Voters for the Baseball Hall of Fame take their responsibilities especially seriously when players who retired five years previously appear on members’ ballots for the first time.
Pitcher Greg Maddux and first baseman/designated hitter Frank Thomas are among those who the Baseball Writers Association of America are considering.
Maddux earned 133 of his 355 wins and the first of his four consecutive Cy Young Awards with the Cubs in his 23-year career. Over 19 years, Thomas hit .301 with most of his 521 home runs coming with the White Sox.
Having covered the Cubs and White Sox for 27 years with the Sun-Times, I voted for Maddux and Thomas on the new ballot, and included another first-timer in pitcher Tom Glavine.
I then cast repeat votes for holdovers Craig Biggio, Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza and Tim Raines, all who fell short of the required 75 percent of ballots last year when no one got in.
Voters have backed off the last few years on players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro who were known to use performance-enhancing drugs or strongly suspected of it.
There are no such concerns this year with Maddux, Thomas or Glavine.
Thomas was so proud of his natural success as a pure hitter that he never considered bunting for a hit.
Maddux relied on mechanics that allowed him to become one of only four pitchers with more than 3,000 strikeouts and fewer than 1,000 walks.
He learned fundamentals from older boys in his neighborhood in hopes they would choose him for their pickup games. They did, and future major leaguers like older brother Mike Maddux and Mike Morgan ended up learning from Greg.
Maddux, who pitched until he was 43, had a philosophy that was worthy of preserving in a time capsule: “I was taught that movement on a pitch was more important than velocity. I took my chances with batters trying to hit the ball.”
Maddux said late in his career he would play until somebody tore his uniform off him. That wasn’t necessary. He took it off himself five years ago when he determined it was time.
It’s now time for Maddux to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first time on the ballot.