Maddux, Glavine and Thomas round out the Hall of Fame class of 2014
A trio of the game’s recent greats has now found out that they will be honored this coming summer, having received the news that soon their names will stand alongside Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Cy Young and Jackie Robinson.
On Wednesday, pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and designated hitter/first baseman Frank Thomas received the news that they had been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. One year after the BBWAA pitched a shutout, the three all received votes on at least 75 percent of the 571 ballots cast.
“It was a star-studded ballot and three really deserving electees,” said Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson when he made the voting results known during a MLB Network appearance. “It’s a tremendous class that we’ll have in Cooperstown.”
“These are six guys very, very deserving,” Idelson added. “You take a look at those managers and they’re like the heart of the lineup - three, four and five all-time in wins. And then you put together these two great starting pitchers in Maddux and Glavine, along with Frank Thomas, and Cooperstown is in for a big summer I’d say.”
Maddux was the leading BBWAA vote getter with 97.2 percent of the vote, while Glavine 91.9 percent and Thomas 83.7 percent. It was 15 years ago that the BBWAA last elected three candidates, when George Brett, Nolan Ryan and Robin Yount earned induction.
Each has won plenty of prestigious hardware throughout their respective careers, whether it is MVPs or Cy Youngs or Gold Gloves, but a bronze plaque inside a certain Cooperstown gallery, with their likenesses and accomplishments on display for eternity, lets them know they are now members of the national pastime’s most exclusive fraternity.
“It’s truly an honor and a privilege to be inducted into the Hall of Fame,” said Maddux in a conference call with reporters only minutes after the news of his election was released. “It’s exciting for me to go in with my teammate, Tom Glavine, as well as Frank Thomas, and I’m just looking forward to the experience down the road.”
Maddux finished his big league career with 355 wins, won four National League Cy Young awards, and was honored with a record 18 gold gloves. Much of his success he credits to his ability to stay healthy.
“Staying healthy is a huge part of it. You can’t win if you don’t pitch,” Maddux said. “And over the years you always have to try and add on, you always have to try to find a new pitch, you’re always looking to tweak things a little bit. You have to take a chance to get better. That means you have to do things you don’t normally do.
“It’s a combination of a lot of things but I think, basically, it’s just health. If you can stay healthy for a long time and enjoy the game you’re going to have success.”
And this summer won’t be Maddux’s first visit to Cooperstown.
“I’ve been lucky enough to get in the Hall of Fame Game twice as a player and I went there a couple summers ago when my son played in a baseball tournament up there that they have for all the 12 year olds from across the country,” he said. “What a great little town.”
Maddux not only played under Cox with the Atlanta Braves, but was a fellow starting pitcher alongside Glavine for 10 seasons.
“As soon as Bobby (Cox) got in it was pretty special because he was there for half of my career and taught me so much about the game,” Maddux said. “I find myself passing on the things he taught me to the younger players in the game right now. Just a special honor for me to be able play for Bobby, and also to play alongside with Glavine for half of my career as well. It’s kind of almost a fairy tale ending. The only thing that screwed it up was Smoltzie (fellow Braves pitcher John Smoltz) waited to play one more year.
“It’s just icing on the cake. It’s going to be a special day and I’m going to have the chance to share it with special people.”
Glavine, whose 305 wins are fourth all time among left-handed pitchers, won a pair of National League Cy Young awards and was a 10-time all-star, also feels blessed to not only be going into the Hall of Fame but also be going in with a pair of fellow Braves comrades.
“The opportunity to even go in the Hall of Fame is one thing,” said Glavine in his conference call, “and certainly something that I was hoping was going to happen, the opportunity to go in with two guys – one that was a teammate, one that was a manager for so long, but in the end, two guys that were a very big part of my career, very influential on my baseball career - it means a lot to me.
“I think as much as I prepared for this day, it had certainly some room for not getting the phone call that I wanted. I think the thing that would have disappointed me that most, had it not happened, would have been a lost opportunity to go in with Bobby and Greg, so it’s certainly something I’m looking forward to. And I think it’s fitting given the influence those two guys had on my career.”
Thomas, a longtime Chicago White Sox slugger who consistently combined power and average like very few, won back-to-back American League MVP awards, was a five-time All-Star, a .301 lifetime hitter, and his 521 home runs matched Ted Williams and Willie McCovey for 18th all time.
“I think this is an incredible time for me and my family,” was how Thomas began his conference call. “I’m overjoyed and overwhelmed. I’m just so happy and so proud right now.
“I spent 16 wonderful years here in Chicago, a great year and a half in Oakland, and a great year and a half in Toronto, and today you look at all of it. I’m in the Hall of Fame, and it’s just a proud, proud day for me and my family.”
“When you have a career that spans for so long, you always have people saying, ‘Yes, he’s a Hall of Famer’ or ‘No, he’s not a Hall of Famer,’” Thomas said. “Over the last 72 hours there was just so much debate from all the TV shows, from all the blogs, from all the other media, Twitter, it was just one after another. It just makes you think, ‘Did I do enough in my career?’ Then you just hear people say, ‘I don’t vote for players the first time out.’
“I’m so honored and blessed today. I’m ecstatic because it’s an honor, definitely, to be chosen on the first ballot, it really is. I left it between the lines. I went every day giving it 100 percent. So I’m satisfied today because, for me, they made the right decision because I know what I put into this game, day in and day out.”
In the year the Hall of Fame celebrates its 75th anniversary, the six 2014 electees will be inducted on Sunday, July 27 at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown.
Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
2014 BBWAA/Hall of Fame Voting
Ballots Cast: 571 Needed for Election: 429