Hall of Fame's Class of 2007 is set
Ripken, Gwynn will head up Cooperstown inductions
The ballots have been counted, the results are in, and now it is time to start celebrating the Class of 2007 for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.The Induction Weekend of July 27-30 is among the most eagerly awaited in Hall of Fame history. Tens of thousands of baseball pilgrims are expected to journey to the upstate New York village of Cooperstown and map out space on the green hillside overlooking the Clark Sports Center for a glimpse at the latest collection of individuals to achieve baseball immortality. Leading the way, of course, are Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn, crowned by the Baseball Writers' Association of America in an historic election. Ripken and Gwynn received the highest vote totals in the history of balloting by the BBWAA, which dates to the original election of 1936. Of the record 545 ballots cast by 10-year members of the BBWAA, Ripken was named on 537 (98.5 percent) and Gwynn on 532 (97.6). They rank third and seventh, respectively, on the list of highest percentages attained in the voting, far greater than the 75 percent required for election. Their vote totals surpassed the previous mark of 491 by Nolan Ryan in 1999. Ripken holds one of baseball's most prestigious records, having played in 2,632 consecutive games. He spent all 21 of his seasons in the Majors with the Orioles, mostly at shortstop and later at third base. A 19-time All-Star who played in a record 16 consecutive All-Star Games, Ripken twice was the game's Most Valuable Player and is the all-time All-Star vote leader with more than 36 million votes. He was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1982 and the MVP the following year when Baltimore won its most recent World Series championship. Ripken won a second MVP Award in 1991, by which time he was well on his way to such career numbers as 3,184 hits (14th on the all-time list), 603 doubles (13th), 431 home runs (35th), 1,695 RBIs (20th), 3,001 games (8th), 11,551 at-bats (4th) and 127 sacrifice flies (2nd). He was a two-time Gold Glove winner, an eight-time Silver Slugger and batted .338 in 28 postseason games.
Gwynn also played his whole career (20 seasons) with one club, the Padres. The 15-time All-Star compiled a .338 career batting average, the 20th highest in history, with 3,141 hits (18th), of which 2,378 were singles (9th). He batted over .300 every season except his rookie year of 1982, when he hit .289. Gwynn's career-high .394 average in 1994 is the highest in the Majors since Ted Williams was the last player to bat over .400 (.406) in 1941.Gwynn worked just as hard on his defense and became an above-average right fielder with five Gold Gloves to go with seven Silver Slugger Awards. He won eight NL batting titles, had five 200-hit seasons, led the league in hits seven times and batted .371 in his two World Series appearances. And while the Veterans Committee did not elect anyone from either the players or composite ballot to join Ripken and Gwynn, two media members who also have remained in one place in their careers will be honored and take their place in the museum's "Scribes and Mikemen" exhibit between the Hall of Fame gallery and the Bart Giamatti Library. Longtime chroniclers of baseball in Missouri, Denny Matthews and Rick Hummel, made it an Show-Me State finish in balloting for the broadcasters and writers wings of the Hall. Matthews, the winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence, has been in the radio booth for the Kansas City Royals since they entered the American League as an expansion club in 1969 and will be starting his 39th consecutive season on the job this year. Hummel, who was named the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing by his BBWAA colleagues, has entertained and educated readers in one of baseball's hotbeds for nearly 35 years as a Cardinals beat writer and national baseball columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. If the members of this Cooperstown class have anything in common, it is class.
Jack O'Connell is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.