© 2005 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
01/04/05 4:30 PM ET
Boggs, Sandberg are Hall choices
Infielders will enter Cooperstown shrine in July
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg are the latest members of baseball's most exclusive club. Boggs, a five-time American League batting champion with the Boston Red Sox who swatted 3,010 hits, and Sandberg, a 10-time All-Star second baseman for the Chicago Cubs, were revealed Tuesday to be the only players voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame among 27 candidates on the ballot. Boggs, an 11-time AL All-Star third baseman, was the 41st player to be elected his first time on the ballot, while Sandberg made it on his third try. "This actually means a lot [to be elected the first time]," Boggs said during a conference call almost immediately after the announcement. "There are so many players who played the game before that are still waiting. I wouldn't classify it as the end of the world had I not gotten in today, but it would've been a disappointment because of the numbers I put up." For Sandberg, though, the third time was the best time. "There have been some tremendous, tremendous players who've had to wait longer than [me]," he said. "I don't think it's ever too late or diminishes the honor at all. You're either in the Hall of Fame or you're not. So I'm just totally happy today." A select group of 516 members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America cast their votes, the most ballots filed in Hall of Fame history, surpassing the 515 writers who enshrined Dave Winfield and Kirby Puckett in 2001. A name must be marked on 75 percent of the filed ballots for a former player to be elected; 387 votes were needed this year. The pair will be inducted during Hall of Fame Weekend ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 31, giving baseball's red brick shrine on Main Street 195 former players, 102 elected by the BBWAA.
Boggs, who played for the Red Sox, New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, received 91.9 percent -- 474 votes. He is the 21st of the 25 members of the 3,000-hit club to be elected with the others, Cal Ripken Jr., Tony Gwynn and Rickey Henderson, all apparent first-ballot electees in 2007 and beyond.
Pete Rose, the all-time leader with 4,256 hits, is banned from baseball and has never appeared on a Hall of Fame ballot.
"Wade Boggs was one of the greatest hitters that I have ever seen and I compliment the Hall of Fame and the Baseball Writers Association of America for electing him on the first ballot," said Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner, who had Boggs from 1993-97 after his 11 years with Boston. "He is very deserving and I could not be happier for Wade, [his wife] Debbie and their family."
Boggs received the third-highest number of votes in history, behind only Nolan Ryan (491) and George Brett (488), who were both elected along with Robin Yount in the outstanding class of 1999.
"It's mind-boggling to be put in the same category as a Nolan Ryan or a George Brett to receive that many votes," Boggs said. "I think [the writers] understood how I played the game. What kind of dedication I had for it, what kind of drive I had for it, and what kind of love I had it for it. That's the part that is so rewarding."
Sandberg, who played virtually his entire 16-year career with the Cubs and was the 1984 National League Most Valuable Player, finished with 76.2 percent or 393 votes, only six more than the necessary number. Sandberg's vote total had increased from 49.2 percent in 2003 to 61 percent a year ago, but Tuesday's call still came as a surprise, he said.
"I'll tell you, it was one of the most incredible phone calls I've ever received," said Sandberg, who was about to board an airplane in his adopted hometown of Phoenix. "It came a little bit earlier than I expected and in some ways it caught me a little bit off-guard. That was my initial reaction, but total elation set in shortly after that."
Once again those who fell short included the trio of relievers Bruce Sutter, Goose Gossage and Lee Smith and Boston outfielder Jim Rice.
Sutter and Gossage received big voting boosts over last year, meaning their chances auger well for 2006, when the most heralded newcomers on the ballot will include Albert Belle, Will Clark, Gary Gaetti and Orel Hershiser.
That edge will disappear in 2007, the year Gwynn, Ripken and Mark McGwire are all eligible for the first time. By then, Sutter will be in his 14th year and Rice in the 13th of the 15 allowed on the writers' ballot.
Sutter, who is considered the father of the split-finger fastball and had 300 saves, finished third this year with 66.7 percent of the vote, up from 60 percent in 2004, when he was fourth behind inductees Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley, plus Sandberg.
Gossage, who pitched in the era when relievers commonly went three innings, leapt from 40.7 percent of the vote last year to 55.2 percent this year. Gossage has openly wondered why his 310 career saves don't compare favorably with Rollie Fingers, who had 341 and was elected to the Hall in 1991. They may next year.
Among the three, only Smith, far and away the all-time leader with 478 saves, remained flat. He received 38.8 percent of the vote this time around, after being named on 37 percent of the ballots cast last year.
Rice, who went up a few ticks -- from 55.5 percent last year to 59.5 percent this year -- was a teammate of Boggs, played his entire 16-year career with the Red Sox and hit .298 with 382 home runs.
History was with Boggs. Since former Cardinals slugger Stan Musial was enshrined in 1969, all eligible members of the 3,000-hit club have been elected on the first ballot. Boggs also finished his 18-year career with a .328 lifetime batting average.
His plaque will feature his likeness wearing a Red Sox cap, despite the fact that he won his only World Series in 1996 as a member of the Yankees.
"I was told that the Hall of Fame was going to make that decision," Boggs said. "In my opinion had the Hall of Fame picked my Little League hat I would've been very happy with that also."
Sandberg benefited from the fact that there wasn't a No. 2 sure shot on the ballot like a year ago when Molitor and Eckersley were both voted in on their first tries. His 277 lifetime homers as a second baseman were the all-time record for that position until Jeff Kent passed it this past season.
Sandberg was the eighth player to be elected to the Hall of Fame in his third year on the ballot.
"There's a system in place to tap players," he said. "And whether you get in on the 15th try or the first try, you're still a Hall of Famer."
Sandberg made it as much for his defensive play as his offense. He won the Gold Glove at his position nine times. Boggs made it as much for his determination as his hitting prowess. He turned himself into a Gold Glove third baseman, winning the award twice when he was with the Yankees.
"When you ask his former teammates and coaches what they remember most about Boggs, nearly every one of them talks about how hard he worked from the day he got to the Major Leagues to the day he retired," said Larry Lucchino, the current president of the defending champion Red Sox.
"Wade Boggs was one of the best hitters in the game on the day he arrived in the Major Leagues, but through his relentless effort, he also became a Gold Glove third baseman. I know he's as proud of that fact as he is of the five batting titles or the 3,000 hits."
| 2005 Hall of Fame
The complete vote (516 ballots, 387 to gain election, 26 to remain on ballot):
Wade, Ryno are Hall choices
No doubts about Class of 2005
Boggs hits his way to the Hall
Ryno charges into Hall of Fame
Red Sox lavish praise on Boggs
Rays react to Boggs Hall call
From Beantown to Bronx to Hall
Sutter closing in on Hall of Fame
Boggs is fans' favorite to make Hall
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.