After a 10-year wait, Larry Walker was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers' Association of America in 2020, becoming just the seventh player ever to make the Hall in his final year on the ballot. In the process, Walker avoided joining another group of players who
After a 10-year wait, Larry Walker was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers' Association of America in 2020, becoming just the seventh player ever to make the Hall in his final year on the ballot. In the process, Walker avoided joining another group of players who missed gaining entry into Cooperstown by the slimmest of margins in their final year of eligibility.
In the history of BBWAA Hall of Fame voting, only five players have received at least 60% on their final ballot without being elected. Learn more about these near-misses below and find out how many were eventually enshrined in the Hall.
Note: Starting with the 2015 BBWAA Hall of Fame election, players have been granted a maximum of 10 years on the ballot, down from 15 previously.
Nellie Fox, 2B (74.7% in 1985)
How he got there: Fox collected 2,663 hits in his 19-year career, won the 1959 American League MVP Award and made the All-Star team in 11 straight seasons from '51-61, but he received just 10.8% of the vote when he first appeared on the ballot in '71. After making incremental gains early on, he jumped to 44.8% in 1976, up from 21% in '75. Fox actually dropped a bit after that, tumbling all the way to 30.6% in 1982, but he began to gain steam again in '83 (46.3%) and '84 (61%). Then, with 297 votes needed for election in '85, Fox collected 295 and fell off the ballot.
What happened next: More than a decade after his final year of BBWAA eligibility, Fox was selected for Hall of Fame enshrinement by the Veterans Committee in 1997.
Orlando Cepeda, 1B/OF (73.5% in 1994)
How he got there: Cepeda was a perennial All-Star over his first seven seasons (222 homers, 141 OPS+), but he was unable to maintain that level of production, save for a National League MVP Award-winning campaign in 1967 and a 34-homer effort in '70. The slugger played his final game at age 37 and received 12.5% of the vote in his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility (1980). Cepeda cracked the 20% barrier for the first time in 1984 (30.8%), but it would be eight more years before he crossed the 50% mark (57.2% in '92). His final try came in 1994, when he finished seven votes shy of the necessary total.
What happened next: The Veterans Committee elected Cepeda to the Hall of Fame in 1999, making him the second player of Puerto Rican descent to be enshrined after Roberto Clemente.
Jim Bunning, RHP (63.7% in 1991)
How he got there: Despite a relatively low win total (224), a lack of regular-season accolades (no Cy Young Awards) and zero postseason appearances, Bunning received solid support on his first ballot (38.1% in 1977), and he appeared to be on track for enshrinement when he came within four votes in '88. However, Bunning's momentum was stalled by the additions of Johnny Bench, Carl Yastrzemski, Gaylord Perry and Fergie Jenkins to the ballot in 1989, Jim Palmer and Joe Morgan in '90, and Rod Carew and Rollie Fingers in '91.
What happened next: Bunning -- who threw two no-hitters (including a perfect game), made the All-Star team in seven seasons and recorded 2,855 strikeouts -- was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1996. At the time of his induction into Cooperstown, he was serving as a member of the United States House of Representatives, and he later went on to become a U.S. Senator.
Gil Hodges, 1B (63.4% in 1983)
How he got there: Hodges helped the Dodgers win two World Series titles -- one in Brooklyn and one in Los Angeles -- and hit more home runs (310) than all but one player (teammate Duke Snider) during the 1950s. However, his production was largely confined to that decade, even though he played for 18 seasons. As a result, Hodges accrued only 24.1% of the vote when he debuted on the ballot in 1969, the same year he would lead the Mets to a World Series title as their manager. Although he broke the 60% barrier in his eighth year of eligibility, Hodges hovered around that number until Year 14, when he dropped to 49.4%. He jumped back up over 60% in his final year, but it wasn't enough to earn a place in Cooperstown.
What happened next: Hall of Fame enshrinement continues to elude Hodges, but he will have another chance to make it when the Golden Era committee meets later this year.
Jack Morris, RHP (61.5% in 2014)
How he got there: Morris' Hall of Fame candidacy sparked a fervent debate for 15 years, with supporters pointing to his postseason heroics, MLB-record 14 straight Opening Day starts and durability, and critics bringing up his middling 3.90 ERA (105 ERA+) and lack of milestones such as 300 wins and 3,000 strikeouts. Morris first appeared on the ballot in 2000, garnering 22.2% of the vote. He crossed the 30% mark in his sixth year and made another leap to 41.2% in Year 7. Morris' next big jump came in Year 11, when he received 52.3% of the vote, and he got as high as 67.7% in Year 14. Morris might have come closer in his final try, but three first-ballot inductees -- Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas -- cut into his total in 2014.
What happened next: The Modern Era Committee selected Morris for induction in 2018.
Thomas Harrigan is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @HarriganMLB.