Rod Carew and Rollie Fingers are the leading candidates for election to the Hall of Fame when results are announced Tuesday night.
There's even a chance the stage at Cooperstown could be a little crowded this summer as pitchers Gaylord Perry, Ferguson Jenkins and Jim Bunning have all come close in recent years. Bunning, 224-184 lifetime, is in his final year of eligibility."The first time I didn't make it I was disappointed," Perry said. "But I'm not thinking about it anymore. They know where to reach me."
Perry was 314-265 in 22 major-league seasons with 3,534 strikeouts. Usually 300 victories is a ticket to Cooperstown, but some voters have held Perry's admitted use of the greaseball against him.
In order to gain election, a player must appear on 75 percent of the ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Last year, Perry received 320 of the needed 333 votes and Jenkins garnered 296 votes.
Joe Morgan and Jim Palmer, appearing on the ballot for the first time in 1990, gained election in a landslide. Carew and Fingers are also up for election for the first time.
Although he never received much publicity, Carew is regarded as one of the best pure hitters in baseball history. He retired after the 1985 season with a lifetime average of .328 and 3,053 hits.
Carew, who played with Minnesota and California, led the American League in batting seven times including a four-year run from 1972-75. His .331 average in 1976 was beaten by George Brett's .333, but Carew came back in 1977 to hit an amazing .388 and win the MVP award.
For 15 consecutive seasons (1969-83), Carew hit .300 or better. Only Ty Cobb, Stan Musial and Honus Wagner bettered that achievement.
Fingers, known for his handlebar mustache, is baseball's all-time leader in saves with 341 and also saved seven games in the World Series, helping Oakland to win three straight championships from 1972-74.
The right-hander, who also pitched for San Diego and Milwaukee, was selected the MVP and Cy Young Award winner while pitching for the Brewers in 1981 when he saved 28 games and had a 1.04 earned-run average.
How well Fingers fairs his first time on the ballot will be a good indication for the Hall of Fame chances for such relievers as Goose Gossage, Sparky Lyle, Bruce Sutter, Dan Quiseberry, Lee Smith, Dennis Eckersley and Dave Righetti. Fingers made relief pitching an art and not just a thing for washed up starters to do.
In addition to Carew and Fingers, this year's list of newcomers on the ballot includes: Bob Bailor, Larry Bowa, Al Bumbry, Jeff Burroughs, Rich Dauer, Oscar Gamble, Larry Gura, Mike Hargrove, Richie Hebner, Burt Hooton, Art Howe, Mike Jorgensen, Bruce Kison, Jerry Koosman, John Lowenstein, Al Oliver, Steve Rogers, Rusty Staub, Ellis Valentine, John Wathan, Pat Zachary and Geoff Zahn.
Oliver, Staub and Koosman (222-209) have Hall of Fame-like qualifications but probably will never make it. Oliver had 2,743 hits and a .303 lifetime average and Staub had 2,716 hits.
The holdovers from last year's ballot in addition to Perry, Jenkins and Bunning include: Dick Allen, Bobby Bonds, Ken Boyer, Orlando Cepeda, Curt Flood, Jim Kaat, Harvey Kuenn, Mickey Lolich, Bill Mazeroski, Minnie Minoso, Thurman Munson, Tony Oliva, Vada Pinson, Ron Santo, Luis Tiant, Joe Torre and Maury Wills.
Jenkins, 284-226 with 3,192 strikeouts lifetime, was a 20-game winner for six consecutive seasons from 1967-72 with the Chicago Cubs.
Like Jenkins, Kaat nearly reached the 300-victory mark. Kaat was 283-237 in 25 seasons and won 16 consecutive Gold Gloves.
Many baseball experts consider Mazeroski the best fielding second baseman ever. Skillful at turning the double play, Mazeroski played 17 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates and had a .260 career average. He is best known for ending the 1960 World Series with a home run.
Oliva, a teammate of Carew in Minnesota, had a lifetime average of .304 and led the AL in batting with a .323 average in his rookie year of 1964. Oliva also led the AL in 1965 with a .321 mark.
As soon as the election results for 1991 are announced, attention will immediately turn to 1992. Pete Rose is getting out of jail in the coming week and a group will get together on Jan. 10 to decide whether his name goes on the ballot.