Rickey Henderson, Jim Rice Enter Hall of Fame

Gold-standard leadoff hitter elected on first try

Hall of Fame voting is a fickle thing. Nine times out of ten, there are arguments to be made for or against almost anybody. Rarely is a consensus reached. And when it is, it's usually deserved.

So it is with Rickey Henderson. Today, Henderson was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, placing him alongside 2007's two nearly unanimous selections, Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn. Henderson received 94.8 percent of the vote, and for good reason: His numbers (career .279/.401 hitter, with over 3,000 hits and, oh yeah, the most steals in baseball history) are beyond reproach. Now there's one more stat Rickey can add to his resume: He's only the 44th player baseball history to be inducted to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. As Rickey would say: Rickey deserved to be in the Hall of Fame, and Rickey got in.

Rickey is joined by Jim Rice, the former career Boston Red Sox slugger, who has tried and failed to get in the Hall of Fame 15 times before, often because he doesn't meet a few arbitrary thresholds for Hall voting, like 3,000 hits. But Rice's career was a splendid one -- a quick glance down his lifetime batting splits is enough to see that -- and after missing the cut by 16 votes last year, and having only this year left to make the cut, Rice has finally sneaked his way into sportswriter-decided baseball immortality. Which is almost as good as actual immortality.

As for the rest of the field, pitcher Burt Blyleven's annual trek for the Hall was defied once again, as was Chicago favorite Andre Dawson's, who finished third in the voting with 67 percent. (The threshold for induction is 75 percent.)

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