Tim Kurkjian breaks down Mariano Rivera becoming the first player to receive 100% of the votes into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. (0:52)
Closer Mariano Rivera, designated hitter Edgar Martinez and starting pitchers Roy Halladay and Mike Mussina will be the newest members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rivera became the first player to be unanimously voted into the Hall, appearing on all 425 ballots
The four were voted into the hall by the Baseball Writers Association of America on Tuesday. Of the four, Halladay and Mussina were first-round picks, though only Mussina was touted for stardom from the start of his career.
Win or lose, the unanimous new Hall of Famer — and the greatest postseason performer of all time — never let you see him sweat. Behind the facade, he was on fire.
With a class highlighted by the first unanimous selection headed to the Hall, we break down who got the best news — and who got a reality check — from Tuesday’s announcement.
Before Rivera, the highest vote percentage belonged to Ken Griffey Jr. in 2016, when he received 99.3 percent (named on 437 of 440) ballots. Martinez, in his final year on the ballot, received 85.4 percent, culminating a late surge of support. He received just 27 percent four years ago, when his election felt like a futile possibility. Halladay, who died in 2017 when the plane he was piloting crashed into the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast, also received 85.4 percent of the vote, joining Rivera as a first-ballot inductee. Mussina received 76.7 percent of the vote, clearing the 75 percent threshold by seven votes.
“Amazing. … It was a beautiful, long career,” Rivera told MLB Network.
Curt Schilling received 60.9 percent of the votes while Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds continued to make small gains, up from 57.3 percent and 56.4 percent in 2018 to 59.5percent and 59.1 percent. They have three years remaining on the ballot. Fred McGriff made a big leap on his final year on the ballot, but fell short at 39.8 percent and now moves over to the veterans committee.
Rivera signed for $3,000, was left unprotected in the 1993 expansion draft, struggled in his initial big league trial as a starter and is now not only a Hall of Famer, but the first player the Baseball Writers Association has ever unanimously elected.
Receiving the necessary 75 percent of votes, four were announced as the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2019. Here are the results from the 425 ballots cast.
Martinez signed for $4,000, hit .173 in his first minor-league season, didn’t get the opportunity to become a full-time starter in the majors until he was 27, and is now a Hall of Famer.
The late Halladay was a first-round pick, but was once so lost in the majors that he had to go all the back down to Class A to rebuild himself as a pitcher. He’s now a Hall of Famer.
Mussina was an 11th-round pick out of Montoursville, Pennsylvania, in 1987, but went to Stanford University and then was a first-round pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 1990.
Rivera, Martinez and Halladay will join Lee Smith and Harold Baines in a unique Hall of Fame class: two closers, two designated hitters and a pitcher with 203 wins, the fewest for a starting pitcher since the Veterans Committee elected Addie Joss in 1978 with 160 wins. It’s also a much-beloved quartet:
• Rivera, the greatest closer of all time with a record 652 saves over his 19-year career, helped the Yankees win five World Series titles, becoming one of the most iconic players in the storied history of the franchise. His postseason performance was even more remarkable than his regular-season dominance, finishing 8-1 with a 0.70 ERA over 96 appearances and 141 innings. He recorded 42 postseason saves – 14 of two innings. That’s more two-inning saves than all other relievers combined in the postseason while Rivera was active.
• Martinez spent his entire career with the Mariners, staying in Seattle and becoming a franchise icon while other stars — Griffey, Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez — left. Martinez won two batting titles and hit .312 with 309 home runs over 18 seasons. He’s one of just six players who began their careers after World War II to retire with a .300 batting average, .400 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage.
• Halladay finished 203-105 in his career with a 3.38 ERA, playing 12 seasons with the Blue Jays and the final four with the Phillies. He won two Cy Young Awards, one with each franchise, finished second two other times, threw a perfect game and tossed a no-hitter for the Phillies in the 2010 Division Series against the Reds. He was also one of the last great workhorses. During his 2003 to 2011 peak, he threw 61 complete games — 30 more than the No. 2 guy (CC Sabathia).
