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Henderson, Rice given Hall passes

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Rickey Henderson, widely considered the greatest leadoff hitter in the history of baseball, was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame Monday on his first ballot with 94.8 percent of the votes cast by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Henderson, the all-time steals leader, will be joined in Cooperstown by Jim Rice, who was in his final year of eligibility. Rice (76.4 percent), who fell 16 votes short in 2008, cleared the 75 percent threshhold required for election to the HOF by earning 412 votes, seven over the 405 (of 539) needed.

The two are the first left fielders elected to the Hall of Fame in 20 years. Right-fielder Andre Dawson and pitcher Burt Blyleven, both outside shots for election, fell short again.

Henderson's name appeared on 511 of the 539 ballots cast, falling a little short of the percentages for the last two first-ballot electees -- Tony Gwynn (97.6 percent) and Cal Ripken (98.5 percent), who holds the record for the highest percentage for a position player. Both were elected in 2007. Right-hander Tom Seaver received the highest-ever percentage (98.8 percent) when elected in 1992.

Henderson established himself as baseball's supreme leadoff hitter by banging out 3,055 hits in a 25-season career spanning four decades (1979-2003) that included four tours with the Athletics and stops with the Yankees, Blue Jays, Padres, Angels, Mets, Mariners, Red Sox and Dodgers.

A career .279 hitter with a .401 on-base average and 297 home runs, Henderson won World Series rings with the 1989 A's and '93 Jays, was the AL MVP in 1990 and set the bar so high with the single-season stolen base record of 130 in 1982 that no player since has come within 20 bags of equaling it. His 81 home runs leading off games are the most in Major League history.

Henderson is the 44th player elected in his first time on the ballot, including the inaugural class of 1936 that honored Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson. He's also the 10th since 2001. Rice was the third player elected in his final year of eligibility, following Red Ruffing (1967) and Ralph Kiner (1975).

While Henderson's election was a foregone conclusion, Rice was a question mark. He clearly had the best chance of going in with the all-time leader in steals (1,406) and runs scored (2,295). Rice missed the cut last year by merely 16 votes, when he earned 392 votes among the 543 ballots cast for 72.2 percent.

Rice's percentage last year was the highest for any player not elected and no player who had reached the 70-percent plateau had failed to be elected the following year. The pattern continued to repeat itself. Rice is the 21st player to fulfill that prophecy.

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2009 Results

Player/ Total Votes/ Percentage

Rickey Henderson-511-94.8%

Jim Rice-412-76.4%

Andre Dawson-361-67.0%

Bert Blyleven- 338-62.7%

Lee Smith- 240-44.5%

Jack Morris- 237-44.0%

Tommy John-171-31.7%

Tim Raines-122-22.6%

Mark McGwire-118-21.9%

Alan Trammell-94-17.4%

Dave Parker-81-15.0%

Don Mattingly-64-11.9%

Dale Murphy-62-11.5%

Harold Baines-32-5.9%

Mark Grace-22-4.1%

David Cone-21-3.9%

Matt Williams-7-1.3%

Mo Vaughn-6-1.1%

Jay Bell-2-0.4%

Jesse Orosco-1-0.2%

Ron Gant-0-0%

Dan Plesac-0-0%

Greg Vaughn-0-0%

A .298 career hitter with 382 home runs, 2,452 hits and 1,451 RBIs in 16 seasons, all with the Red Sox, Rice had four seasons of more than 200 hits, led the American League in home runs three times, RBIs twice, once in hits, twice in slugging percentage, was the AL Most Valuable Player in 1978 and was an eight-time All-Star.

Other more distant possibilities for selection this year were Dawson, a former National League Rookie of the Year (1977) and MVP (1987), who was on the ballot for the eighth time, and Blyleven, fifth on the all-time list with 3,702 strikeouts, who was on the ballot for the 12th time. Neither made it again.

Dawson crept up from 65.9 percent last year to 67 percent (361 votes) and, like last year, Blyleven was right behind him with 62.7 percent of the vote (338), up from 61.9 percent in 2008.

Left-hander Tommy John, also on the ballot for the last time, received 31.7 percent of the votes (171) and has finished his 15-year tenure. Players may remain on the ballot for up to 15 years provided they receive at least 5 percent of the vote each year. John will now be eligible for the Veterans Committee voting on players whose careers began in 1943 or later when it gathers again in 2010.

Nine players didn't receive enough votes to return to the ballot next year: Mark Grace, David Cone, Matt Williams, Mo Vaughn, Jay Bell, Jesse Orosco, Ron Gant, Dan Plesac and Greg Vaughn. Gant, Plesac and Vaughn didn't receive any votes.

Henderson and Rice bring the number of players in the Hall to 202, 108 of them elected by eligible members of the BBWAA. They are the 20th and 21st left fielders. Red Sox great Carl Yastrzemski, once a teammate in Boston of Rice, was the last left-fielder elected to the Hall in 1989.

Former Yankees and Indians second baseman Joe Gordon was elected by a Veterans Committee this past December and will be inducted along with Henderson and Rice on July 26 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Tony Kubek won the Ford C. Frick Award for his contributions to baseball broadcasting and Nick Peters was the winner of the J.G. Spink Award given by the BBWAA for his career as a baseball writer. Both men will also accept their awards that day on the stage behind the Clark Sports Center.

Last year, Rich "Goose" Gossage was the only player elected by the BBWAA. He was inducted along with five people selected by two separate Veterans Committees: managers Dick Williams and Billy Southworth, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, and owners Walter O'Malley and Barney Dreyfuss.

Henderson was among 10 newcomers on the 23-man Hall of Fame ballot, the smallest in history, which was mailed to the writers in early December. Those ballots had to be returned with a postmark dated no later than Dec. 31.

Edited by Lil Bit Special
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