortstop played for nineteen years and went to four World Series, winning two of them, in 1975 and 1976. He was part of the “Red Machine” that included Hall of Fame infielders Joe Morgan at 2B and Tony Perez at 1B. Pete Rose played third and Johnny Bench, a Hall of Famer who played his entire career with the Reds, was the catcher. Clearly the company one keeps isn’t enough to impress baseball writers.
So there he sat on the ballot for the last fifteen years. It’s like the prom from ****. To get all dressed up just to get toyed with. “Maybe this year I’ll get asked to dance!” In 1998, almost 17 percent of the Hall of Fame voters wanted him to. But that’s as close as he ever got.
Red Sox Slugger Jim Rice has been on the ballot for 14 years. A fan favorite, his popularity with the writers has gone up pretty steadily since his first appearance on the ballot, in 1995 when he got 137 votes, 29.8 percent of the total. It peaked this year with 72.2 percent of the vote. His 392 votes left him 16 votes shy of Cooperstown. I read somewhere that everyone who has cracked the 70 percent mark eventually gets into the Hall. He’s got one more shot. All eyes will be on him in 2009.
And don’t forget about Don “Donnie Baseball” Mattingly, whose been on the ballot since 2001. Yankee fans are campaigning pretty hard with a website and a MySpace account dedicated to getting him into the Hall of Fame. But, as opposed to the steady growth in popularity that Rice has experienced, Mattingly’s numbers are declining. This year, he got 54 votes – 9.9 percent of the total.
I suppose it could be worse. Could it be? There are some players that barely garner minimal attention after being asked to the dance. Their names appear on the ballot and they arrive in their finest wares to end up being mere wall flowers. If they are lucky, maybe they’ll get a wink from a kind sportswriter befriended from the good ol’ days.
Eleven new names appeared on this year’s ballot. Most of those got a wink or two. Tim Raines’ 23 year career warranted him more than a few winks. I think someone gave him a little pat on the butt! He got 132 votes, or 24.3 percent of the vote. But ten of those new names will never again appear on the ballot. This is because they didn’t enough attention, or at least five percent of the vote. One or two winks doesn’t do it for a guy vying for immortality.
And two of this years newbies, Brady Anderson and Jose Rijo, were completely dissed. Not a single punch in the dance card. No pats on the butt. No winks. Not even a goose.