In his first year of eligibility, Griffey received a whopping 99.3% of the vote (437 of 440 ballots), surpassing Tom Seaver’s previous record of 98.84% (425 of 430) when the former Mets ace was inducted in 1992. Piazza appeared on 365 ballots for a comfortable 83% total that easily surpassed the 75% threshold for induction, though the star catcher has had to wait a bit longer to get his Cooperstown due. This was Piazza’s fourth year of eligibility, a wait that is generally attributed to a crowded ballot in recent years and, more scurrilously, unsubstantiated rumors that Piazza may have used PEDs during his playing career.
It’s fair to say that baseball fans and pundits have seen Griffey’s induction coming for three decades. “Junior” was the first overall pick of the 1987 amateur draft and he quickly lived up to the talent promised by his high school superstardom and impressive family pedigree. Griffey broke into the majors at age 19 and almost immediately developed into one of the game’s best players, winning his first Gold Glove (of 10 in his career) and making his first All-Star appearance (of 13) in 1990.
In his prime years with the Mariners, Griffey brought a combination of power and elite center field defense not seen since Willie Mays. His obvious talent, youth and media-friendly persona made Griffey into quite possibly the “face of baseball” throughout the 1990’s — an entire generation of fans grew up not just watching Griffey on the field, but also playing his name-branded video games and seeing him in commercials and TV guest appearances.
Griffey finished with a .284/.370/.538 slash line over 11304 plate appearances with the Mariners, Reds and White Sox. He’s one of the eight members of the 600-Homer club, and his 630 home runs ranks him sixth on the all-time list. While these amazing numbers were already enough to make him a surefire Hall-of-Famer, it’s also worth noting that Griffey may have been even better had he not battled some significant injuries later in his career, particularly during his tenure with Cincinnati.
Griffey becomes the first player drafted first overall to reach the Hall of Fame, which makes it ironic that he’ll enter alongside Piazza, the most famous late-round star in MLB amateur draft history. Piazza was so lightly regarded as a prospect that he was a 62nd-round pick for the Dodgers in 1988, only selected at all since Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda did a favor to Piazza’s father, a personal friend.
From that humble start, Piazza blossomed into arguably the best-hitting catcher in baseball history. Piazza’s 396 home runs as a catcher is a record for the position, and over his entire career, Piazza totaled 427 homers and a .308/.377/.545 slash line over 16 seasons largely spent with the Dodgers and Mets. Piazza’s list of achievements include 12 All-Star appearances, 10 Silver Slugger Awards and the 1993 NL Rookie of the Year.