Pick a Pair: Hall of Fame Class of 2016 makes draft history
For all highs, though, there must be some lows. When he was elected in 2015, John Smoltz had taken the spot of lowest-drafted Hall of Famer. The Detroit Tigers took him as the 574th overall pick in the 22nd Round of the 1985 Draft. Smoltz only had a year to celebrate that feat. Mike Piazza, taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers with the 1,390th pick in the 62nd Round of 1988’s MLB Draft, is now the lowest-drafted Hall of Famer. In fact, Piazza was the first player ever taken at pick No. 1,390.
Draft rules formerly allowed for the selections to continue so long as teams kept choosing. When all teams passed in a given round, the draft was over. In 1998, Major League Baseball capped the number of rounds at 50, and in 2012, MLB further limited the total to 40. With just over 1,200 picks in 2015, we may never see another player drafted lower than 1,390.
Numbers vary depending on the source one uses, but it is widely agreed upon that Aron Amundson, selected by the Yankees in the 100th Round of the 1996 Draft – with the 1,740th pick according to Baseball-Reference.com – is the lowest-drafted player ever. Clay Condrey, also selected by the Yankees in 1996, but in the 94th Round with the 1,730th pick, is the lowest pick to make the majors. He didn’t sign with New York after being drafted, opting to remain in college and signed with San Diego afterward.
Griffey, however, took a different path to Cooperstown. At an early age, he was ready to excel on the big stage, even as a senior at Archbishop Moeller, a school which had already produced a future Hall of Famer in Barry Larkin as well as a five-time All Star in Buddy Bell.
As it was, thanks to his father’s big league career, Griffey grew up around the Big Red Machine teams of the 1970s, soaking in the wisdom of eventual Hall of Famers like Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Pérez.
Though a broken bone in his hand derailed what could have been a Rookie of the Year season in 1989, it did not slow Griffey down in the long run. He would win Gold Glove Awards and a spot on the All Star team each year in the 1990s.
And in 2016, he earned baseball’s greatest honor – along with Piazza, who combine to form one of the most unique classes in Hall of Fame history.
Matt Rothenberg is the manager of the Giamatti Research Center at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum