Seattle Mariners' Ken Griffey Jr. removes his helmet after hitting a three run RBI homer to right field against the New York Yankees in the second inning at SAFECO Field in Seattle on September 20, 2009. The Mariners beat the Yankees 7-1. UPI /Jim Bryant. | License Photo
Center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. fell three votes shy of becoming the first unanimous selection in Baseball Hall of Fame history but was elected Wednesday in his first time on the ballot along with catcher Mike Piazza.
Of the 440 ballots submitted by senior members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, Griffey was named on 437 of the 440 ballots, 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 during a conference call.
The Hall of Fame induction ceremony is set for July 24 in Cooperstown, N.Y.
"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," commissioner Rob Manfred said. "His election to Cooperstown surely marks a great occasion not only in the Pacific Northwest and his hometown of Cincinnati, but also for an entire generation of fans. Major League Baseball is proud to congratulate Ken and his family on this well-deserved honor."
Griffey 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," Piazza said. "I sat here with my mouth on the floor."
Falling 15 votes short of the 330 needed for election was first baseman Jeff Bagwell (71.6 percent). Also missing out were outfielder Tim Raines (69.8), relief pitcher Trevor Hoffman (67.3) and pitcher Curt Schilling (52.3).
Others who didn't gain election were pitcher Roger Clemens (45.2), outfielder Barry Bonds (44.3), relief pitcher Lee Smith (30.2), infielder-designated hitter Edgar Martinez (43.4), pitcher Mike Mussina (43.0), reliever Lee Smith (34.1), first baseman Fred McGriff (20.9), second baseman Jeff Kent (16.6), outfielder Larry Walker (15.5), outfielder Gary Sheffield (11.6), reliever Billy Wagner (10.5) and outfielder Sammy Sosa (7.0).
In their final year on the ballot, shortstop Alan Trammell (40.9) and first baseman Mark McGwire (12.3) also did not make it.
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.
"The Cincinnati Reds organization and our entire city congratulate Ken on his election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame," Reds president and CEO Robert Castellini said. "Over a wonderful career that began right here at Moeller High School, Junior built his legacy while playing for the Mariners and continued that remarkable career in Cincinnati and then with the Chicago White Sox. He represented himself, his family and those cities with the class and professionalism consistent with the ideals of Major League Baseball and the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and he continues to serve all over the world as one of our game's greatest ambassadors.
"We are very proud that Ken's accomplishments have been validated at the highest level by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Reds fans are thrilled to see our hometown son earn a permanent place in Cooperstown alongside the other 43 players, managers and executives who spent all or parts of their careers in Cincinnati."
Piazza, 47 was a 12-time All-Star during a 16-year career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida Marlins, New York Mets, San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics. He hit 396 of his 427 career home runs as a catcher, the most in major league history.
Wagner, whose 422 career saves rank second among left-handers, and fellow lefty Mike Hampton, the 2000 NLCS MVP, were on the ballot for the first time along with catchers Brad Ausmus and Jason Kendall, catcher-first baseman Mike Sweeney, infielder Mark Grudzielanek and outfielder Randy Winn.