NEW YORK -- With the remainder of the Class of 2014 set to be revealed on Wednesday, the National Baseball Hall of Fame appears to be heading toward one of its grandest induction weekends ever on July 26-27 in Cooperstown.
Former Braves pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, both 300-game winners, are the favorites. They head a Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot stacked with superstar newcomers and highly-eligible returnees.
About 550 members of the BBWAA cast their votes last month. The results will be announced Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET, live on MLB Network and simulcast on MLB.com, followed the next day by a news conference, also to be aired on MLB Network and MLB.com, at the Waldorf Astoria in New York to introduce electees. The BBWAA didn't elect anyone a year ago.
Already going into the Hall of Fame are three of the greatest managers of all time -- Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, all selected by the Expansion Era Committee on Dec. 9.
"I'm certainly looking forward to it, it's quite a class," Cox said last month. "No matter who the writers are going to vote in, it's going to be just tremendous. It's an honor for me to say I'm going to be a part of that."
Frank Thomas, Jeff Kent and Mike Mussina joined Maddux and Glavine as other noteworthy first-timers, making for one of the deepest BBWAA ballots ever. Jack Morris, who won 254 games during his 18-year big league career as well as World Series titles with the Tigers, Twins and Blue Jays, was on the writers' ballot for the 15th and final time. Craig Biggio, who led last year's voting by being named on 68.2 percent of the ballots cast, will hope to make it in his second try. Biggio amassed 3,060 hits in 20 seasons, all with the Astros.
Maddux and Glavine, who combined to win 660 games, appear on the verge of making the Hall on their first attempt, becoming the first pair to do so since Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn were overwhelmingly elected in 2007. Thomas and Biggio also appear to have enough support. The Hall hasn't inducted three first-timers since 1999 when Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount were elected.
The only two pitchers to be elected together their first times on the ballot are Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson, who were part of the inaugural class of 1936 along with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner. The last starting pitcher to be elected by the BBWAA was Bert Blyleven in 2011, when he was in his 14th year of eligibility.
"It should be without a doubt for either one of them [to be elected], especially with Greg," said John Smoltz, who joined Maddux and Glavine to form the "Big Three" of the Braves' rotation for a decade and will be on the ballot himself next year.
"I know there's been no unanimous [electee] in the history to the Hall of Fame, but I think [Maddux] would be it if there is. I'm biased. I watched Greg and Tom pitch my whole career, basically. They exemplified the fact that over 162 games, they were better than anybody else in the league."
The Hall of Fame hasn't inducted as many as five living baseball greats at the same time since 1984. Last year, the three inductees elected by a Pre-Integration Veterans Committee -- Jacob Ruppert, Deacon White and Hank O'Day -- were all deceased. In this, the 75th anniversary of the red-brick museum opening its doors on Main Street, there could be as many as seven inducted behind the Clark Sports Center on July 27, with the Braves trio of Maddux, Glavine and Cox front and center.
The three were together in Atlanta from 1993-2002, including 1995, when the Braves defeated the Indians in the World Series. Glavine and Cox teamed to win 13 of the team's record 14 consecutive division titles, five National League pennants and that World Series, which ended with Glavine pitching eight innings of one-hit ball in a 1-0, Game 6 victory.
Maddux retired with 355 wins, 194 of them in 11 years with the Braves. Glavine had 305 victories, 244 in 17 years for Atlanta. Three hundred wins, like 3,000 hits, has long been a clear benchmark for eventually gaining entrance to the hallowed Hall.
Maddux stayed with Atlanta until 2003, when he returned to the Cubs just the way he left Chicago for the Braves -- as a free agent -- after the 1992 season. Maddux played 10 seasons for Chicago, including his first seven, finishing his career in 2008 after one short tour in San Diego and two stops in Los Angeles with the Dodgers.
Both Maddux and Glavine were picked in the second round of the 1984 First-Year Player Draft and became mainstays of their improving teams. Maddux won 133 games for the Cubs. Glavine later spent five seasons with the Mets, winning 61 games for them, and returned to finish his career in Atlanta, earning his last two wins and making 13 starts for the Braves in 2008.
