Tom Seaver is expected to get an invitation to visit Cooperstown this summer, but former teammate Pete Rose could steal some of the spotlight when the results of baseball's Hall of Fame election are announced late tonight.
Seaver, who won 311 games during a 20-year career that began with the New York Mets and ended with the Boston Red Sox, seems certain to be elected in his first year of eligibility. Relief pitcher Rollie Fingers, baseball's all-time career save leader (341), also has an excellent chance to be inducted this year.
To gain entry into the Hall of Fame, a player must be named on 75 percent of the ballots. Nearly 450 ballots were mailed to eligible members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. To appear on the ballot, a player must have been active for 10 seasons in the major leagues and retired for at least five years. Nominees are placed on the ballot by a screening committee made up of six BBWAA members.
Rose, of course, has no chance to be elected, though he has been retired for the required five years. The Board of Directors of the Hall of Fame recently amended the rules to keep any player off the ballot who has been permanently banned by the `f commissioner of baseball. But that doesn't mean Rose's name won't show up on some ballots, or that the controversy won't affect the chances of other Hall of Fame nominees.
The decision to exclude Rose raised protests from within the voting body, so it seems likely that there will be a number of write-in ballots for baseball's all-time hits leader. There also may be some blank ballots returned in protest, which could affect a borderline candidate such as Fingers, who came up a handful of votes short of election last year.
If a signed ballot is returned blank, it must be included in the base number of ballots, which makes it -- in effect -- a vote against all of the candidates. Even a small number of blank ballots could affect the chances of a player on the bubble, but BBWAA executive secretary Jack Lang indicated last week that the protest ballots would have only a "minimal" effect on the voting.
Lang said that the names of the voters who return them will be made public.
Write-in votes for Rose will have no effect on the outcome of the voting, since ballots with his name written in will still be considered official. The votes for Rose will be counted, but they will not count. Blank ballots that are returned unsigned also will have no bearing on the election.
It seems unlikely that anything will keep Seaver from hanging his bronze plaque at Cooperstown. Though no statistical standards guarantee induction, certain plateaus -- 300 wins, 3,000 hits, 500 home runs -- make admission almost certain.
Hall of Fame ballot
Dusty Baker, Dennis Leonard
Vida Blue, Garry Maddox
Cesar Cedeno, Ben Oglivie
John Denny, Tony Perez
Ken Forsch, Bill Russell
George Foster, Tom Seaver
Bobby Grich, Gorman Thomas
Toby Harrah, Pete Vukovich
Dave Kingman, Steve Yeager
Holdover candidates Dick Allen, Minnie Minoso
Bobby Bonds, Thurman Munson
Ken Boyer, Tony Oliva
Orlando Cepeda, Vada Pinson
Rollie Fingers, Ron Santo
Curt Flood, Rusty Staub
Jim Kaat, Luis Tiant
Mickey Lolich, Joe Torre
Bill Mazeroski, Maury Wills