Bagwell, Raines, Rodríguez reflect on election to Hall of Fame

Written by: Bill Francis

A trio of the game’s greatest stars over the past three decades – Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Iván “Pudge” Rodríguez – received a phone call they’ll never forget, telling them they’ve just joined the greatest baseball team ever assembled.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2017, selected by the eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, on Wednesday. The results of the 73rd BBWAA Hall of Fame election were revealed at 6 p.m. ET live on MLB Network, with Hall President Jeff Idelson opening the envelope on camera to reveal the results to a nationwide audience.

Of the 442 ballots cast in this year’s BBWAA election, 332 votes were needed for the 75 percent threshold needed for election. And for the fourth consecutive year, the BBWAA elected at least two new members to the Hall of Fame. For Bagwell, the longtime Houston Astros first baseman, it was his seventh year on ballot and he received 86.2 percent of the vote; Raines, the speedy outfielder, was in his 10th and final year on the ballot and received 86.0 percent; and Rodríguez, the defensive whiz behind the plate, in his first year on the ballot received 76.0 percent.

Bagwell, 48, combined power, consistency, getting on base and an ability to score runs to become one of baseball’s premier first baseman.

“I don’t even know how I’m supposed to react,” said Bagwell, in a conference call with reporters across the country, about an hour after the Hall of Fame announcement was made. “It’s been a whirlwind. My family is very, very excited for this thing. I told my kids, ‘I’m still going to be that dad.’ I cannot be more excited. It’s weird being a Hall of Famer. I wrote it on a ball … it was kind of cool.

“Last year, it kind of came on me real quick (he received 71.6 percent of the vote in 2016). And this year it was like: ‘This is the chance; I have to get in.’ It was an interesting process, but the anxiety was very, very high.”

Over 15 seasons, all with the Astros, Bagwell hit 449 home runs, had a lofty .408 on-base percentage, amassed 2,314 hits and posted a .297 lifetime batting average. He averaged 32 homers annually, drove in 90 or more runs 10 times and scored 90 or more runs 10 times as well. He was named to four All-Star teams, won three Silver Slugger Awards, was the 1991 National League Rookie of the Year and the 1994 National League Most Valuable Player.

Raines played in 23 seasons – only 20 players in the entire history of big league baseball played longer – for six teams, including 12 seasons with the Montreal Expos. He was a .294 lifetime hitter who spent his major league career reaching base, causing havoc on the base paths and scoring runs.

“It’s definitely the biggest day for my family, the final chapter of my career,” Raines said in his opening statement on his conference call. “I’m looking forward to going to Cooperstown and giving my speech and being a part of the Baseball Hall of Fame.”

“Rock” Raines, 57, reached base almost 4,000 times, had 808 stolen bases, 1,571 runs scored, and scored 100 or more runs six times. He also led the NL in steals four consecutive seasons, stole at least 70 bases in a record six straight seasons, was named to seven consecutive All-Star teams from 1981 to ’87, and won World Series titles with the Yankees in 1996 and 1998.

Baseball Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson reads the results from the 2017 BBWAA Hall of Fame vote. (Jean Fruth / National Baseball Hall of Fame)

“It was a situation where I felt like I was in position to get in, especially after last year,” said Raines, referring to the 69.8 percent of the vote he received in 2016. “I felt like the momentum from last year would kind of carry me through this year. I wasn’t exactly sure it was going to happen. Last night was probably the worst night I had out of the 10 years.

“It was kind of tough because I knew I was close but I wasn’t sure. That’s the situation where everything is out of your control and you have to wait until that minute where you know you are going to get that phone call or you’re not going to get that phone call. I went through last year not getting the phone call and I kind of knew that it wasn’t going to happen. Today, I was encouraged by what happened last year. I knew I was close. But until that phone rang I was probably one of the most nervous guys on the face of the earth. But when the phone rang was the most excited I think I’ve ever been in my baseball career for what was about to happen. I’m just trying to embrace it. It was very emotional and very exciting.”

Hall of Famer John Smoltz (left) tries to peek at the results of the 2017 BBWAA Hall of Fame election before they are announced on MLB Network. (Jean Fruth / National Baseball Hall of Fame)

In Rodríguez’s 21 impressive seasons, the durable catcher went to 14 All-Star Games and won 13 Gold Glove Awards for defensive excellence. A seven-time Silver Slugger Award winner, he holds the major league record for games caught and putouts by a catcher, and ranked first in the AL in catching potential base stealers nine times. He was a lifetime .296 hitter with 311 homers, nearly 2,900 hits, and won the 1999 AL MVP.

“This is a great day for my family,” Rodríguez said in his opening statement to the media. “I want to thank all of the organizations that I played with. I played with six great organizations – Texas Rangers, the Marlins, the Tigers, Houston, the Yankees for a little bit, and I finished with the Washington Nationals. I have to mention that. To me they are great organizations. We respected each other and they gave me the opportunity to be a member of the Hall of Fame.”

Rodríguez, 45, becomes just the second catcher in history elected on the first ballot, joining Johnny Bench.

“It means a lot. Johnny Bench was my favorite player growing up,” Rodríguez said. “I can’t wait until July and to see him on the same stage as me when I’m giving my speech. It’s a dream come true.

“I’ve been having trouble sleeping for three days, I can tell you that right now. It was hard for me. I’ve been very anxious about the whole situation. There were some big hopes but at the same time we didn’t know what was going to happen. But I’m glad to be there. Just being the fourth Puerto Rican to be in the Hall of Fame is an honor. And just to be in Cooperstown right next to all those tremendous Hall of Famers that are already there on that wall, I can’t wait until July and be on that wall and take pictures there with all those great players.”

The three BBWAA electees will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 30, at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown along with Today’s Game Era electees John Schuerholz and Bud Selig, who were elected in December.

Ford C. Frick Award winner Bill King and Spink Award winner Claire Smith will be honored during Induction Weekend at the Awards Presentation on Saturday, July 29, at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown.

Bill Francis is a Library Associate at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Class of 2017

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