Gant makes debut on Hall ballot

Gant makes debut on Hall ballot

ATLANTA -- When thinking about the young players who helped the Braves make their dramatic turnaround during the early 1990s, it's easy to remember Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. But nobody should ever forget the remarkable contributions provided by Ron Gant.

When Gant hit 32 homers and recorded 33 stolen bases in 1990, he was just one of 13 Major Leaguers to ever join the 30-30 club. When he renewed his membership the following year, he joined Willie Mays and Bobby Bonds as the only players to hit at least 30 homers and record at least 30 stolen bases in consecutive seasons.

At the age of 26, it appeared the sky might be the limit for Gant. But the sky would come tumbling down on the young outfielder when he was involved in a dirt bike accident before the start of the 1994 season. While a couple more productive seasons would follow, he never regained the greatness that graced him during the early years of his career.

With Gant's name on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year, some members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America will at least be reminded that there was a time when Gant had some wondering if Cooperstown would be in his future.

"Ronnie could beat you with his bat and his legs," said Terry Pendleton, who won the 1991 National League MVP while playing with Gant. "It was fun to come to the park every day to see what he might do."

After hitting .274 with career highs in homers (36) and RBIs (117) during the 1993 season, Gant was awarded with a $5.5 million salary. But one week after signing what was then the richest one-year contract in Major League history, he broke his right leg during a dirt bike accident. Three weeks later, the Braves released him, forcing him to go elsewhere to resurrect his career.

While finishing his career with the Reds, Cardinals, Phillies, Angels, A's, Rockies and Padres, Gant never regained the form that might have allowed him to gain more attention from this year's Hall of Fame voters.

A candidate must get 75 percent of the vote to gain election, with former Red Sox slugger Jim Rice (72.2 percent), former Expos and Cubs outfielder Andre Dawson (65.9) and former Twins ace Bert Blyleven (61.9) standing as the top three returning vote-getters.

Rickey Henderson, whose career spanned 25 years and nine teams, headlines the newcomers to the 2009 Hall of Fame ballot. Henderson, who has never announced his retirement, last played for the Dodgers in 2003. The 1990 American League MVP is the all-time leader in runs scored (2,295), stolen bases (1,406) and is second in walks (2,190).

Live coverage of the election results can be seen on MLB.com on Monday, Jan. 12.

While returning to play with the Reds during the 1995 season, Gant hit .276 with 29 homers, 88 RBIs and 23 stolen bases. The production was enough for him to earn his second career All-Star selection and be named the NL Comeback Player of the Year.

Gant then began a three-season stint with the Cardinals by hitting .246 with 30 homers. While he still showed some power, the remainder of his career, which ended with the A's in 2003, wasn't nearly as productive as it was during his early years with the Braves.

From 1990-1993, Gant hit .272 with 117 homers and 125 stolen bases. Over the course of his final nine seasons, he batted .250 with 174 homers and 86 stolen bases.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.