"Those guys were a big part of my baseball career, both Bobby and Glav," Maddux said. "To be able to share something with them again would be that much more special. You're always rooting for the best for your teammates and your ex-teammates. Whatever happens, happens. I'll be happy for both of them regardless of what happens. Just to be considered is an honor."
Induction Weekend should be resplendent, in any event.
Cox, La Russa and Torre rank third, fourth and fifth in managerial victories in Major League history, each winning more than 2,000 games. Only Connie Mack (3,731) and John McGraw (2,763) won more games than La Russa (2,728), Cox (2,504) and Torre (2,326). The Hall has never inducted three managers at the same time, although two -- Dick Williams and Billy Southworth -- were honored as recently as 2008.
The July 26 ceremony at Doubleday Field stands to be formidable as well, with former catcher and long-time TV announcer Joe Garagiola Sr. receiving the Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award, longtime magazine writer Roger Angell elected by the BBWAA as the winner of the J.G. Spink Award for a career of meritorious baseball writing, and Rangers radio play-by-play man Eric Nadel earning the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting.
It will be a stark difference from a year ago, when Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Piazza -- players whose careers spanned a period of performance-enhancing drug use -- made their initial appearances on the ballot and no one was elected by the writers for the first time since 1996, and only the second time since 1971.
That apparently isn't going to happen this time.
Aside from Maddux and Glavine, other first-timers also have Hall of Fame credentials. Thomas, a first baseman and designated hitter, batted .301, hit 521 homers and amassed 1,704 RBIs in 19 seasons, 16 of them with the White Sox. Kent hit 377 homers in 17 seasons for six teams, 351 of them as a second baseman -- the most in Major League history by anyone at that position. Mussina won 270 games and had a 3.68 ERA in 18 seasons with the Orioles and Yankees.
Biggio fell 39 votes shy of election last year as he received 388 votes among the 569 ballots cast. Five ballots were left blank. Biggio was followed by Morris (67.7 percent), Bagwell (59.6) and Piazza (57.8). Piazza, it should be noted, hit 396 of his 427 homers as a catcher -- the most of any player at that position in Major League history.
Among the second-timers, Biggio seems to be on a clear course toward a plaque. Of the 26 other retired players who connected for 3,000 or more hits, only two are not in the Hall of Fame, and both suffer from extenuating circumstances. Rafael Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 569 homers but was suspended for a positive PED test in 2005, his last season in the Major Leagues. He was named on 8.8 percent of the ballots last year. Pete Rose, the all-time leader with 4,256 hits, is banned from baseball because of gambling and is not eligible to be included on Hall of Fame ballots.
Bonds, the all-time home run leader with 762, garnered 36.2 percent of the vote a year ago. Clemens, a storied right-hander with 354 wins -- one fewer than Maddux -- did slightly better at 37.6 percent. Sosa, the only slugger to bash more than 60 homers in three different seasons, totaling 609 in his career, got 12.5 percent.
None of the three ever failed a publicly disclosed Major League Baseball-administered drug test. All of them were once involved in either court cases or congressional hearings about the use of PEDs, and Bonds was convicted for obstruction of justice regarding his testimony in the BALCO drug case.
"For a couple of years now, I think the whole steroids thing has put a twist in it," said Morris, who needs 42 more votes than he got last year to make it this time, though he can be considered again in three years for an Expansion Era ballot. "A bunch of us guys have been thrown under the bus because they didn't know what to do with the other pile. That's unfortunate. It is what it is and I'm not going to fix it."
Morris, who had an American League-best 162 wins in the 1980s, tops a list of long-time returnees that includes, among others, Bagwell, Lee Smith, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell and Edgar Martinez.
A player must maintain at least five percent of the vote to remain on the ballot for a maximum of 15 years.
"I'm confident at some point in time it's going to happen," Glavine said about his Hall of Fame chances. "Whether it's on the first ballot, I don't know. We'll see. There are a lot of good players eligible. Would I love to have it happen on the first ballot? Sure. If it doesn't, I'd be disappointed. But we'll gear up for the following year and hopefully it will happen the following year."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less