SAN DIEGO — Baseball’s 16-member contemporary committee voted unanimously to send first baseman Fred McGriff to the Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday Night in a vote.
Meanwhile, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who appeared before the committee for the first time since abstaining from the scriptwriting vote last year — replacing the Veterans Committee — received less than four votes each .
Considered players need at least 12 votes (75%) to be elected, and committee members are limited to three votes per ballot.
For McGriff, who spent up to 10 years on the screenwriting ballot and didn’t get the 75 percent needed for election, the celebration has been a long time coming. Known as the Crime Dog, named after the cartoon crime prevention mascot McGruff, McGriff played for six teams in 19 seasons, five of which hit at least 30 home runs in a season.
“What an honor. It was a beautiful night in Tampa and I finally made it, I got in there,” McGriff said in a videoconference shortly after Sunday night’s announcement. “I’ve been very lucky in my life, and I continue to be blessed. It’s a great honor to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. I want to thank the committee. I know it’s hard to decide who to vote for.”
But when McGriff first appeared on the Eras ballot, voters had no trouble checking the box next to his name.
Not only is he the first player in history to hit 30 or more home runs for five different clubs, but he’s also the first player since the dead ball era to become the single-season home run leader in every league . He led Toronto to the American League Championship with 36 points in 1989 and led the National League in 1992 with 35 points for San Diego.
But by the end of the 1990s, those mid-30s totals would be eclipsed by cartoon-twisted numbers produced by some sluggers while the PED ran unchecked. Just six seasons after McGriff’s 35 home runs led the NL, Mark McGwire broke 70 home runs, setting a new single-season record in Major League Baseball. McGwire led the NL with 65 points in 1999, and Bonds set the current single-season record with 73 in 2001.
By the time McGriff retired in 2004, with 493 career homers, the power dynamic was inextricably changing.
“Over the years, it’s been about consistency,” McGriff said when asked Sunday night about being overshadowed by players suspected of using steroids, gently skirting the subject. “I put a lot into this game. I tried to get to this point, maybe just play one game in the big leagues. I exceeded everybody’s expectations.”
He continued: “You control what you can control, and if you can’t control it, you let it be. Over the years, you’ve had people come and ask you about it.”
McGriff, who also had 1,550 RBI as a left-handed hitter while playing for Toronto, San Diego, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers, was a five-time All-Star and helped Atlanta become the 1995 World Series Champion. He finished in the top 10 in MVP voting five times.
Yet in the decade that writers voted for, he received little attention. He got 39.8% of the vote in 2019, his last year eligible. Before that, he had never been above 23.9 percent.
Sometimes he gets frustrated, he said, because “if I hit 500 home runs, I’m a great player, and if I hit 493, I’m a good player.”
Bonds, who finished with a record 762 career home runs and seven NL Most Valuable Player Awards, stayed on the sidelines to watch. After getting 66% of the vote in his last appearance last year, he withdrew from the writers’ vote and received a lower vote in his first appearance before the Eras committee on Sunday.
After McGriff, Don Mattingly had eight votes, Curt Schilling seven and Dale Murphy six. Albert Belle, Bonds, Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro each received fewer than four votes, without specifying the total for any of the four.
Bonds and Clemens, an ace right-hander with 354 wins, seven Cy Young Awards and an MVP award, must now wait three years for the Eras committee to return to their period again in 2026. And, in theory, they risk being excluded from future ballots as their underperformance is shown in this year’s ballot.
McGriff, whose career has matched Bonds’ schedule and is often asked about being statistically behind by players involved in cheating, was asked on Sunday whether he thought Bonds belonged in the Hall.
“Honestly, right now, I just want to enjoy tonight and we can talk about it,” McGriffe said. “I didn’t think about it too much.”
Asked whether he thought Bonds would be elected, McGriff took the diplomatic route, saying: “It’s up to the voters. Like myself, it’s up to the voters.”
Originally, there were seven Hall of Famers on the committee, but Chipper Jones was eliminated at the last minute with the coronavirus and replaced by Diamondbacks executive Derek Hall. Committee members included Greg Maddux, Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell, and seven executives (Paul Beeston, Theo Epstein, Hall, Arte Moreno, Kim Ng, Dave St. Peter and Ken Williams), Two members of the media (LaVelle E. Neal III and Susan Slusser) and a historian (Steve Hirdt).
“It was great to hear that I was voted unanimously,” McGriff said. “I’ve met a lot of former players and teammates over the years and they’ve all said, ‘Ah, Fred, you’ve had a great career, you need to be in the Hall of Fame,’ et cetera,” McGriff said. “This is just one of them. It’s a great honor.”
McGriff says he’s never been to Cooperstown, NY
“Not yet,” he said. “Now I can make some plans to go there.”
McGriff will be installed in a ceremony on July 23. He will be joined by anyone elected in the writers’ ballot, which will be announced on January 12. twenty four.