Big Unit becomes first significant Mariners player elected into Baseball Hall of Fame
The flame-throwing southpaw with the flowing locks and fierce demeanor earned first-ballot induction to Cooperstown on Tuesday, garnering 97.3 percent of the vote (534 of 549) of Baseball Writers’ Association of America members, the eighth-highest voting percentage for any player in Hall of Fame history.
Johnson becomes the first player with significant Mariners ties selected to the Hall of Fame. Outfielder Rickey Henderson (elected in 2009), reliever Rich Gossage (‘08) and starting pitcher Gaylord Perry (’91) all played briefly for Seattle at the end of their careers.
Former Mariners general manager Pat Gillick (2011) and former skipper Dick Williams (’08) were elected to the Hall of Fame by the veteran’s committee and one-time batting coach Paul Molitor (’04) was elected the same year he worked in Seattle. Broadcaster Dave Niehaus was the Ford C. Frick Award winner in 2008 and thus has a plaque in Cooperstown, though Frick Award winners aren’t technically members of the Hall of Fame.
Johnson thus becomes the first Hall of Fame player who spent a major part of his career wearing a Mariners uniform, though he’ll undoubtedly receive company next year when Ken Griffey Jr. becomes eligible for the first time.
The Big Unit played 10 of his 22 seasons in Seattle and earned five of his 10 All-Star bids, the first of his five Cy Young Awards and one of his two no-hitters while with the Mariners from 1989-98. Johnson went on to add five more All-Star berths and four Cy Young honors in eight years in Arizona, but accrued more wins (130), games (274), starts (266), complete games (51), shutouts (19) and strikeouts (2,162) in his Seattle tenure than with the D-backs.
The 6-foot-10 lefty also made brief stops with the Expos, Yankees, Giants and Astros in a career that also included eight postseason runs and a World Series title and MVP award with the D-backs in 2001.
There was no doubt Johnson deserved Hall of Fame nomination as he ranks second in MLB history with 4,875 strikeouts, first in strikeouts per nine innings (10.61) and 22nd in wins (303). He’ll head to Cooperstown as the top vote-getter in a 2015 induction class that also includes Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio, the first time four have been selected since 1955.
Former Mariners designated hitter Edgar Martinez finished 12th in the voting in his sixth year of eligibility and now has four remaining years on the ballot to climb to the the necessary 75 percent for induction. Martinez was named on 27.0 percent of the ballots, a slight hike from last year’s 25.2 percent.
Tom Seaver got 98.9 percent of the vote in 1992, the highest Hall of Fame voting percentage in history. The only other players ever receiving a higher percent than Johnson were Nolan Ryan (98.7), Cal Ripken Jr. (98.5), Ty Cobb (98.2), George Brett (98.2), Hank Aaron (97.8) and Tony Gwynn (97.6).