NEW YORK: Center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. fell three votes shy of becoming the first unanimous selection in Baseball Hall of Fame history when he was elected on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) in his first time on the ballot.
Of 440 ballots submitted by senior members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, Griffey was named on 437, or 99.32 percent.
The previous high was 98.84 percent by pitcher Tom Seaver in 1992.
“I can’t be upset. It’s just an honor to be elected and to have the highest percentage is definitely a shock,” Griffey said on a conference call to discuss his election.
He will be inducted to the shrine in Cooperstown, New York, on July 24, along with slugging catcher Mike Piazza.
“Ken Griffey Jr.’s swing, smile and immense talent in all facets of the game made him one of the most popular and respected players of all time, a stature clearly evident in the results released today,” Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said.
Griffey, 46, had 2,781 hits and 630 home runs in his 22-year career with the Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds.
A 13-time All-Star, Griffey won 10 Gold Glove Awards and seven Silver Slugger Awards.
Griffey, whose 630 home runs puts him sixth on US baseball’s all-time list, was the 51st player elected in his first year on the ballot.
Piazza received 365 votes, or 83 percent, in his fourth year on the ballot.
“Incredibly special. Wow,” said Piazza, who hit 396 of his 427 career home runs as a catcher—the most for a player in that position in major league history.
Those on the ballot who failed to gain election included US all-time home run king Barry Bonds and seven-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Roger Clemens, who have both been linked to doping even though trials involving each did not result in convictions.
Bonds and Clemens, however, each showed gains in support toward the required 75 percent.
In three prior appearances on the ballot, neither had received more than 37.6 percent. Clemens got 45.2 percent this year and Bonds 44.3 percent.
Both have six more years on the ballot before their eligibility expires.