NEW YORK – Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas were elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame on Wednesday, while Craig Biggio fell two votes short and tainted stars of the Steroids Era remained a long way from Cooperstown.
Maddux was picked on 555 of 571 ballots by senior members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. His 97.2 percentage was the eighth-highest in the history of voting.
Glavine, Maddux’s longtime teammate in the Atlanta rotation, appeared on 525 ballots and received 91.9 percent. Thomas, the first Hall of Famer who spent the majority of his career as a designated hitter, was at 478 and 83.7 percent.
Thomas said he accepts the view of many Hall of Famers that players whose accomplishments are muddied by accusations of steroid use, such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, don’t belong in the Hall.
“I’ve got to take the right stance, too. No, they shouldn’t get in,” he said. “There shouldn’t be cheating allowed to get into the Hall of Fame.”
The trio will be inducted July 27 along with managers Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, elected last month by the expansion-era committee. Maddux and Glavine, who played under Cox for most of their careers, will become the first pair of 300-game winners to be inducted in the same year.
“It’s exciting for me to go in with my teammate,” Maddux said.
The only other time three players were elected together in their first appearances was in 1999 with Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount.
Biggio received 427 votes and 74.8 percent, matching Nellie Fox in 1985 and Pie Traynor in 1947 for the smallest margin to just miss. Traynor made it the following year, and Fox was elected by the old Veterans Committee in 1997.
Biggio, who spent his entire career with the Houston Astros, appeared on 388 ballots last year in his initial appearance — when writers failed to elect anyone — and appears to be on track to gain election next year.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed to come that close,” he said in a statement. “I feel for my family, the organization and the fans. Hopefully, next year.”
Mike Piazza was next with 62.2 percent, up from 57.8 last year. Jack Morris was 78 votes short at 61.5 percent in his 15th and final appearance on the writers’ ballot, a drop from 67.7 percent. Morris replaces Gil Hodges (63 percent in 1983) as the player with the highest-percentage of the vote not in the Hall.
Jeff Bagwell dropped to 54.3 percent from 59.6, and Tim Raines to 46.1 from 52.2.
Controversy over how to evaluate stars tainted by the Steroids Era continued to impact the vote totals of players with stellar statistics. In their second appearances on the ballot, Roger Clemens dropped from 37.6 percent to 35.4, Barry Bonds from 36.2 to 34.7 and Sammy Sosa from 12.5 to 7.2.
Bonds, baseball’s career home run leader, is the only seven-time MVP in major league history. Clemens is the lone seven-time Cy Young Award winner.
“As for what they did, I don’t think any of us will ever really know,” Thomas said. “But I can just tell you, what I did was real and that’s why I’ve got this smile on my face right now because the writers, they definitely got it right.”
Mark McGwire, appearing for the eighth time, fell from 16.9 to 11 percent — down from a peak of 25.6 in 2008. Rafael Palmeiro will be dropped from future ballots after falling to 25 votes and 4.4 percent — below the 5 percent threshold necessary to remain eligible. One voter submitted a blank ballot.
“I can go home and sleep at night and rest,” Thomas said, “so I don’t have to worry about all the nonsense that the other people are going through, because I know I won’t be getting a call in the middle of the night from someone saying, oh, he did this or he did that.”
Deadspin.com announced Miami Herald columnist Dan Le Batard had turned his ballot over to the website, which allowed readers to vote on how it should be cast.
“I hate all the moralizing we do in sports in general, but I especially hate the hypocrisy in this,” Le Batard said in remarks posted by Deadspin. “’I always like a little anarchy inside the cathedral we’ve made of sports.”
BBWAA Secretary-Treasurer Jack O’Connell declined comment.
Maddux reached the major leagues in 1986 and Glavine a year later. They become the first primarily starting pitchers to enter the Hall whose careers began after Bert Blyleven, who debuted in 1970. And they are the first teammates on a starting rotation to be elected together since 1946.
Add in Cox, and the induction will be dominated by Braves.
“It’s fitting, given the influence those two guys had on my career,” Glavine said. “The thing that would have disappointed me the most had it not happened would have been a lost opportunity to go in with Bobby and Greg.”
Eighth on the wins list with a 355-227 record and a 3.16 ERA over 23 seasons, Maddux won four consecutive Cy Young Awards from 1992-95 and a record 18 Gold Gloves with the Chicago Cubs, Atlanta, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego. An eight-time All-Star, he won at least 13 games in 20 straight seasons.
Glavine, a 10-time All-Star and a two-time Cy Young winner, was 305-203 over 22 seasons. A two-time AL MVP, Thomas hit .301 with 521 homers and 1,704 RBIs in 19 seasons with the Chicago White Sox, Toronto and Oakland.
Writers who have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years at any point were eligible to consider the 36-player ballot.
Next year’s vote will be even more crowded when Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Carlos Delgado and Gary Sheffield become eligible, five years after their retirements. The BBWAA last month formed a committee to study whether the organization should ask the Hall to change the limit of 10 players per ballot.
In a sign of how some newly eligible players have taken votes from holdovers, Lee Smith dropped to 171 from 272 last year, his percentage falling to 29.9 from 47.8.