The first official sign of a big 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend came from the Expansion Era Committee on Monday with the unanimous elections of World Series champion managers Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre.
“It couldn’t be more perfect from my point of view,” La Russa said during a private phone interview less than four hours after the vote. “I admire and respect Joe and Bobby.
“Bobby I had so many hard-fought battles over the years, but he was always fair,” he continued. “He was a tough competitor. Joe Torre, too; he never showed anybody up. He always did it the right way.”
Cox, La Russa and Torre, who rank in the top five on the all-time wins list as managers, appeared on all 16 of the ballots cast. A minimum of 12 votes was necessary to reach the 75 percent required for election. None of the other candidates — Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Billy Martin, Marvin Miller, Dave Parker, Dan Quisenberry, Ted Simmons and George Steinbrenner — received more than six votes.
La Russa said he had spoken to Cox and Torre about who might go into the Hall of Fame with them in July. The threesome agreed on several candidates, he said, including Atlanta Braves pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, along with Jack Morris.
“Glavine and Maddux, I just think those 300 wins get you in,” La Russa said of two marquee pitchers who threw for Cox. “And that is painful for me because a good deal of those wins came against us.
“Jack Morris, I tell you, Joe and Bobby and I, all three of us believe that Jack Morris deserves to get in on his last time on the ballot,” he continued.
Morris was a five-time All-Star and the 1991 World Series MVP. He went 254-186 with 2,478 strikeouts career.
Last year, Morris received 67.7 percent of the votes in his 14th time appearing on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. That ranked second to Craig Biggio, who had 68.2 percent of the votes in his first year on the BBWAA ballot.
“Oh, Craig Biggio is deserving and I have no doubt he will get in sooner rather than later,” La Russa said. “But to me, Jack Morris has only one year left on the ballot.”
Cox managed all 29 of his seasons with the Braves, going 2,504-2,001 and winning the World Series in 1995.
Torre followed an 18-year Major League Baseball career with 29 seasons as a manager. He won four World Series titles with the New York Yankees (1996, 1998-2000) and finished with a 2,326-1,997 career record.
La Russa managed the Chicago White Sox from 1979-1986, the Oakland A’s from 1986-1995 and the St. Louis Cardinals from 1996-2011. He won World Series titles with the A’s in 1989 and the Cardinals in 2006 and 2011.
“I have always been there (in Cooperstown) as a visitor,” said La Russa, whose finished with a 33-year record of 2,728-2,365. “I have never been as a member, so I am very excited. I haven’t even really had time to get used to it.
“Frank Robinson always told me that your whole life changes,” he continued. “I am just starting to see that today. I haven’t had time to look at my phone because there are so many texts and emails to return.”
La Russa also said he expects a significant number of fans to turn out for his induction in Cooperstown this summer.
“I managed for three clubs, so I expect to see fans from all three places,” he said. “Northern California, Oakland, Chicago and also St. Louis.”
The Expansion Era Committee held meetings Sunday in Orlando, Fla., the site of baseball’s Winter Meetings this year.
The 16-member Expansion Era Committee commissioned with the review of the 12-name ballot of managers, executives and long-retired players featured Hall of Famers Rod Carew, Andre Dawson, Carlton Fisk, Whitey Herzog, Tommy Lasorda, Paul Molitor, Phil Niekro and Frank Robinson; major league executives Paul Beeston, Andy MacPhail, David Montgomery and Jerry Reinsdorf; and veteran historians Steve Hirdt, Bruce Jenkins, Jack O’Connell and Jim Reeves.
Hall Chairman Jane Forbes Clark served as the non-voting chairman of the Expansion Era Committee.
Cox, La Russa and Torre will be joined in the Hall’s Class of 2014 by anyone elected via the 2014 BBWAA voting, which will be announced Jan. 8.
The winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing will be announced today, followed by the winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in baseball broadcasting Wednesday.