Sandberg, Sutter fall short of Hall

Updated: August 18, 2004, 11:37 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Near the end of their careers, Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley were linked by a bunt. This summer, they'll be connected by an induction.

The two tough competitors were elected to baseball's Hall of Fame on Tuesday in their first year of eligibility, the only players to gain election. And they thought back to that night at the Metrodome in August 1998, when Molitor bunted in the ninth inning to drive in the winning run in a game that was meaningless for the Minnesota Twins.

Hall of Fame Voting
The complete vote (506 ballots, 380 votes needed to gain election, 26 to remain on the ballot):
Player, Votes, Pct.
Paul Molitor, 431, 85.2%
Dennis Eckersley, 421, 83.2%
Ryne Sandberg, 309, 61.1%
Bruce Sutter, 301, 59.5%
Jim Rice, 276, 54.5%
Andre Dawson, 253, 50%
Rich Gossage, 206, 40.7%
Lee Smith, 185, 36.6%
Bert Blyleven, 179, 35.4%
Jack Morris, 133, 26.3%
Steve Garvey, 123, 24.3%
Tommy John, 111, 21.9%
Alan Trammell, 70, 13.8%
Don Mattingly, 65, 12.8%
Dave Concepcion, 57, 11.3%
Dave Parker, 53, 10.5%
Dale Murphy, 43, 8.5%
Keith Hernandez, 22, 4.3%
Joe Carter, 19, 3.8%
Fernando Valenzuela, 19, 3.8%
Dennis Martinez, 16, 3.2%
Dave Stieb, 7, 1.4%
Jim Eisenreich, 3, 0%
Jimmy Key, 3, 0%
Doug Drabek, 2, 0%
Kevin Mitchell, 2, 0%
Juan Samuel, 2, 0%
Cecil Fielder, 1, 0%
Randy Myers, 1, 0%
Terry Pendleton, 1, 0%
Danny Darwin, 0, 0%
Bob Tewksbury, 0, 0%

"I was 43 years old," Eckersley recalled with a laugh. "He dropped down a bunt and, guess what, it worked. He's a little weasel, that's what he is."

Molitor turned 42 that night, and his single gave the Twins a 4-3 win over Boston, which was vying for the AL wild card. Eckersley had a few choice words for Molitor that night. But the two always had great respect for each other.

"He had a way of being unpredictable," Molitor said. "He could throw any pitch at any time, which added to his effectiveness. Not to mention he could throw it to a teacup."

Molitor, a patient, proficient batter, is eighth on the career list with 3,319 hits, many in clutch situations. He was picked on 431 of 506 ballots (85.2 percent) cast by reporters who have been members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America for 10 or more years.

Eckersley, among baseball's most exuberant and colorful players, was selected on 421 ballots (83.2 percent).

To gain election, a player must be chosen by at least 75 percent of the voters (380).

Ryne Sandberg was third with 309 votes, 61.1 percent, up from 49.2 last year. He was followed by Bruce Sutter (301), Jim Rice (276), Andre Dawson (253), Rich Gossage (206), Lee Smith (185) and Bert Blyleven (179).

Pete Rose, ineligible because of his lifetime ban from baseball, got 15 write-in votes, down three from last year.

Molitor, Seattle's hitting coach, became the first player elected to the Hall who spent more games at designated hitter than at any other position. He was a DH for 1,174 games (44 percent), played 791 at third, 400 at second, 197 at first, 57 at shortstop and 50 in the outfield.

Rose write-in tally: Subtract by 3
Pete Rose, ineligible for baseball's Hall of Fame ballot because of his lifetime ban, received 15 write-in votes Tuesday -- three fewer than last year.

Rose, who admitted in his soon-to-be-released autobiography that he bet on Cincinnati while managing the Reds, must be reinstated by December 2005 to appear on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot.

In the 13 seasons he has been ineligible because of the ban, Rose has been written in on 230 of 6,171 ballots (3.7 percent).

Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley were elected to the Hall of Fame on Tuesday in their first year of eligibility. Molitor was picked on 431 of 506 ballots (85.2 percent) cast; Eckersley was selected on 421 ballots (83.2 percent).
-- Associated Press

Molitor was a seven-time All-Star who played from 1978-98 with Milwaukee, Toronto and Minnesota, and he was the World Series MVP with the Blue Jays in 1993. He was primarily a DH in his final six seasons.

"It certainly extended my career and allowed me to accomplish some things offensively that I might not have otherwise," he said.

Eckersley, 49, joins Hoyt Wilhelm and Rollie Fingers as the only pitchers who were primarily relievers elected to the Hall by the BBWAA. The six-time All-Star went 149-130 with a 3.71 in 361 starts, winning 20 games for Boston in 1978 and throwing a no-hitter for Cleveland against the Angels in 1977.

He was converted to a reliever when he moved from the Chicago Cubs to Oakland after the 1987 season, when he underwent treatment for alcoholism. He quickly became the game's dominant closer.

Eckersley is credited with coining the phrase "walkoff homer" -- and one of the worst nights of his career included one. He allowed Kirk Gibson's famous game-winner in the opener of the 1988 World Series, which propelled the Los Angeles Dodgers to the title in five games.

"I had the ultimate walk off in the World Series, a lot of pain in those walking offs," Eckersley said.

He was the American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner in 1992, when he was 7-1 with 51 saves and a 1.91 ERA.

Eckersley was a big reason Oakland won three AL pennants and one World Series from 1988-90. In 1989 and `90, he had seven walks and 128 strikeouts in 131 innings.

"I could do no wrong. It was like walking on water at one point," he said.

In all, Eckersley went 197-171 in 24 seasons with 390 saves, third behind Lee Smith (478) and John Franco (424).

Future elections eligibility
  • 2005: Wade Boggs, Tom Candiotti, Chili Davis, Jeff King, Mark Langston, Willie McGee, Jeff Montgomery, Terry Steinbach.
  • 2006: Albert Belle, Will Clark, Gary Gaetti, Orel Hershiser, Darryl Strawberry.
  • 2007: Bobby Bonilla, Eric Davis, Tony Gwynn, Stan Javier, Wally Joyner, Mark McGwire, Paul O'Neill, Cal Ripken Jr., Bret Saberhagen.
  • "There's no way I would have gotten into the Hall just strictly as a reliever," he said. "Being a starter had to have something to do with distancing me from some of the other relievers."

    Molitor, 47, will go in with a Brewers and Eckersley with an Athletics cap, Hall president Dale Petroskey said Wednesday.

    Rose, who admits in his soon-to-be-released autobiography that he bet on the Cincinnati Reds while managing them, must be reinstated by December 2005 to appear on the BBWAA ballot. In the 13 seasons he has been ineligible because of the ban, he has been written in on 230 of 6,171 ballots (3.7 percent).

    Fifteen players will be dropped from next year's ballot because they failed to draw at least 5 percent of the votes. That group includes first baseman Keith Hernandez (22 votes), who was on the ballot for nine years, and pitcher Fernando Valenzuela (19), who was on for two.

    Five-time AL batting champion Wade Boggs is eligible for the first time next year.

    Molitor and Eckersley will increase the Hall of Fame's members to 258. The BBWAA has elected 100 players, including 40 in their first year of eligibility. Induction ceremonies are July 25 in Cooperstown, the small village in upstate New York.

    Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press