Former Cardinals closer Lee Smith elected to baseball Hall of Fame
LAS VEGAS — Longtime closer Lee Smith and smooth-swinging Harold Baines were elected to the baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday.
“Very shocked,” Baines said on a conference call.
Former outfielder and manager Lou Piniella fell one vote short.
Results of the 16-member Today’s Game Era Committee were announced at the winter meetings. It took 12 votes for election — Smith was unanimous, Baines got 12 and Piniella had 11.
Smith and Baines both debuted in Chicago during the 1980 season. Smith began with the Cubs and went on to post a then-record 478 saves while Baines started out with the White Sox and had 2,866 hits.
George Steinbrenner, Orel Hershiser, Albert Belle, Joe Carter, Will Clark, Davey Johnson and Charlie Manuel all received fewer than five votes.
Baines was a .289 hitter with 384 home runs in a 22-year career. He never drew more than 6.1 percent in five elections by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, far from the 75 percent required.
“I wasn’t expecting this day to come,” the six-time All-Star said.
The Hall board-appointed panel included longtime White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, and Baines said he was grateful for his support. Hall members Greg Maddux, Roberto Alomar, Joe Morgan, Bert Blyleven, Pat Gillick, Tony La Russa, John Schuerholz, Ozzie Smith and Joe Torre also were on the panel.
Smith’s fastball helped him become a seven-time All-Star in an 18-year-old career. He owned the major league record for saves when he retired during the 1997 season while with Montreal, and Trevor Hoffman and then Mariano Rivera reset the mark.
Smith, who never reached 51 percent in 15 BBWAA elections, became the seventh pitcher who mostly was a reliever to make the Hall. Baines was a designated hitter for much of his career, and DHs have struggled to gain backing from Hall voters.
Both closers and DHs could see the numbers increase again very shortly.
Rivera is eligible for the first time and big-hitting DH Edgar Martinez will be back on the ballot when results of the next BBWAA election are announced Jan. 22.
Induction ceremonies are scheduled for July 21 at Cooperstown, New York.