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Fans make their HOF picks
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01/06/2004 6:33 PM ET
Fans make their HOF picks
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Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley are the newest electees for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility, with Ryne Sandberg close behind in the final voting. Fans who made their own voice heard at over the past month were in near-unanimous agreement with those results.

Fans were allowed to choose up to 10 players in balloting that began on Dec. 7, casting a total of 616,418 total votes. When the baseball writers' official Hall of Fame vote was announced Tuesday afternoon exclusively at, the only slight difference was the order of finish by the two who will be enshrined this summer.

Eckersley, who won 197 decisions and then saved 390 more games, will join fellow Oakland relief legend Rollie Fingers in Cooperstown. Eckersley was first in fan balloting with 61,636 votes. That amounted to 45 percent of your support, which only magnifies the incredibly exacting standards required for induction. A player must appear on at least 75 percent of the Baseball Writers Association of America's ballots, and "The Eck" appeared on 83.2 percent of those.

That was only slightly behind the 85.2 percent of BBWAA votes given to Molitor, who amassed 3,319 hits in a 21-year American League career spent with Milwaukee, Toronto and Minnesota. fans had Molitor second with 52,136 votes.

When fans were first given this opportunity one year ago, Eddie Murray was their top choice -- consistent again with the opinion of baseball writers who put him at the top of their 2003 Hall of Fame class. Sandberg was second only to Murray as the fans' most popular choice at that time, and in this past month's unofficial balloting the nine-time Gold Glove winner and former Cubs great finished third with 47,568 votes. Sandberg appeared on 61.1 percent of the BBWAA ballots, an improvement over last year but still short of the required number.

Bruce Sutter continues to receive strong support from baseball writers, finishing fourth this time with 59.5 percent of their vote. Once again, fans were less supportive of the former Cardinals and Cubs closer. He finished far down in 16th place this time, with 17,642 votes.

Dave Concepcion, who spent all of his 19 Major League seasons with Cincinnati and was the steady shortstop of the Big Red Machine, had one of the most surprising showings among users. Now in his 11th year on the ballot, Concepcion finished fourth with 46,466 votes. Concepcion fared well enough in the BBWAA voting to ensure he will be back on the ballot for a 12th consecutive year next December, but he could finish no better than 15th on their official list with 11.3 percent of votes.

Don Mattingly appeared one better than Concepcion in the BBWAA balloting (12.8 percent), but for the second year in a row he remained a fan favorite in this exercise. The former Yankee first baseman finished third in fan voting last year, and this time he rounded out the top five with 41,978 votes.

Mark Newman is a writer for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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