When Scott Rolen was just starting his major-league career with the Phillies in the mid-1990s, he relished the chance to talk with Fred McGriff, the slugging first baseman for the Braves and Rays.
Now, Rolen is looking forward to chatting again, as he will join McGriff in Cooperstown in July as fellow inductees into baseball’s Hall of Fame.
“He just dominated the game,” Rolen said Tuesday on a media Zoom call. “I was in awe by how large the man was. What a wonderful, well-spoken, soft-spoken guy for that big a guy. He gave advice a little bit to rookies and young guys, and treated everybody with a lot of respect. And I have the most respect for Fred.
“I’ve been wishing that he would have gotten voted in long ago. (But) it’ll be fantastic. There couldn’t be a better guy to share the stage with.”
Rolen was the only player voted in by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in results released Tuesday, and he just made it. His 297 votes narrowly cleared the 292 needed to meet the 75-percent threshold, with 389 ballots returned. The margin of five was one of the smallest in BBWAA voting history.
Rolen, elected in his sixth year of eligibility, was thankful, relieved and still somewhat surprised at what transpired.
“There was actually never a point in my life that I thought I was going to be a Hall of Fame baseball player,’” he said. “So I think we can start there. Never did I think I was going to get drafted. Never did I think I was gonna play in the major leagues. Never gonna be whatever. Then certainly when I made the ballot, it’s a great honor at that time.”
Though Rolen’s vote total climbed steadily each year, he said he still had “no thoughts, no expectations.” But he gradually got more interested in the process each year, making the final jump from 63.2 percent to Tuesday’s Hall call at his home in Indiana.
“This is kind of over the top,” he said. “We were all pretty nervous sitting around. This feels really cool.”
Rolen, a seven-time All-Star who retired in 2012 after playing 17 seasons, hit. 281 with 316 homers and 1,287 RBIs for the Phillies (1996-2002), Cardinals (2002-07), Blue Jays (2008-09) and Reds (2009-12).
He won eight Gold Gloves, his acrobatic play even more impressive given his size (6-foot-4, 245 pounds). He is the 18th third baseman elected to the Hall.
Todd Helton, who played 17 seasons with Colorado, was 11 votes shy, receiving 281 for 72.2 percent. Closer Billy Wagner got 265 (68.1 percent), outfielder Andruw Jones 226 (58.1) and Tampa-born slugger Gary Sheffield 214 (55).
Sheffield, the oft-feared hitter who swatted 509 homers playing for eight teams over 22 seasons, saw his total increase 14.4 percent to 55 percent, as he heads into his 10th and final year on the writers’ ballot.
Outfielder Carlos Beltran, who had a stellar all-around career but also was implicated in the Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing scandal, led the 14 first-time candidates on the ballot with 181 votes (46.5). Infielder Jeff Kent also got 181 votes in his 10th and final year on the writers’ ballot.
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Rolen and McGriff, the Tampa native and original Devil Ray who was elected last month by the contemporary era committee, will be inducted July 23 in Cooperstown, New York.
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