Smith, Baines Earn Cooperstown Enshrinement


Photo courtesy of Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos.

Jeff Lombardi Jr., Sports Editor

A pair of former baseball specialists, who had longevity on their side, got their respective calls to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum via the Today’s Game committee on Sunday.

Lee Smith and Harold Baines will join an induction class that will likely feature fellow closer Mariano Rivera and designated hitter Edgar Martinez for the 83rd annual induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y. this coming July.

Smith received 100 percent of the vote from the 16 members on the Today’s Game voting panel after yielding just 34.2 percent in his 15th and final appearance on the writers ballot in 2017.

Over 18 seasons with eight clubs from 1980-1997, Smith notched 478 saves, becoming the first in MLB history to reach 400 saves and setting the all-time mark that he held from 1993-2006.  He lead the league in the category four times, in addition to leading the league in appearances on three separate occasions en route to totaling 803 in his career, ranking him third all-time at the time of his retirement.

Smith attained seven all-star selections and three Rolaids Relief awards – the most in the award’s 36 year history spanning 1976-2012, while finishing in the top five of the Cy Young Award voting – including a runner-up finish in 1991 when he appeared in 67 games, securing 47 saves and 67 strikeouts with a 2.34 ERA over 67 innings.

Baines received the minimum 12 of 16 votes (75 percent) for election from the Today’s Game Committee, after peaking at just 6.1 percent of the ballot before falling off the ballot in his fifth year, falling below the five percent threshold.

A .289 career hitter with 2,866 hits, 384 home runs and 1,628 RBI, Baines played in the big leagues for 22 seasons from 1980 through 2001 with five organizations, most notably with the Chicago White Sox whom he spent the first 10 seasons of his career. In Chicago, he earned four of his six career all-star selections, four top-10 MVP finishes and a Silver Slugger award in 1989.

Injuries over the back half of his career limited him to an exclusive designated hitter role. Overall, Baines played 1,643 games as a designated hitter, the most in MLB history at the time of his retirement, which has since been surpassed by David Ortiz.

Baines will become the second player inducted into the HOF to have spent the majority of their career (60.7 percent) as a designated hitter; the other being Frank Thomas, and will join Ken Griffey Jr. and Chipper Jones as the only former No. 1 draft picks to reach the pinnacle of the sport.