It was announced on Tuesday that all-time ironman Cal Ripken and eight-time batting champion Tony Gwynn -- both making their first appearances on the ballot -- will be enshrined in Cooperstown on July 29.
Rice, in his 13th year on the ballot, received 346 votes for a percentage of 63.5. Inductees need to be selected on 75 percent of voters of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Aside from Gwynn and Ripken, the only other player to get more votes this year than Rice was closer Goose Gossage.
With next year's Hall of Fame ballot lacking any notable newcomers, Rice and Gossage might finally gain entry then.
It would be fitting if Rice did get elected on his 14th try, since he wore No. 14 during the entirety of his career (1974-89) with the Red Sox. There would also be some irony if he went in with Gossage, considering their epic power struggles in the late innings during the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.
Should Rice fail to gain entry next year, 2009 would be his last chance to make it the old-fashioned way. Candidates are allowed to be on the BBWAA ballot for a maximum of 15 years. However, Rice would still have a chance to be selected via the Veteran's Committee should he go 0-for-15 in the BBWAA vote.
Rice's candidacy has started to pick up steam. The last two years, he has received his two highest voting totals during his time on the ballot. In 2006, Rice was selected on 337 ballots, good for 64.8 percent.
Without any enticing newcomers next year, voters are likely to take a deeper look at Rice, a right-handed masher who hit for average and power, and to all fields.
What has held Rice back thus far in his quest for Cooperstown? Probably longevity.
Rice belted 382 homers, placing him a mediocre season shy of 400. His hits (2,452) are a few seasons short of 3,000, and if not for the free-fall at the end of his career, Rice would have hit .300. Instead, he finished at .298.
Rice sparks the age-old debate when it comes to the Hall of Fame. What is more impressive: longevity or dominance?
When Rice was at his best -- from 1975-86 -- he was as feared as any hitter in the game and had the numbers to show why.
During those 12 years, he led all American League players in games, at-bats, runs, hits, homers, RBIs, slugging percentage, total bases, extra-base hits, go-ahead RBIs, multihit games and outfield assists.
He was an All-Star eight times, a top-five AL finisher in the MVP race six times (including a first-place finish in 1978), a top-10 finisher in the batting race six times, a top-10 finisher in slugging percentage eight times (including two firsts), a top-10 finisher in OPS (a popular stat of today, but one not utilized when Rice played) six times.
Check out some of Rice's other appearances on the top-10 list during his career: hits (eight times), total bases (nine times, including four firsts), home runs (seven, including three home run titles), RBIs (nine times, two firsts) and extra-base hits (six).
Red Sox official Dick Bresciani, the resident historian for the ballclub, annually releases a comprehensive look at why Rice should be with the other greats of the game in Cooperstown.
According to Bresciani's work, the 382 homers and 1,451 RBIs produced by Rice during his career topped any AL competitor during that same time period.
The best example of Rice's sheer presence as a hitter was 1978, the year he played in all 163 games (including a one-game playoff) and won his lone MVP Award. During that season, he became the only man to lead either league in triples (15), homers (46) and RBIs (139) in the same season. His 406 total bases were the most by an AL player since Joe DiMaggio in 1937.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less