Last weekend, the largest class since 1955 was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame since 1955. This year’s Class includes three Cy Young Award-winning pitchers – Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz – and a member of 3,000 Hit Club, Craig Biggio. All four were clear winners of this year’s ballot.
The three Cy Young award-winning pitchers were on the ballot for the first time, while Biggio, who came up two votes short last year, made his third appearance on the ballot. The four former MLB stars were inducted on July 26.
This year’s Hall of Fame ballot by Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) featured 34 retired players, including 17 newcomers to the ballot and 17 holdovers from previous elections. The four-member class that will be inducted on Sunday is the largest since 1955 when Joe DiMaggio, Gabby Hartnett, Ted Lyons and Dazzy Vance were elected. This is also the first time that three pitchers were elected in the same class.
Players need to appear on 78 percent of BBWAA ballots in a single year to gain admittance into the Hall. Randy Johnson appeared on 97.3, Pedro Martinez on 91.1, John Smoltz on 82.9, and Craig Biggio on 82.7 percent of the ballots.
Let’s meet the members of the 2015 Class.
Randy Johnson (51) was born in Walnut Creek (CA). The left-handed pitcher debuted on September 15, 1988 for the Seattle Mariners, just five days after his 25th birthday.
With the height of 6 feet and 10 inches “The Big Unit”, as people used to call him, is one of the tallest players in MLB history. During his career Johnson played for the Seattle Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants and Montreal Expos and retired in 2009.
During his amazing career Johnson collected 303 wins, while pitching to a 3.29 ERA. Big Unit also recorded 4,875 strikeouts, which is the second highest total in MLB history, trailing only Nolan Ryan’s total of 5,714. He won the Cy Young award five times, and is one of only two pitchers who won it in four consecutive years (1999-2002). The 10-times All-Star became the oldest pitcher in MLB history to throw a perfect game in 2004, breaking a hundred-years-old record.
Johnson also made baseball history because of an unusual event. In an accident on March 24, 2001, during a spring training game against San Francisco Giants, Johnson’s fastball to Calvin Murray struck and killed a dove that flew across the infield just as he threw the ball.
National Baseball Hall of Fame begins the portrait on Pedro Martinez with the following words:
“At every stop in his baseball journey, Pedro Martinez was told he lacked the size to be a dominant starting pitcher. And at every stop, the modest-looking right-hander – with huge hands and a heart to match – dominated opposing hitters like few ever have.”
This is the first year he made the MLB HOF ballots and already he appeared on 91.1 percent of the ballots. The 43-year-old former pitcher from the Dominican Republic signed with Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988, following his brother Ramon, who had signed with the team four years earlier. By 2009, Martinez played for five MLB teams, namely Los Angeles Dodgers, Montreal Expos, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies.
Martinez’s 97-mph fastball, his devastating change-up and pinpoint control made him an eight-time All-Star, a winner of three Cy Young awards and a two-time runner-up. During his peak years from 1997 to 2003 Martinez established himself as one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball history.
This is confirmed by modern sabermetric analysis. Martinez’ WHIP is the lowest of any live-ball era starting pitcher, his adjusted ERA+ is the best of any starting pitcher in major league history, and he has the third highest strikeout-to-walk ratio in modern history.
In 1999 he won the pitching Triple Crown and was a runner-up for the American League Most Valuable Player Award. In 2004 he won the World Series with the Red Sox, breaking the 86-years-old “Curse of the Bambino”
A 48-year-old Detroit native was born into a baseball family. All men of the family – his him, his father and his grandfather – were huge Detroit Tigers fans. During his MLB career of 21 years he played for three teams – the Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals.
A Cy Young award winner and an 8-times All-Star was invaluable for his teams because of his three significant pitches – an impressive fastball, a slider that veered away from right-handed batters, and a splitter that darted under the swings of left-handed batters. He was also the winner of the 1997 NL Silver Slugger Award.
Struggling with elbow problems since 1994, Smoltz missed the entire 2000 season, and was converted into a relief pitcher, where he also dominated. During his career Smoltz was honored with the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award (2005), the Roberto Clemente Award (2005) and the Branch Rickey Award (2007).
Smoltz ended his career in 2009, and the Braves retired his number 29 in 2012. Today he is still closely connected to the sport as an active sports commentator.
A 49-year-old former second baseman and catcher from New York played for the Houston Astros his entire career from 1988 to 2007. A seven-time All-Star is the only player ever to be named an All-Star at both catcher and second base.
Biggio, who batted .300 four times and scored 100 runs eight times, holds Astros franchise records for most career games, at bats, hits, runs scored, doubles, total bases (4,711) and extra base hits (1,014), and ranks second in runs batted in (1,175), walks (1,160) and stolen bases (414). He also holds the NL record for most times leading off a game with a home run (53), and is one of only five players with 250 home runs and 400 steals. He is the only player in baseball history with at least 3,000 hits, 600 doubles, 400 stolen bases and 250 home runs.
He is a four-time Golden Glove Award-winner and was the ninth player in the 3,000 hit club to collect all his hits with one team. He also won five Silver Slugger Awards. One of the most admired players of his generation, Biggio received the 2005 Hutch Award for perseverence through adversity and the 2007 Roberto Clemente Award for sportsmanship and community service.
Biggio retired in 2007 and the Astros retired his number 7 in his honor in 2008.
Whether you remember these four players by their top game, by their dedication or by their positive energy and charisma, one thing is certain – they have forever written the baseball history and they will join baseball’s greatest legends this weekend. You might as well start calling them The Immortals.
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