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Doors of Hall of Fame Open to Rice

01.12.09 at 12:05 pm ET
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Jim Rice was elected to the Hall of Fame, receiving 76.4 percent of votes’€”seven more than the required minimum for election’€”from the Baseball Writers Association of America in his 15th and final year of eligibility for Cooperstown. He becomes the third player ever elected in his final year of BBWAA eligibility.

Rice was a career .298 hitter with a .352 OBP and .502 slugging mark. He hit 382 career homers.

He won the 1978 American League MVP award, when he hit .315 with 46 homers, 139 RBIs, a .970 OPS (a mark that was a whopping 57 percent better than league average) and had 406 total bases. Rice would finish in the top five in MVP voting five additional times, and he was named an All-Star in eight seasons.

Rice enjoyed a period of dominance from 1975-1986 that enjoyed few peers at the time, particularly in the categories that were then used to judge offensive prowess. During that 12-year span, he was among the major-league leaders in RBIs (1276, 1st), hits (2145, 1st), homers (350, 3rd), average (.304, 5th) and slugging percentage (.520, 2nd). He led the American League in homers three times, hit .300 or better in seven seasons and is the only player in big-league history to have three straight seasons of 35 or more homers and 200 or more hits.

But his career quickly faded, as Rice hit just .263 with a .726 OPS and 31 homers over the next three years. In falling just short of a .300 career average and 400 homers, while also having a somewhat pedestrian on-base percentage of .352, his candidacy was anything but clear cut.

When first eligible for the Hall in 1995, he received just under 30 percent of the vote. His candidacy showed little signs of progress until 2000, when he went from 29.4 to 51.5 percent in a single year. From that point, he edged up incrementally until receiving the required votes in the results announced today, the last year of eligibility via BBWAA balloting. (He would have received subsequent consideration from the Veteran’s Committee, although that group has yet to elect a single player whose career took place post-WWII.)

Rice’s candidacy gained momentum in recent years, due in part to a reconsideration of his offensive accomplishments as the numbers achieved during the period following his dominance became tainted by the documented prevalence of steroid and performance enhancing drug usage. Last year, he came tantalizingly close to induction, receiving 72.2 percent of votes from the BBWAA, just short of the 75 percent requirement for election.

Rice will enter the Hall of Fame with fellow Class of 2009 inductee Rickey Henderson. The greatest leadoff hitter in major-league history, who owns MLB records for steals (1406) and runs (2295) and is second all-time in walks (2190) was named on 94.8 percent of ballots.

Henderson and Rice are the first left fielders to be elected to the Hall of Fame since Cooperstown opened its doors to Carl Yastrzemski in 1989. No other position had been neglected for so long by Hall voters.

Former Red Sox first baseman Mo Vaughn, in his first year of eligibility, received just six (1.1 percent) of the votes, and will not be eligible for BBWAA election again. Complete results are below.

Rickey Henderson 511 (94.8%)
Jim Rice 412 (76.4%)
——-
Andre Dawson 361 (67.0%)
Bert Blyleven 338 (62.7%)
Lee Smith 240 (44.5%)
Jack Morris 237 (44.0%)
Tommy John 171 (31.7%)
Tim Raines 122 (22.6%)
Mark McGwire 118 (21.9%)
Alan Trammell 94 (17.4%)
Dave Parker 81 (15.0%)
Don Mattingly 64 (11.9%)
Dale Murphy 62 (11.5%)
Harold Baines 32 (5.9%)
Mark Grace 22 (4.1%)
David Cone 21 (3.9%)
Matt Williams 7 (1.3%)
Mo Vaughn 6 (1.1%)
Jay Bell 2 (0.4%)
Jesse Orosco 1 (0.2%)
Ron Gant 0
Dan Plesac 0
Greg Vaughn 0

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