HOF class sets record for living inductees
The record for most living Hall of Fame electees in any five-year span was shattered on Wednesday night at 23, now that Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman have been added to the Class of 2018 along with Modern Baseball Era electees Jack Morris and Alan Trammell.
That breaks the previous record of 20 established in 1969-73. The Baseball Writers' Association of America also has now tied the four-year record of its electees at 13, and the net effect is that a half-dozen more speeches are coming to Cooperstown on July 29 as fans see living legends.
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The good times are expected to keep rolling for Hall hopefuls in 2019, with Mariano Rivera a lock for first-ballot election, Edgar Martinez expected to join him in his last year of BBWAA eligibility and Mike Mussina among those knocking on the door. Next year is also the Today's Game Committee vote, with candidates from 1988-present.
"Hall of Fame Induction Weekend is when fans can come out to salute their heroes with the ultimate honor of being elected," said National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum president Jeff Idelson, who read the names of the electees Wednesday on MLB Network. "Earning election is difficult, even in this era of many living electees. Only one percent of those to wear a Major League uniform end up with a plaque in Cooperstown.
"Cooperstown is about the history of the game, but those who create the history help bring the museum to life. Having a number of living electees, all of whom are deserving, certainly helps to embrace a wider fan base."
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This is the fourth time in the last five years that as many as three former players were voted in by baseball writers, and again next year's class could mean it's five out of six. Before 2014, you had to go back to 1999 to find the last time a trio was elected by writers: Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount.
Here's another way to look at the stark contrast between these past five years and the five years before them: From 2009-13, there were 14 Hall inductees. Only six of those were elected by the BBWAA, half as many as from 2014-17. And of those 14 inductees, only three elected by the Veterans Committee were living at the time: executive Pat Gillick, manager Whitey Herzog and umpire Doug Harvey (who passed away on Jan. 13).
It is important to note that this five-year record would be for "living" electees, because in 2006, the Hall inducted 17 former Negro Leaguers, plus Bruce Sutter.
Here is a look at the five-year plaque rush:
2018: Jones, Guerrero, Thome and Hoffman (BBWAA); Morris and Trammell
2017: Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez (BBWAA); John Schuerholz and Bud Selig
2016: Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza (BBWAA)
2015: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio (BBWAA)
2014: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas (BBWAA); Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre
Three of those 2014 inductees represented the powerhouse Braves era, and that representation is still going strong. Now that Jones is also in, that's six Braves among 23 living electees over a five-year span -- a stunning 26 percent. Never mind that Maddux chose to go without a team logo on his plaque because of his success with the Cubs, Dodgers and Padres.
"When you look back at the 1990s and early 2000s, the Braves were winning their division virtually every year," Idelson said. "Although it resulted in only one championship, their prolonged excellence over a decade-plus, it's emblematic that the guys who have earned elections have represented great teams, from their general manager to their manager to their 1-2-3 pitchers to ... Jones as the second No. 1 Draft pick ever."