Ken Griffey Jr., whose strong and fluid play on defense was equaled by his smooth and powerful left-handed swing, is headed to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. He is joined by catcher Mike Piazza in a two-man class that will be inducted July 24.
Griffey was not the first unanimous selection, as some had speculated he might be, but Griffey was named on 437 of 440 ballots cast, a record of 99.32 percent. The previous mark was 98.84 percent set by pitcher Tom Seaver in 1992. Nolan Ryan got the third-highest percentage of the vote ever with 98.79 in 1999. Cal Ripken Jr. is fourth at 98.53 percent in 2007. Griffey became the 51st player elected on his first year on the ballot.
Piazza was named on 83 percent of the ballots. To get elected to the Hall of Fame, a player must appear on at least 75 percent of the ballots cast by eligible voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Jeff Bagwell was next at 71.6 percent, missing election by 15 votes. Tim Raines, an Oriole for four games in 2001, followed at 69.8 percent, with Trevor Hoffman at 67.3 percent and Curt Shilling, who played parts of three seasons in Baltimore from 1988-90, at 52.3 percent.
Former Orioles right-hander Mike Mussina, finished 10th in the voting at 43 percent. It was far short of what Mussina needed for election, but he has made nice gains over his first two years of eligibility. Mussina got 20.3 percent of the votes in 2014 and 24.6 percent last year.
Mussina went 270-153 with an ERA of 3.68 during an 18-year career. He won 20 games just once, but 18 or more five other times and finished in the top six for the Cy Young Award nine times. Mussina went 147-81 with a 3.53 ERA in 10 seasons for the Orioles, who drafted him in the first round out of Stanford in 1990. He was 123-72 with a 3.88 ERA in eight seasons for the New York Yankees.
Griffey hit .284/.370/.538 during a brilliant 22-year career from 1989 to 2010. He hit 630 home runs to rank sixth all-time and drove in 1,836 runs to rank 15th. The 1997 American League MVP, Griffey was a 13-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner in center field. Griffey is one of three players in major league history with 500 homers and 10 Gold Gloves, joining Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Mike Schmidt.
The first player taken in the 1987 First-Year Player Draft, Griffey becomes the first player whose plaque at Cooperstown will bear a Seattle Mariners hat. Surprisingly, he is the first player ever taken with the draft’s first pick to make the Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, Piazza becomes the lowest player ever drafted to make it. He went in Round 62 in 1988.
During the 1993 All-Star game at Camden Yards, Griffey hit the B&O Warehouse during the Home Run Derby with a 465-foot blast. It is the only ball to ever hit the Warehouse on the fly.
Piazza came along way from the 62nd round to today’s vote. He played from 1992-2007 and hit .308/.377/.545 with 427 homers and 1,335 RBIs. He was the 1993 National League Rookie of the Year with the Dodgers, a 12-time All-Star and 10-time Silver Slugger. Among players whose primary position was catcher, Piazza ranks first all-time in home runs and fourth in RBIs.
Bagwell, who was the highest vote-getter among those not elected, spent his entire major league career with the Houston Astros, from 1991-2005. He batted .297/.408/.540 in 15 seasons with 449 homers and 1,529 RBIs. Bagwell was the 1991 NL Rookie of the Year, 1994 NL MVP and a four-time All-Star. His career OPS of .948 ranks 21st-best all-time.
In his fourth year on the ballot, Barry Bonds finished eighth at 44.3 percent, up from 36.8 percent last year. Roger Clemens, also eligible for the fourth time, was just ahead of Bonds in seventh at 45.2 percent, up from 37.5 percent last January.
The Hall of Fame now has 312 elected members, including 217 players, of which 121 have come through the BBWAA ballot. The average ballot in the 2016 election contained 7.95 names with 41.6 percent of the voters using all 10 slots.