Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas walked through the steroid mess of this year’s Hall of Fame debate unscathed.
The three players sailed into Cooperstown on their first time on the ballot — marking just the second time since the initial Hall of Fame class in 1936 that three players were elected on the first ballot.
Maddux, a four-time Cy Young winner, was named on 97.2 percent of the 571 ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He came up short of the record of 98.8 percent set by Tom Seaver in 1992.
Glavine, who won two Cy Youngs and 305 games, was named on 91.9 percent of the ballots. Thomas, a two-time MVP, made it onto 83.7 percent of the ballots.
The last time the writers elected three players on the first ballot was 1999, when George Brett, Nolan Ryan and Robin Yount were elected.
Having played through an era in which many of his peers were tainted by connection — rumored or proved — to performance enhancing drugs, Thomas took satisfaction in the way he played the game.
“I did it the right way,” he said. “That was the positive from my family teaching me the right way.”
Meanwhile, other players are still on the outside looking in. Former Dodgers catcher Mike Piazza (62.2 percent), Jeff Bagwell (54.3), Roger Clemens (35.4), Barry Bonds (34.7), Mark McGwire (11.0), Sammy Sosa (7.2) and Rafael Palmeiro (4.4) had their totals affected, to varying degrees, by steroid questions. By failing to reach 5 percent, Palmeiro, who had more than 3,000 hits and 500 homers, will no longer be included on the BBWAA ballot.
In Thomas’ opinion, there is nothing wrong with excluding players who used steroids.
“No, they shouldn’t get in,” he said. “There shouldn’t be cheating allowed to get in the Hall of Fame.”
As for Maddux and Glavine, they will be inducted July 28 along with Bobby Cox, who was their longtime manager with the Atlanta Braves. John Smoltz, who joined them in the rotation, is expected to be inducted when he’s eligible next year.
“It’s almost a fairy tale image,” Maddux said. “The only thing that screwed it up is (John Smoltz) decided to play another year.”
Managers Tony La Russa and Joe Torre will also be inducted this summer.
Craig Biggio came just two votes short of the 75 percent required for induction. Biggio, who was on the ballot for a second time, got 74.8 percent of the votes. He was the third player to miss induction by a margin that small. Nellie Fox came up two votes short in 1985 and Pie Traynor missed by two votes in 1947. Traynor was elected the following year and Fox, whose eligibility on the writers’ ballot expired, was elected by Veterans Committee.
Jack Morris, who was in his 15th and final year on the BBWAA ballot, got 61.5 percent of the vote. If he is to be enshrined in Cooperstown, it will be up to the Veterans Committee, which will first be able to consider him in the fall of 2016.