Relief pitcher Lee Smith and outfielder/designated hitter Harold Baines and were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday by the entity’s Today’s Game Era Committee.
FILE PHOTO: Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Harold Baines is congratulated at the dugout after hitting a solo home run off Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Gil Heredia in the top of the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum, September 8, 1998. The home run was Baines’ ninth of the season.
Smith, a seven-time All-Star, was named on all 16 ballots. Baines, a six-time All-Star, was named on 12 of 16 ballots, meeting the 75 percent required for induction.
Former player and manager Lou Piniella (11 votes) fell one short of induction.
The others considered were Albert Belle, Joe Carter, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel and George Steinbrenner.
“Everything I hear or read is DH is really not part of the game, I guess,” Baines said. “But I disagree. But maybe this will open up the doors for some more DHs.”
Smith pitched in the majors from 1980-97 and his 478 career saves rank third all-time behind Mariano Rivera (652) and Trevor Hoffman (601). The right-hander spent his first eight seasons with the Chicago Cubs and also pitched for the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, California Angels, Cincinnati Reds and Montreal Expos.
“I think I waited long enough. But it’s sweeter,” Smith said on a conference call. “You look at those things, well, OK, who’s on the ballot this year? Who’s on the ballot next year? But I’d never, never, never give up hope. And then when they started with the second-chance ballot, I thought my chances got a little better. This probably today was probably the nervous I’ve been with this Hall of Fame voting thing.”
Smith saved 30 or more games on 10 occasions.
Baines accumulated 2,866 hits, 384 homers and 1,628 RBIs in a career (1980-2001) in which he served as designated hitter for 1,643 of 2,830 games played. He spent the first 9 1/2 seasons of his career with the Chicago White Sox (he later served two more stints with the club) and also played for the Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics, Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians.
Baines slugged 20 or more homers 11 times.
Smith and Baines will be inducted on July 21 in Cooperstown. The rest of the 2019 class will be announced on Jan. 22 after voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
—Field Level Media