By Greg Klein Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — It’ll be a brave new world in Cooperstown this summer.
One year after an induction ceremony that drew an unusually low 2,500 fans to the Clark Sports Center, the elections Wednesday of former Braves pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, along with two-time American League MVP Frank Thomas, should make for a much livelier ceremony in July.
Hall President Jeff Idelson announced Wednesday the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voted to enshrine Maddux, Glavine and Thomas. Last year, the BBWAA threw an election shutout, casting aside tainted stars such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
This time around, Maddux, Glavine and Thomas made it with room to spare.
They’ll join managers Tony La Russa, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox -- elected by the Expansion Era Committee last month -- on stage July 27 at the Clark Sports Center for the 2014 Induction Ceremony. One day earlier, the Hall will honor Ford C. Frick Award winner Eric Nadel, J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Roger Angell and Buck O’Neil Award winner Joe Garagiola.
Maddux, Glavine and Cox enjoyed remarkable success with the Braves, reaching three World Series in the 1990s and winning it all in 1995.
“The thing that would have disappointed me the most, had it not happened would have been missing the opportunity to go in with Bobby and Greg,” said Glavine, the winner of 305 games, during a conference call with reporters following his election.
It’s the first time three players have been voted in by the BBWAA since 1999 when Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount were elected.
Maddux, who won four consecutive National League Cy Young Awards from 1992-95, was not listed on 16 ballots. He received 97.2 percent of the vote, or 555 votes out of 571 ballots. That’s the eighth highest percentage in history.
Tom Seaver earned the highest percentage at 98.84 in 1992.
Since Maddux split much of his career between the Atlanta Braves and the Chicago Cubs, Hall officials said they will announce which team’s cap will appear on his plaque next week. He played for the Cubs from 1986 to 1992 and from 2002 to 2004. He played with the Braves from 1993 to 2003. He also played with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres.
Maddux said getting enshrined with Glavine and Cox will make the day more special.
“It is almost a fairy tale ending,” said Maddux, who won 355 games. “They only thing that screwed it up was Smoltzy (former Atlanta teammate John Smoltz) waited one more year (to retire.)”
Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz were the top three pitchers for a Braves team that won the ‘95 World Series. They also played on Atlanta teams that lost the World Series to the New York Yankees in 1996 and 1999.
Maddux said he has been to Cooperstown several times, including 2009 when his son Chase played at the Cooperstown Dreams Park.
“What a great little town,” said Maddux, also in Cooperstown in 2008 as a member of the Padres when the 62nd and last Hall of Fame Game at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown was rained out.
Maddux and Glavine, who got 91.9 percent of the vote, are the first pair of same-year inductees to get percentages in the 90s since 2007. That year, Cal Ripken (98.5) and Tony Gwynn (97.6) turned the trick and brought an estimated 75,000 fans to the Clark Sports Center for their induction ceremony.
Maddux and Glavine also are the first pitchers and teammates to be elected together since Ferguson Jenkins and Gaylord Perry in 1991. But Jenkins and Perry only played on the same team for parts of two seasons, both with the Texas Rangers, in 1975 and 1980. Maddux and Glavine spent 10 years together.
Thomas, who got 83.7 percent of the vote in part because of his 521 home runs, will be the first player inducted to have played the majority of his games as a designated hitter. In his 2,322 career games, he played 1,310 as a DH, or 54 percent. Paul Molitor, who was elected in 2004, played 44 percent of his games as a DH.
“I look at that and I think some people tried to make that an issue,” Thomas said, “but I was the every day first baseman for the Chicago White Sox for a very long time.
“I would like to put together a highlight tape of my greatest defensive plays (for the critics),” he added.
In an era tainted by performance enhancing drugs, Thomas has often been lauded as a “clean” player, something he said he took great pride in.
“What I did was real and that’s why I’ve got a big smile on my face,” said Thomas, who spent most of his career with the Chicago White Sox. “I did it the right way.”
Thomas said that he didn’t mind what other players were doing, but he thought that maybe his success, and his strength and size – which he credited to being a college football player at Auburn – caused some players to turn to steroids.
“I look at a couple of guys, one in particular and we all know who it is, who was a Hall of Famer before he ever started using steroids,” he said. “I’ll be honest, I think I was one of those guys, because of my size and strength from football, who caused some of those other players to turn to (steroids.)
“I don’t fault them at all,” he continued, “but it never bothered me because I always knew I was going to get (my numbers). If I didn’t get hurt for a three-and-a-half-year period, I think I would have been right there at the top with some of them in terms of the numbers.”
Maddux, Glavine and Thomas all appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time. They may have hurt the chances of other long-term candidates as all but two returning players – Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza – saw their percentages decline from last year.
Biggio, the catcher and second baseman for the Houston Astros who was the top vote getter in 2013, came within two votes of earning election. He got 74.8 percent of the vote. He tied Nellie Fox in 1985 and Pie Traynor in 1947 for the smallest margin of not getting selected. Traynor was elected in 1948. Fox was in his last year on the ballot and was elected by the Veterans Committee in 1997.
“As surprised as I was last year about him not getting in,” Glavine said, “I almost feel heartbroken for him this year. It is just a matter for time.”
Added Thomas: “I don’t want to use the word tragic, but it has got to be a tragic day for him.”
Piazza, the former New York Mets catcher, also increased his vote percentage, from 57.8 percent in 2013 to 62.2 percent in 2014.
Glavine played with the Mets from 2003-07. While he was a Met, he won his 300th game on Aug. 5, 2007 against the Cubs in Chicago.
“I had a lot of fun in New York,” he said. “It was a great five years. Certainly it was tough for my family to have me gone, but it was a great five years. I will always have fond memories for the Mets organization, because it is a good organization but also because I got my 300th win for them.”
Pitcher Jack Morris, on his 15th and final ballot, went down significantly in voting percentage, from 67.7 percent in 2013 to 61.5 percent. Morris, who was the World Series MVP in 1991 and played on three other series winners, will have his Hall of Fame fate decided by the Expansion Era Committee, which will vote again on candidates for the 2017 Induction.
“I know how much it meant to him,” said Thomas, who has worked with Morris on the MLB network. “We’re not going to lose hope now because hopefully the veterans committee will get him in.”
Bonds and Clemens, the winners of seven MVP and Cy Young awards, respectively, saw their voting percentages shrink in their second year on the ballot. Clemens dipped to 35.4 percent. Bonds garnered 34.7.
In addition to Smoltz, the top new candidates on the ballot for 2015 will be Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Gary Sheffield.