SAN DIEGO — Moments after Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, nearly two decades after his last game, he got the question.
When asked if Barry Bonds belonged in Cooperstown, a smiling McGriff replied, “Honestly, right now, I’m just going to enjoy this evening.”
A Hall of Fame panel delivered its response on Sunday, overriding Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling while handing McGriff the highest honor of his impressive big league career.
The lanky first baseman, nicknamed the “Crime Dog,” hit .284 with 493 home runs and 1,550 RBIs in 19 seasons with six major league teams. The five-time All-Star helped Atlanta win the 1995 World Series.
McGriff received 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot in 2019. Now he will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the writers’ vote , announced on January 24. .
“It’s perfect. The wait was worth it,” said McGriff, who played his last major league game in 2004.
It was the first time Bonds, Clemens and Schilling faced a Hall committee since their 10th and final appearance on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Bonds and Clemens were accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and support for Schilling plummeted after he made hateful remarks towards Muslims, transgender people, journalists and others.
While the 59-year-old McGriff received unanimous support from the 16-member Contemporary Baseball Era Committee — made up of Hall members, executives and writers — Schilling got seven votes, and Bonds and Clemens each received less than four.
The composition of the committee will likely change over the years, but the vote was another indication that Bonds and Clemens may never make it to the Hall.
This year’s Contemporary Era panel included Greg Maddux, who played with McGriff on the Braves, as well as Paul Beeston, who was an executive in Toronto when McGriff made his major league debut with the Blue Jays in 1986.
Another ex-Brave, Chipper Jones, was scheduled to serve on the committee, but tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Arizona Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall.
The contemporary era committee considers candidates whose career was primarily from 1980 onwards. A player needs 75% to be elected.
“It’s hard to decide who to vote for and who not to vote for, etc.,” McGriff said. “So it’s a great honor to be elected unanimously.”
Along with all of his great hits and memorable plays, one of McGriff’s lasting legacies is his connection to a baseball skills video from youth coach Tom Emanski. The slugger appeared in an advertisement for the product that aired regularly in the late 1990s and early 2000s – wearing a blue Baseball World shirt and hat.
McGriff said he had never seen the video.
“Come on Cooperstown, gotta wear my blue hat,” McGriff said with a smile. “My Tom Emanski hat in Cooperstown. See this video will make a revival now, it will come back.
Hall of Famers Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also served on this year’s committee, which met in San Diego during Baseball’s Winter Meetings.
Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Belle, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy rounded out the eight-man ballot. Mattingly was the next closest to the election, with eight votes out of 12 required. Murphy had six.
Bonds, Clemens and Schilling failed in January in their last chances with the BBWAA. Bonds received 260 votes out of 394 (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).
Palmeiro was kicked out of the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay. Its peak was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.
Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs, and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program.
Seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. Seven-time Cy Young Award winner Clemens went 354-184 with an ERA of 3.12 and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan. Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 home runs.
Schilling lost 16 votes with 285 (71.1%) in the 2021 BBWAA ballot. The right-hander went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA in 20 seasons, winning the World Series with Arizona in 2001 and Boston in 2004 and 2007.
Theo Epstein, who also served on the Contemporary Era committee, was Boston’s general manager when the Red Sox acquired Schilling in a trade from the Diamondbacks in November 2003.
Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.
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