In the closest pursuit yet toward a unanimous choice in National Baseball Hall of Fame balloting, center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. missed by only three votes of a perfect score in the 2016 balloting by the BBWAA verified by Ernst & Young.
Of the 440 ballots submitted by senior members of the BBWAA, writers with 10 or more consecutive years of service, Griffey was named on 437, which accounted for 99.32 percent of the vote, the highest plurality in the history of the election that dates to 1936. The previous record holder was Tom Seaver, who was named on 98.84 percent of BBWAA ballots in 1992.
Griffey, who became the 51st player elected in his first year on the ballot, will be joined on the stage July 24 as part of the Hall’s Induction Weekend July 22-25 in Cooperstown, N.Y., by catcher Mike Piazza, who also surpassed the 75-percent threshold for election with 365 votes (83 percent) in his fourth year on the ballot.
Falling 15 votes shy of the 330 required for election this year was first baseman Jeff Bagwell, whose vote total represented 71.6 percent. The only other players to be named on more than half the ballots were outfielder Tim Raines (69.8), relief pitcher Trevor Hoffman (67.3) and starting pitcher Curt Schilling (52.3).
Others who qualified for future consideration were pitcher Roger Clemens (45.2), outfielder Barry Bonds (44.3), relief pitcher Lee Smith (30.2), infielder-designated hitter Edgar Martinez (43.4), pitcher Mike Mussina (43.0), reliever Lee Smith (34.1), first baseman Fred McGriff (20.9), second baseman Jeff Kent (16.6), outfielder Larry Walker (15.5), outfielder Gary Sheffield (11.6), reliever Billy Wagner (10.5) and outfielder Sammy Sosa (7.0).
Players may remain on the ballot for up to 10 years provided they receive five percent of the vote, which this year meant 22 votes. Thirteen players failed to achieve that total. In their final year on the ballot, shortstop Alan Trammell received 180 votes (40.9) and first baseman Mark McGwire 54 (12.3). They will be eligible for consideration by the Expansion Era Committee in the fall of 2019.
Griffey, 46, was the unanimous winner of the AL MVP Award in 1997 with the Seattle Mariners after batting .304 and leading the league with 56 home runs, 147 RBI, 125 runs, 393 total bases and a .646 slugging percentage, the highlight of a 22-season career in which he lashed out 2,781 hits, including 630 home runs, the sixth-highest total in MLB history. He was the runner-up to Frank Thomas for the MVP Award in 1994 and finished in the top 10 in balloting seven times overall.
A 13-time All-Star who was the game’s MVP in 1992 at San Diego, Griffey won 10 Gold Glove and seven Silver Slugger Awards. He led the AL in home runs four times and in 2005 was named the NL’s Comeback Player of the Year with the Cincinnati Reds. Griffey, who also played for the Chicago White Sox, drove in 100 or more runs eight times and scored 100 or more runs six times. He belted five home runs in the inaugural, five-game AL Division Series against the New York Yankees in 1995 and scored the winning run in the clinching game. Griffey led the AL in home runs four times and in total bases and intentional walks twice apiece.
He shares the same birthday (Nov. 21) and birthplace (Donora, Pa.) as another Hall of Famer, Stan Musial, who played amateur ball in the 1930s with Griffey’s grandfather.
Piazza, 47, a 12-time All-Star during a 16-year career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida Marlins, New York Mets, San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics, won the Silver Slugger Award 10 times, the most of any catcher in history. Of his 427 career home runs, 396 were as a catcher, also the most in the major leagues. The unanimous choice as the National League winner of the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award in 1993, Piazza seven times placed in the top 10 of MVP voting, including runner-up finishes in the NL in 1996 to Ken Caminiti and 1997 to Larry Walker. Also in ’97, Piazza became the first player who caught at least 100 games to get at least 200 hits in a season with 201.
The 12-time All-Star and MVP of the 1996 game at Philadelphia drove in 100 or more runs in six seasons and topped .300 in batting average nine times. Known primarily for his offensive production (.308/.377/.545, 2,127 hits, 1,335 RBI), Piazza also led NL catchers in putouts four times, assists twice and caught stealing and fielding percentage once each.
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.
Ken Griffey Jr. 437 (99.3), Mike Piazza 365 (83.0), Jeff Bagwell 315 (71.6), Tim Raines 307 (69.8), Trevor Hoffman 296 (67.3), Curt Schilling 230 (52.3), Roger Clemens 199 (45.2), Barry Bonds 195 (44.3), Edgar Martinez 191 (43.4), Mike Mussina 189 (43.0), Alan Trammell 180 (40.9), Lee Smith 150 (34.1), Fred McGriff 92 (20.9), Jeff Kent 73 (16.6), Larry Walker 68 (15.5), Mark McGwire 54 (12.3), Gary Sheffield 51 (11.6), Billy Wagner 46 (10.5), Sammy Sosa 31 (7.0), Jim Edmonds 11 (2.5), Nomar Garciaparra 8 (1.8), Mike Sweeney 3 (0.7), David Eckstein 2 (0.5), Jason Kendall 2 (0.5), Garret Anderson 1 (0.2), Brad Ausmus 0, Luis Castillo 0, Troy Glaus 0, Mark Grudzielanek 0, Mike Hampton 0, Mike Lowell 0, Randy Winn 0.