Hall of Fame Class of 2016
Each January, the sporting world waits with anticipation for this -- the biggest news of the baseball year. When the results of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame vote are revealed, the electees become royalty – to be celebrated throughout the year and beyond as the best of the best.
These elite few are honored on the oak walls of the Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery in Cooperstown, lined with the bronze plaques that tell the stories of the men and women who have shaped our National Pastime. Since 1983, Matthews International in Pittsburgh has been the exclusive provider of those plaques. From the initial clay sculpting to the final touch-ups, Matthews takes great pride in their role in the annual Induction Ceremonies. Many people are involved in the creation of the plaques. In the video below, a few of them tell the story of the process.
The permanence of the bronze plaques is a testament to each Hall of Fame member’s impact on the game. For generations, the Gallery has been and will continue to be the ultimate tribute to legendary baseball careers.
|Ballots Cast: 440||Needed for Election: 330|
|437||Ken Griffey Jr.||99.3%|
*All candidates in italics received less than 5% of the vote on ballots cast and will be removed from future BBWAA consideration
He entered the game with not just mere potential. From the day the Seattle Mariners made him the first pick in the 1987 MLB Draft, Ken Griffey Jr. was expected to be great.
The next season the Griffeys teamed up in Seattle when Senior joined the Mariners late in the year. They homered in the same game on Sept. 14, 1990 against the Angels.
By that time, Junior was already being called the new face of baseball – having appeared on the cover of the May 7, 1990 issue of Sports Illustrated. By the end of the 1990 campaign, Griffey had been named to his first All-Star Game, won his first Gold Glove Award in center field and hit .300 with 22 homers and 80 RBI.
By the time he retired, Griffey had totaled 13 All-Star Game selections, 10 Gold Glove Awards and seven Silver Slugger Awards.
By 1993, the 23-year-old Griffey had filled out his lanky frame with muscle – all while keeping his picture-perfect lefty swing intact. The result was an assault on the record books with seven 40-plus home run reasons in eight years – interrupted only by a broken wrist (occurring while he made a circus catch at the Kingdome) that cost him half of the 1995 campaign.
The improbable win galvanized Seattle behind the Mariners, leading to the construction of the team’s new facility at Safeco Field.
From 1996-99, Griffey was at his peak. He led the AL in home runs three times, hitting 56 in both 1997 and 1998 while falling just short of Maris’ mark. He was named the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1997, totaling an astounding 393 bases while also leading the loop in runs (125) and RBI (147).
But with free agency looming, the Mariners traded Griffey to the Reds following the 1999 season – a year in which he was named to baseball’s All-Century Team – in a deal that netted the Mariners four prospects.
He finished with a .284 batting average, including 2,781 hits, 1,662 runs scored and 1,836 RBI. His RBI total ranks 15th all-time, while his 630 home runs rank No. 6 and his 5,271 total bases rank 13th.
As a baseball underdog, it doesn’t get much more challenging than being a 62nd round draft choice. But in less than 30 years, Mike Piazza has gone from the 1,390th player chosen in the 1988 MLB Draft to a plaque in Cooperstown.
Between 1993 and 1997, Piazza averaged better than 33 homers and 105 RBI per season – along with a .337 batting average – despite two shortened seasons due to the 1994-95 strike. In 1997, Piazza recorded 201 hits – the first player whose primary position was catcher to record 200 hits in a single season.
Defensively, Piazza proved to be one of the game’s most durable backstops – leading the league in putouts four times and assists twice.
But after failing to come to agreement with the Dodgers on a long-term contract, Piazza was traded to the Florida Marlins with Todd Zeile on May 14, 1998 for five players, including Bobby Bonilla, Jim Eisenreich, Charles Johnson and Gary Sheffield.
Eight days later, the Marlins – in the midst of a team restructuring following their 1997 World Series title – traded Piazza to the New York Mets for prospects Geoff Goetz, Preston Wilson and Ed Yarnall.
Piazza drove in 1,335 runs – fourth among catchers all-time behind Yogi Berra, Ted Simmons and Johnny Bench – and posted a .308 career batting average. He was named to 12 All-Star Games (winning the 1996 All-Star Game MVP), captured 10 Silver Slugger Awards at catcher and finished in the top five of the NL MVP voting four times, including back-to-back second-place finishes in 1996 and 1997.