NEW YORK -- The wait is finally over for Tim Raines, and it was worth it. On the ballot for the 10th and final time, Raines, one of the best leadoff hitters in history, was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Wednesday.
Raines called the election the "final chapter of his baseball career" and is looking forward to going to Cooperstown, N.Y. The induction will be on July 30. Raines will be inducted alongside Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez, Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig and Braves vice chairman John Schuerholz.
"I thought I was in a position to get in, especially after last year. I went from 55 percent [in 2015 to close to 70 percent last year]," Raines said in a conference call. "I thought the momentum from last year would carry me through this year. I wasn't sure. Last night was probably the worst night I've had. It was kind of tough because I was kind of close and I wasn't sure.
"That's the situation, where everything was out of your control. You have to wait until that minute that you know you are going to get the phone call or you are not going to get the phone call. I went through last year not getting the phone call. I wasn't familiar of what was going to happen today. I was encouraged by what was going to happen last year."
Raines will likely become the third player -- Gary Carter and Andre Dawson are the others -- inducted with an Expos cap on his plaque, having spent 13 of his 23 seasons in the Major Leagues with Montreal while making seven All-Star appearances, winning an All-Star MVP in 1987 -- his game winning triple helped the National League edge the American League, 2-0 -- and capturing four stolen-base titles from 1981 to 1984. Besides the Expos, who went on to become the Nationals when they moved to Washington, Raines played for the White Sox, Yankees, A's, Orioles and Marlins before retiring after the 2002 season.
Raines joins Ralph Kiner and Jim Rice as the only players elected in their final year on the BBWAA ballot. Rice made it in his 15th year on the ballot in 2009, and Kiner made it on his 13th try in 1975.
"He was one of the four best players I played with in my career. The other three are in the Hall of Fame," said Marlins bench coach Tim Wallach, who played with Raines from 1979-1990. "I feel that's where he belongs. He did things that few people could do. The basestealing part is one of them. He is one of the best switch hitters in the history of the game.
Raines ranks fifth all-time in stolen bases (808) and recorded 2,605 hits and 1,571 runs. Even when his days as an everyday player were over, he proved to be a valuable reserve, helping the Yankees win World Series titles in 1996 and '98. In his three years in New York, Raines had a .395 on-base percentage and a .299 batting average.
"Tim was one of the most beloved teammates I've ever had the pleasure of being around," said Indians manager Terry Francona, who played with Raines in Montreal from 1981-85. "His personality immediately impacted the clubhouse and his play on the field, in my opinion, was Hall of Fame caliber long ago. People talk about using all the tools, 'Rock' could beat you with his leg and his bat on any given day."
Raines was just as good as a member of the White Sox from 1991 to 1995. He hit .283 with a .375 on-base percentage during his five years in Chicago and helped them win a division title in 1993.
As a coach for the White Sox, Raines helped them win the World Series in 2005. The Sox did not forget Raines after it was announced he was going into Cooperstown.
"Rock was one of my favorite teammates ever," said Hall-of-Famer and White Sox legend Frank Thomas. "He made the game fun night-to-night and was a great leader in the clubhouse. His humor and hustle always brought the team closer. I'm so glad this has finally happened for one of my favorite people ever."
Raines, now a Minor League instructor for the Blue Jays, played during an era in which Rickey Henderson was the dominant leadoff hitter, but the man known as "Rock" was a difference-maker himself. As an everyday player, he had an on-base percentage of .390 or better eight times. He posted a WAR of six or better five times, according to FanGraphs.com.
Among Raines' many dominant seasons, his 1987 campaign stands out. He became a free agent after winning the National League batting crown the previous season, but he didn't have a true chance to test the market because he was affected by what was deemed by an arbitrator to be in collusion with the owners.
Raines couldn't sign with the Expos until May 1, but he still led the NL in runs and finished seventh in MVP voting. He played his first game of the season on May 2 against the Mets, going 4-for-5 with a 10th-inning grand slam against left-hander Jesse Orosco.
Of his 23 years, Raines called '87 his most memorable year.
"I didn't have Spring Training. I had to work out with a high school team for a couple of weeks," Raines said. "The first game was probably the most nerve-wracking game I've ever played. I was so nervous because I couldn't hit a ball out of the cage during batting practice.
"I haven't seen a Major League pitcher since the previous year, and they are throwing me into the wolves. You put that all in the mix and you say, 'Go get them.'"
Raines almost didn't become the player fans grew to know. After he was taken by the Expos in the fifth round of the 1977 Draft, Jim Fanning, then the GM, envisioned Raines to be the next Joe Morgan. Raines was drafted as a second baseman, and the team believed that, like Morgan, Raines would become a player who displayed a lot of power.
But the predictions proved premature. Raines had a tough time playing defense in the infield. He didn't have the range to play second base, and he had trouble turning the double play. Switching to left field in 1981 was the best thing that happened to him. In fact, Raines led the NL in outfield assists with 21 in 1983.
"It was not a difficult switch to put him in the outfield. In fact, it was easy," Fanning told MLB.com in the mid-2000s. "I'm not surprised by the career he had. He had a knack how to play this game. He was a delight to watch. It didn't make a difference who the pitcher was."
Even when his days as an everyday player were over, Raines said he was able to adjust by becoming a team player.
"I took the selfishness out," Raines said. "When you are an everyday player, you pretty much know your job and go to the ballpark prepared to play. But when you are a role player, you have to take a back seat and know what's best for the team. We had a team full of veterans and great players in New York. But we had a team that believed in each other. In order to be successful we had to do it collectively as a team."