Birds of Pray: Goose, Hawk try again
Gossage, Dawson among those who could finally enter Hall
NEW YORK -- Two years ago, with a similar class of first-timers on the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, Bruce Sutter was finally ushered in as the first pure reliever elected to the museum on Main Street in Cooperstown, N.Y.The baseball world will find out Tuesday if the same thing will happen to Rich "Goose" Gossage, one of the premier closers of his generation and on the ballot for the ninth time. "I don't think anybody did it the way I did it," said Gossage, who garnered 71.2 percent last year and missed by just 21 votes. "Power against power. There was no messing around. All those strikeouts I had, none of that is padding. Just about every one of them meant something because the game was on the line." All will be revealed on Tuesday as MLB.com and the BaseballChannel.TV present the 2008 Hall of Fame Announcement Show with Casey Stern and Harold Reynolds from 1:30-2:30 p.m. ET. Hall of Fame President Dale Petroskey will deliver the results of the election live from the MLB.com studios at 2 p.m. By then the former players to be inducted behind the Clark Sports Center on July 27 will already have received the much-awaited phone call. The ballot was announced more than a month ago and eligible members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, who have logged at least 10 consecutive years, had that month to make their decisions. To be elected, a player's name must be inscribed on 75 percent of the approximately 600 ballots sent out. To be carried over for another year, a player must be named on at least 5 percent of the ballots. By rule, except under very special circumstances, a player must be retired for five years to become eligible and can't remain on the writers' ballot for any longer than 15 years. Five managers and executives were elected last month under revamped rules that created separate Veterans Committee ballots. World Series-winning managers Billy Southworth and Dick Williams were elected along with Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and owners Walter O'Malley and Barney Dreyfuss. Each will be enshrined on July 27, although Williams is the only living member of the quintet and is scheduled to be there to hear the inscription read off his plaque by Commissioner Bud Selig. "I was elated to see that Dick got in," Gossage said. "He deserved it. He's one of the best managers of all-time, in my opinion, and he's the best manager I ever played for. And that's taking in some great managers." Gossage, who is mostly noted for his first tour with the Yankees (1978-1983), was the closer on the Williams-managed 1984 Padres team, which won the first National League pennant in franchise history.
Eleven newcomers are on the ballot, but none of them are seen as sure-fire winners, as was the case last year when Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. were elected overwhelmingly in their inaugural appearances. That could open the door to other long-time hopefuls like Jim Rice and Andre Dawson, who were fourth and fifth behind Ripken, Gwynn and Gossage last year.Rice, who played all of his 16 seasons with the Red Sox, finished with 63.5 percent of the vote. Dawson, who hobbled on bad knees through many of his 21 seasons with Montreal, the Cubs, Boston and Florida, was well behind him at 56.7 percent. But it may be tough for both former outfielders to make up that much ground in a single year. "No player in baseball history worked harder, suffered more or did it better than Andre Dawson," said Ryne Sandberg, a former Cubs teammate when he was inducted into the Hall along with Wade Boggs in 2005. "I watched him win an MVP for a last-place [Cubs] team in 1987 and it was the most unbelievable thing I've ever seen in baseball. He did it the right way, the natural way, and he did it in the field and on the bases and in every way, and I hope he will stand up here someday." And what about Mark McGwire, the first player tainted by the steroids era to face the electorate? He hit 70 homers in 1998, winning his famous record home run race against Sammy Sosa, and finished with 583 in his career. But in his first year on the ballot in 2007, he received an underwhelming 23.5 percent. In the wake of last month's Mitchell Report, is anything going to change? "For me, there isn't anything that's changed about, No. 1, how much I believe in him, and No. 2, what that means as far as his career and his production and some of the historic things he did," said the Cardinals' Tony La Russa, who managed McGwire in both Oakland and St. Louis. "I'm hoping that he gets that honor sooner rather than later." Many of the 11 newcomers won't receive the requisite 5 percent and will not appear on the ballot again. For Davey Concepcion, the shortstop on Cincinnati's great "Big Red Machine" teams of the 1970s, this is his 15th and final chance. But don't lose hope. Two years ago, Sutter made it during his 13th season on the ballot. "I will pass out," said Concepcion if his long-shot chances of being elected somehow materialize. "I've been waiting for it all my life." So has Gossage. So have all the nominees.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.