‘Nines’ Lives

Jeff Conine debuts on BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot

December 13, 2012
2013 BBWAA Hall of Fame Candidate Jeff Conine (NBHOF Library)

Jeff Conine’s baseball career began as a 58th-round draft pick before taking him to All-Star Game and World Series glory.

Now, Conine stands on the precipice of history.

Conine is one of 37 players on the 2013 Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot for the Class of 2013 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Conine is making his debut on the ballot.

BBWAA members who have at least 10 years of tenure with the organization can vote in the election, and the results will be announced Jan. 9. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all BBWAA votes cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2013. The Induction Ceremony will be held July 28 in Cooperstown.

Born June 27, 1966 in Tacoma, Wash., and raised in Southern California, Conine attended UCLA before being drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 58th round in 1987. He quickly shot through the minor leagues, earning the Southern League (Double-A) Most Valuable Player Award in 1990. He debuted in the big leagues that year, and after another brief stint in the majors in 1992, Conine was taken by the Florida Marlins in the 1992 Expansion Draft.

He quickly established himself as “Mr. Marlin,” going 4-for-4 as the starting left fielder in the Marlins’ first-ever game and appearing in 162 games in 1993 while hitting .292 with 12 homers and 79 RBI – good for a third-place finish in the National League Rookie of the Year vote.

The next season, Conine hit .319 with 18 homers and 82 RBI in just 115 games during the strike-shortened campaign. He was named to his first All-Star Game, and repeated the honor in 1995 – this time winning the All-Star Game MVP award following his pinch-hit, go-ahead home run in the eighth inning.

In 1997, Conine assumed a utility role for the Marlins after Florida picked up several free agents in the offseason. The result was the Marlins’ first World Series title – with Conine driving in two runs in Florida’s 4-games-to-3 win over the Cleveland Indians.

“To go from the beginning and where we were in 1993, a rag-tag organization, to winning a World Series, that’s something very special,” Conine said.

Due to financial considerations, the Marlins dismantled their championship club following the 1997 season – and Conine was traded back to the Royals. He spent one injury-plagued season in Kansas City before being dealt to Baltimore, where he revived his career with four solid seasons, including a 14-homer, 97-RBI campaign in 2001.

During the 2003 season, the Orioles shipped Conine back to the Marlins on Aug. 31, setting Conine up for another World Series run. Conine hit .458 in the Marlins’ National League Championship Series win over the Cubs, then hit .333 in Florida’s 4-games-to-2 win over the Yankees in the Fall Classic.

During his final four big league seasons, Conine spent time with the Orioles, Phillies, Reds and Mets. He retired following the 2007 season with a .285 batting average, 1,982 hits, 214 home runs and 1,071 RBI.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum