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Bagwell, Raines, Ivan Rodriguez make Baseball Hall of Fame

HOUSTON- AUGUST 23:  Infielder Jeff Bagwell #5 of the Houston Astros waits for a Philadelphia Phillies pitch during the game at Minute Maid Park on August 23, 2004 in Houston, Texas. The Astros won 8-4. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
HOUSTON- AUGUST 23: Infielder Jeff Bagwell #5 of the Houston Astros waits for a Philadelphia Phillies pitch during the game at Minute Maid Park on August 23, 2004 in Houston, Texas. The Astros won 8-4. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Published Jan. 19, 2017

The sometimes rocky road that Tim Raines took from the sleepy Central Florida town of Sanford to a 23-year career in the major leagues now extends to Cooperstown, N.Y., with his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday.

Longtime Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell and defensively dominant catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez also surpassed the needed 332 votes — 75 percent of 442 cast — by veteran members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Though Rodriguez just made the cut with 336, closer Trevor Hoffman just missed, falling five short. Outfielder Vlad Guerrero was next with 317.

Raines, 57, was elected in his 10th and final year of eligibility with 86 percent of the vote. His vote total kept rising from 22.6 percent in 2009 behind an increasing sabermetric-driven appreciation of his skills for getting on base and stealing bases; a focused social media push, and perhaps, given it was last shot, sentimentality among the writers.

A career that featured seven All-Star selections, the fifth-most stolen bases in history (808) and more times on base than Hall of Famers Tony Gwynn, Roberto Alomar and Lou Brock, all while being marred by injury, controversy and an admission of cocaine use, finally culminated in baseball's ultimate honor.

"I knew I was close, but until that phone rung, I was probably one of the most nervous guys … on the face of the earth," Raines said in a conference call. "It's definitely the biggest day … the final chapter of my career."

Known as "Rock," Raines spent 13 seasons with the Expos and joins Andre Dawson and Gary Carter as the only players in the Hall representing Montreal.

Bagwell and Rodriguez also had cause to celebrate, and their election might have additional significance. Both have been suspected of — though never formally linked to — steroid use, and following last year's election of Mike Piazza, it seems to show a greater acceptance for such players by the voting base.

That would portend well for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, considered the biggest stars of the "steroids era." Both had their vote totals increase by about 10 percent, Bonds to 53.8, Clemens to 54.1 in their fifth year on the ballot. One-time Ray Manny Ramirez, suspended twice for use of performance-enhancing drugs, debuted with 23.8.

Raines grew up in Sanford dreaming of being in the NFL and left Seminole High unsure whether to play baseball or football. "I figured I would start out at a young age and see if I was good enough to stay in baseball," he said. "I was going to give myself two years. … If things didn't work out, I was going to walk on at the University of Florida and play football."

Rodriguez won 13 Gold Gloves, an MVP award and a World Series (2003 with the Marlins) during a 21-season career. Now the youngest Hall of Famer at age 45, he is the 52nd player elected in his first year on the ballot but just the second catcher, joining Johnny Bench. "It means a lot," Rodriguez said. "Johnny Bench was my favorite player growing up."

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Bagwell, 48, won the 1994 MVP award during a 15-year career with the Astros, posting eight seasons with at least 30 home runs, 100 runs scored and 100 RBIs.

Two Tampa products on the ballot didn't show much change. Fred McGriff, in his ninth year of eligibility, received 21.7 percent and Gary Sheffield 13.3. Longtime Yankees catcher Jorge Posada was among those dropping off the ballot after receiving less than 5 percent of the vote.