In front of the largest gathering of Hall of Fame members in one location, Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor became the 51st and 52nd players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, July 25, 2004. New York Times writer Murray Chass received the J.G. Taylor Spink award and Lon Simmons, who broadcasted games for the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants was presented with the Ford C. Frick award in front of 50 of the 58 living Hall of Famers.
DENNIS ECKERSLEY: Named on 83.2 percent of the ballots, Eckersley (with Molitor) brought the number of players elected in their first year on the ballot to 40. Pitching for the Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Oakland A’s and St. Louis Cardinals in a 24 big league career, Eckersley spent the first half of his career as a starter before converting to a reliever for his final 12 seasons. He twice led the American league in saves and ended his career as baseball’s all-time saves leader. Eckersley is the last player to win his league’s MVP and Cy Young awards in the same season, accomplishing the feat with Oakland in 1992. In his most dominant six year stretch with Oakland, Eckersley struck out 458 hitters while walking just 51. He is the only pitcher in baseball history with 100 saves and 100 complete games.
PAUL MOLITOR: Named on 85.2 percent of the ballots, Molitor (with Eckersley) brought the number of players elected in their first year on the ballot to 40. Molitor spent the bulk of his career with the Milwaukee Brewers with stops in Toronto and Minnesota during the last six years of his 21-year career. He is the first player to be elected to the Hall of Fame who played the highest percentage of his games at designated hitter, although he saw time at all four infield positions and in the outfield during his career. He batted .306 with 234 home runs and 1,307 runs batted in, and led the American League in runs scored three times with Milwaukee. Molitor was the MVP of the 1993 World Series, when the Blue Jays beat the Philadelphia Phillies.