Sheffield's final percentage among highest of those not elected

January 24th, 2024

Gary Sheffield must have had some optimism that 2024 would be the year he is finally elected to the Hall of Fame. His support from the Baseball Writers' Association of America entering his 10th and final year on the ballot had grown exponentially over the previous few voting cycles. From 2019 to 2023, Sheffield's voting percentages went from 13.6% to 55%. That left him 20 percentage points shy of the threshold for induction.

However, Sheffield didn't get the big push he needed in 2024 as he ended up with 63.9% of the vote. In the history of BBWAA Hall of Fame voting, Sheffield is only the eighth player to receive at least 60% in his final year 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 campn 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.

Barry Bonds, LF (66.0% in 2022)

How he got there: No player has hit more home runs in the history of Major League Baseball than Bonds, who wrapped up his 22-year career with an MLB-record 762 homers. There was certainly no shortage of accolades for the 14-time All-Star, as Bonds won seven MVP Awards -- four more than any other player in big league history. He also took home 12 Silver Slugger Awards, eight Gold Gloves and two batting titles. Of course, Bonds’ connection to PED usage ultimately kept him from getting to the 75% threshold.

What happened next: Though Bonds fell off the ballot after coming up short in 2022, he still has a chance to one day call Cooperstown home. The Hall’s Eras Committees -- formerly known as the Veterans Committee -- could still consider him for the Hall of Fame in future years.

Roger Clemens, RHP (65.2% in 2022)

How he got there: Similar to Bonds, no player -- in the Hall of Fame or otherwise -- received his position’s highest honor more times than Clemens. “The Rocket” was a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, two more than any other pitcher in MLB history. He won three with the Red Sox, two with the Blue Jays and one apiece with the Yankees and Astros. The first of those seven Cy Young Awards came alongside also winning the AL MVP Award in 1986, while the 11-time All-Star also earned a pair of pitching Triple Crowns, seven ERA titles and two World Series rings. Also like Bonds, it’s Clemens’ ties to PEDs that kept him from gaining enough traction with the BBWAA.

What happened next: Clemens’ name no longer appears on the Hall of Fame ballot, but he can still receive future consideration for the Hall of Fame through the Hall’s Eras Committees.

Gary Sheffield, RF (63.9% in 2024)

How he got there: Sheffield's numbers alone should have been enough to get him into Cooperstown on the BBWAA ballot. One of the most intimidating sluggers of his time, Sheffield racked up 509 homers and a 140 OPS+ across 22 MLB seasons. He captured five Silver Slugger Awards and nine All-Star selections. However, his Hall of Fame support sat below 15% through his first five voting cycles. A main reason for the relative neglect was Sheffield's connection to performance-enhancing drugs. He was named in the 2007 Mitchell Report, which was the culmination of an investigation into PED use in baseball. Sheffield received more robust vote totals during his final five years on the ballot, but it was too little, too late.

What happened next: Like Bonds and Clemens, Sheffield's next chance at attaining baseball immortality will come via the Hall’s Eras Committees.

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: The Hall of Fame’s Golden Days Era panel voted to elect Hodges into the Hall in December 2021, ending a wait of more than 52 years since he first appeared on a ballot. Hodges was inducted on July 24, 2022 in Cooperstown.

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.