Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

In '96, It's Hall of Same Writers Shut out 35 Candidates

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

In '96, It's Hall of Same Writers Shut out 35 Candidates

Article excerpt

Phil Niekro, Don Sutton and Tony Perez all put up good career numbers, no doubt.

But not the great ones needed for the Hall of Fame.

For the first time in 25 years, no player was elected to the shrine Monday as members of the Baseball Writers Association of America shut out all 35 candidates.

"I think it's getting harder and harder every year to get into the Hall of Fame," Perez said from Puerto Rico. "The baseball Hall of Fame is hard to get into right now. You have to have really super numbers or whatever; you've got to be Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron."

Only seven times since 1936 - and not once since 1971 - has the BBWAA failed to elect anyone. But with 75 percent support needed, Niekro was listed on just 68.3 percent of the ballots, followed by Perez with 65.7 percent and Sutton at 63.8 percent.

While all three players had impressive totals, the knock on them has been that they were very good for two decades, rather than being great for at least 10 years. Instead of voting with sentiment, the BBWAA toughened the Hall standards and again left out Niekro and Sutton, whose 300 wins once were regarded as automatic for election.

Niekro, on the ballot for the fourth time, got 321 votes, 32 short of the 353 needed for election. The knuckleballer had a career record of 318-274.

"I really have nothing to say," Niekro said in Atlanta.

Perez, on the ballot for the fifth time, was listed on 309 of the record total of 470 ballots. He had 1,652 RBIs lifetime, 16th best in modern history.

"It's disappointing," Perez said. "I don't know what will happen next year. I can go down. You never know."

Sutton, on the ballot for the third time, got 300 votes. He was 324-256 lifetime.

"He pitched a lot of games for me, won a lot of ballgames for me," Sutton's former manager, Tom Lasorda, said Monday. "You talk about durability, the guy never missed an assignment. He was a winner. I'll tell you, he belongs in the Hall of Fame."

No eligible pitcher with more wins than either Sutton or Niekro has been left out of the Hall. No eligible player with more RBIs than Perez has been blanked.

But Niekro never won a Cy Young Award in his 24 years, and neither did Sutton during his 23 seasons. …

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