BOSTON -- Despite speculation that this could finally be his chance to gain that all-access pass to baseball immortality, Red Sox slugger Jim Rice again fell short in his quest to make it to the Hall of Fame.

When the voting results were unveiled on Tuesday afternoon, closer Bruce Sutter was the only member of the 2006 Hall of Fame class. Rice finished second in the voting (64.8 percent). Inductees are required to get 75 percent of the votes.

After falling short the last 12 years, Rice is now down to his last three at-bats. All nominees can be on the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) ballot for 15 years as long as they maintain up to five percent of the vote.

If Rice falls short the conventional way, he could perhaps be elected on the Veterans Committee ballot at some point in the future, though that process has become increasingly challenging in recent years.

Because this year's ballot didn't have any glitzy additions, the prevailing notion seemed to be that voters of the BBWAA would give a closer inspection to Rice's candidacy and recognize his impact as an elite slugger who struck fear into the heart of just about every pitcher he faced during his prime years (1975-86).

Instead, another longtime candidate received his ticket to Cooperstown, as Sutter was successful in what proved to be a lucky 13th bid.

Rice, known for both his production (eight seasons of 100-plus RBIs) and pure hitting skill (hit .300 seven times), played his entire career (1974-89) with the Red Sox.

Last year, Sutter (66.7 percent) and Rice (59.5) received the most votes of any of the candidates who didn't make it. With that in mind, the thinking seemed to be that Sutter and Rice had the best shot this year.

Next year figures to be a tough class to crack, as Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn are virtual locks to gain entry on the first ballot, and Mark McGwire will receive plenty of consideration.

  2006 Hall of Fame
  voting results
The complete vote (520 ballots, 390 to gain election, 26 to remain on ballot):
 Player  Votes   %
 Bruce Sutter  400  76.9%
 Jim Rice  337  64.8%
 Rich Gossage  336  64.6%
 Andre Dawson  317  61.0%
 Bert Blyleven  277  53.3%
 Lee Smith  234  45.0%
 Jack Morris  214  41.2%
 Tommy John  154  29.6%
 Steve Garvey  135  26.0%
 Alan Trammell   92  17.7%
 Dave Parker   75  14.4%
 Dave Concepcion   65  12.5%
 Don Mattingly   64  12.3%
 Orel Hershiser   58  11.2%
 Dale Murphy   56  10.8%
 Albert Belle   40   7.7%
 Will Clark   23   4.4%
 Dwight Gooden   17   3.3%
 Willie McGee   12   2.3%
 Ozzie Guillen    5   1.0%
 Hal Morris    5   1.0%
 Gary Gaetti    4   0.8%
 John Wetteland    4   0.8%
 Rick Aguilera    3   0.6%
 Gregg Jefferies    2   0.4%
 Doug Jones    2   0.4%
 Walt Weiss    1   0.2%
 Gary DiSarcina    0   0.0%
 Alex Fernandez    0   0.0%
  Sights and sounds:

• Sutter introduced: Watch | Listen
• Hall of Fame Show: 350K
• Sutter highlights: 350K
Sutter on MLB Radio
Sutter conference call
• Hall president Petroskey makes the
  announcement: Watch | Listen
• Petroskey on MLB Radio:
   Watch | Listen

There's no question Rice has been gaining steam on the ballot in recent years. This was the third year in a row that his total increased, and he's come a long way from 1999, when his name was checked off on just 29.39 percent of the ballots.

The main reason, it seems, that Rice has been unsuccessful to this point is that his career totals aren't spectacular when compared to the majority of Hall of Fame sluggers. He produced 382 home runs, 2,452 hits and 1,451 RBIs to go along with a .298 average in 2,089 games.

It brings up the age-old debate: What means more -- dominance or longevity?

According to Red Sox historian Dick Bresciani, Rice's career home run and RBI totals were unmatched by any American League competitor during those same years.

Just how dominant a hitter was Rice? Consider that he finished in the top five in the AL MVP voting six times in a 12-year span, winning the award during his epic season of 1978.

Bresciani did all he could to make a case for Rice, putting together an informative packet of documented reasons that the right-handed masher is Hall of Fame worthy.

Bresciani noted the other players in baseball history who have both a batting average and home run total as high as Rice's. They are a who's who list of Hall of Famers, ranging from Hank Aaron, Orlando Cepeda, Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Al Kaline, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Johnny Mize, Stan Musial, Mel Ott, Frank Robinson, Babe Ruth, Snider, Billy Williams and Ted Williams.

But Rice, for the last 12 years, has been unable to make the cut and join the elite club that those stars all belong to.