A year after not inducting anybody into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Baseball Writers Association of America on Wednesday announced that they would be inducting three players into the Hall.
That group includes two guys with strong Chicago ties, as former Chicago Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux and former Chicago White Sox 1B/DH Frank Thomas were both elected into Cooperstown. Maddux received 97.2% of the vote, with 16 writers not casting ballots for him. Thomas received 83.7% of the vote, with 75% being the threshold for entry into the Hall.
Former Atlanta Braves hurler Tom Glavine (with 91.9% of the vote) will also be heading into the Hall this year, as all three players were elected in their first year of eligibility. Houston Astros great Craig Biggio missed out on induction by a mere two votes at 74.8%, and pitcher Jack Morris did not make it into the Hall in his final year of eligibility.
The Cubs posted a congratulatory message on their iconic marquee on Wednesday afternoon:
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) January 8, 2014
Maddux was about as surefire a candidate as the Hall is likely to get, having established all sorts of remarkable numbers in his 23 years in the big leagues. He racked up 355 career victories, including 133 in 10 seasons with the Cubs. He also won a staggering 18 Gold Glove awards, led the National League in Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched (WHIP) four times, pitched over 200 innings in 17 seasons, and most remarkably of all, won the Cy Young Award a record four times in a row.
Maddux had some great years with the Cubs, including the 1992 season in which he won 20 games and posted a sparkling 2.18 ERA en route to his first Cy Young Award. He pitched in a career high 268 innings that season, and struck out a career high 199 batters. He also made the All-Star team for the first time in his career, but the Cubs got into a spat with Maddux’s agent Scott Boras, and the rift ended up causing Maddux to sign with Atlanta.
Maddux’s best seasons were spent with the Braves organization, including his 1995 campaign that saw him go 19-2 with a paltry 1.63 ERA. That season, Maddux won the only World Series ring he would get in his career. In all, Maddux reached the playoffs with the Braves in every season that he was with the team, with the exception of the 1994 campaign, which ended in August of that year due to a player’s strike.
In 2004, Maddux returned to the North Side as the Cubs tried to follow up on their 2003 NLCS run, but despite Maddux’s 16-11 record that season, the Cubs weren’t able to make the playoffs, and the team ultimately traded him during the 2006 season to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Maddux’s induction didn’t come without its share of controversy, as he was not elected unanimously by baseball writers. Tradition has held for years that no player be inducted with a full 100% of the vote, and this year’s class is no exception. Maddux was left off of MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick, who refused to vote for anybody from the “steroid era” of baseball, and has indicated that following this year he will abstain from voting in future elections.
Maddux currently works in the Texas Rangers’ front office as a special assistant to the general manager.
As for Thomas, 15 of the 19 years that he was in Major League Baseball were spent with the White Sox, and what prosperous years they were. He won two MVP awards on the South Side, socking a combined 79 home runs and driving in 229 runs during those seasons. He also had a monstrous 2000 season for the Sox as they won the AL Central, finishing second in MVP balloting as he socked 43 home runs and drove in 143 RBI, both of which were career highs.
Injuries limited Thomas to only 34 games in the 2005 season, but he made the most of his limited time in the lineup, hitting 12 homers and driving in 26 runs as the White Sox won their first World Series title since 1917 that year.
Thomas did play for three more seasons after leaving the White Sox, spending time with the Blue Jays and Athletics before calling it a career. In his career, Thomas blasted 521 home runs and drove in 1704 runs, and he also hit .301 for his career while collecting 2468 base hits.
One of the big criticisms of Thomas among those discussing his Hall of Fame credentials was that he had spent a good chunk of his career as a designated hitter for the White Sox. Thomas is the first player to ever be inducted into the Hall with such a large number of at-bats coming from that position, but ultimately Hall voters couldn’t ignore the numbers he had put up early in his career while he was primarily manning first base for the White Sox.
Thomas continues to be a part of the baseball landscape in Chicago, doing work as a studio analyst for Comcast SportsNet Chicago. Here is how the White Sox honored his induction on Twitter:
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) January 8, 2014
The induction ceremony for Maddux and Thomas will be held on July 27th, 2014, and will take place at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. The event will be part of the 75th anniversary of the Hall.