• Mussina played 18 seasons, 10 with the Orioles and eight with the Yankees. He compiled a 270-153 record with a 3.68 ERA and 2,813 strikeouts. Mussina was a five-time All-Star and earned seven Gold Gloves. He never won a Cy Young Award, finishing second in 1999 behind Boston’s Pedro Martinez.
More than anything, however, these three players are testament to hard work and perseverance — and even a little good fortune. The Yankees left Rivera, then a Class A player who had suffered an elbow injury, exposed in the 1993 expansion draft. The Marlins were reportedly set to take him, but the Rockies selected Brad Ausmus, meaning the Yankees couldn’t lose any more players. The Yankees also nearly traded Rivera to the Mariners after Rivera posted a 5.51 ERA as a rookie in 1995. Instead, they moved him to the bullpen and one day in 1997, while playing catch with Ramiro Mendoza, his ball suddenly started moving. He had found his famous cutter.
“Mariano was a fierce competitor and a humble champion, which has made him such a beloved baseball legend,” said Yankees managing partner Hal Steinbrenner. “Success and stardom never changed Mariano, and his respect for the game, the pinstriples and for his teammates and opponents alike makes this day such a celebration of his legacy. There will be many more great and talented relief pitchers, but there will never be another like him.”
Martinez spent most of three seasons in Triple-A, hitting .344 over 276 games. The Mariners wouldn’t give him a full-time job. When Darnell Coles made a bunch of errors at third base early in 1990, Martinez finally got the chance to play. He hit .302 that season and never stopped, topping .300 10 times, in part because of his great eye at the plate as he routinely finished with more walks than strikeouts.
The Mariners tweeted a video of Martinez receiving the call that he’d been voted in.
Halladay came up to Toronto as a prized prospect and had a 3.92 ERA as a rookie in 1999. Everything fell apart in 2000, however, and he had one of the worst seasons in major league history: 4-7 with a 10.64 ERA over 67.2 innings. The next season, he started back in the Florida State League, the Blue Jays hoping Halladay could fix things enough just so they could trade him. They sent him to Double-A to work with pitching Mel Queen and the two rebuilt his mechanics — starting the first session by not even letting Halladay throw a baseball. He was back in the big leagues in July and won his first Cy Young Award in 2003.
In a statement, Brandy Halladay, Roy’s widow, said that making the Hall of Fame was never his goal.
“His goal was to be successful every single day of his 16-year career,” she said. “Tonight’s announcement is the end result of that effort.
“If only Roy were here to personally express his gratitude for this honor, what an even more amazing day this would be.”
Braden Halladay, Roy’s oldest son who has signed to pitch at Penn State, tweeted a tribute to his father.
The only other player elected on the first ballot posthumously was Christy Mathewson in 1936. Roberto Clemente was elected by a special election in 1973 after dying in a plane crash on Dec. 31, 1972.
“It’s well deserved,” former Phillies teammate Cole Hamels said on MLB Network. “Just to understand the character he really had and what he meant to baseball — he was by far the greatest pitcher for 10 years.”
Mussina got 20.3 percent in his first ballot in 2014 but has steadily gained support since. Armed with a nasty knuckle curveball, Mussina also got a push from the sabermetric community.
The head boys’ basketball coach at Montoursville High, Mussina had just finished practice when his phone rang with the news he’d been voted in.
“There was a girls’ game coming in after us with people coming in for that, so I had to go hide somewhere in the other end of the building so no one could see me,” Mussina said on MLB Network.
Asked if his plaque would depict him wearing an Orioles’ or Yankees’ hat, Mussina said he couldn’t make that decision.
“I wouldn’t be on this phone call if it wasn’t for both places,” he said. “… I played for both organizations and was proud to play for both and there’s no way I could pick one over the other.”
Mussina knew the votes were tracking as if he’d be selected, but he wasn’t sure until receiving the phone call.
“It’s surprising, somewhat. [The vote totals were] steadily improving but it was a pretty big jump from last year to this year,” Mussina said. “… I knew it was going to be close, but it’s pretty cool.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.