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SEAVER, FINGERS ELECTED TO THE HALL OF FAME

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Tom Seaver came close to another perfect ending.

Remember July 9, 1969? Seaver vs. the Chicago Cubs. On that night, Seaver came within two outs of a perfect game before little-known Jimmy Qualls broke it up with a single.On Tuesday night, Seaver received 425 of 430 votes for a record 98.8 percent and election to the Hall of Fame in his first try. He was joined by all-time saves leader Rollie Fingers, who received 349 votes in balloting cast by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

A total of 323 votes were required this year for the 75 percent needed for election. Orlando Cepeda finished third with 246 votes, followed by Tony Perez (215), Bill Mazeroski (182), Tony Oliva (175) and Ron Santo (136). It was Mazeroski's last time on the ballot.

Pete Rose? He's still wondering what the Hall of Fame future holds for him. While Seaver was a shoo-in, Rose was a write-in.

Rose, banned from the Hall of Fame ballot, received 41 write-in votes. Three voters - Bob Hertzel of The Pittsburgh Press, free-lance writer Bob Hunter and Paul Hagen of the Philadelphia Daily News - returned blank ballots. Two retired writers - Deane McGowen and Bud Tucker - did not vote for Seaver.

When Seaver and Rose retired following the 1986 season, fans looked ahead to what promised to be one of the biggest days ever at Cooperstown, with the two superstars walking in together.

But all that was dashed when Rose was banned from baseball for gambling by then-commissioner Bart Giamatti on Aug. 23, 1989. The board of directors of the Hall of Fame then decided to erase Rose's name from their ballot.

The Hall of Fame voting is conducted by 10-year members of the BBWAA, and several writers were upset that the board of directors of the Hall voted last year to keep Rose off the ballot because he is on the permanent ineligible list. The writers wanted the choice of whether he deserved to be in Cooperstown or not.

Still, 41 BBWAA members made him a write-in vote, even though write-in ballots don't count. Last year, Rose asked the voters not to attempt any kind of protest because he didn't want to hurt the chances of the other candidates.

"I would like to congratulate Tom Seaver and Rollie Fingers on their election to baseball's Hall of Fame," Rose said in a statement. "I'm disappointed that my good friend and former teammate Tony Perez was not elected this year. I hope that his election will come in the not too distant future.

"As to reports of write-in votes on my behalf, I have expressed in the past my hope that members of the Baseball Writers Association would not use the voting process in a way that would hurt anyone's chances of being elected. Election to the Hall of Fame is the ultimate honor a baseball player can receive. I am hopeful that I will someday be in a position to be considered."

Rose's plan is to eventually ask commissiner Fay Vincent to be reinstated. If he is, he would be eligible to be placed on the Hall of Fame ballot.

"It certainly wasn't meant as a slam to Tom Seaver, Tony Perez or anyone else," Hagen said. "And I'm not saying Pete Rose should be in it. I'm just saying I don't like the fact they took it away from the baseball writers."

At one time, Rose was considered to be the first player who could get 100 percent of the vote. He is the career leader in hits (4,256), singles (3,215), at-bats (14,053) and games played (3,562).

"That was my way to emphasize that Rose should be on there," said Hunter, who also wrote in Rose's name. "Otherwise, I would have had Seaver on there."

Seaver's percentage beat the previous record (98.2) set by Ty Cobb in 1936 and his vote total is the second highest in history. Johnny Bench was named on 431 of 447 ballots (96.4 percent) in 1989. Seaver is the 23rd player elected in the first year of eligibility, not including the inaugural class of 1936.

George Thomas Seaver won three Cy Young Awards for the New York Mets, pitched 61 shutouts and struck out 3,640 in his career, third on the career list behind Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton. From 1967 to 1977, Seaver won 25 percent of the Mets' games.

He is the career Mets leader in games (401), starts (395), complete games (171), wins (198), innings pitched (3,045.1), ERA (2.57), strikeouts (2,541) and shutouts .

Seaver's greatest single-game feat came April 22, 1970, when the right-hander set a major league record with 10 consecutive strikeouts against the San Diego Padres and finished with 19 in the game. Some of his greatest moments, however, didn't come in a Mets uniform.

He threw his only no-hitter on June 16, 1978, against St. Louis while pitching for Cincinnati. On April 18, 1981, he became the fifth pitcher in major league history to strike out 3,000 batters, again while pitching for the Reds, and on Aug. 4, 1985, while pitching for the Chicago White Sox, he won his 300th game at Yankee Stadium.

He finished his 20-year career with a record of 311-205.

Seaver made pitching an art form. He used the plate as an easel, painting the corners with sliders and fastballs. Seaver has been called "The Franchise" and "Tom Terrific." Now he can be called a Hall of Famer, too.

There are others - such as Willie Mays and Warren Spahn - who have worn Mets uniforms and are in the Hall of Fame, but Seaver is the first home-grown Met to make it.

Roland Glen Fingers was known not only for twisting pitches, but also for his twisting handlebar mustache. He was a sub-.500 pitcher as a starter before he found his niche.

"You never know what's going to happen," said Fingers, the first pitcher to make the Hall of Fame with a losing record at 114-118.

"Last year, people kept saying, `I was in. I was in. I was in.' And then I wasn't. I'm glad it's over with, to tell you the truth."

Fingers, who finished in 1985 with a career ERA of 2.90, pitched nine seasons for Oakland, four for San Diego and four for Milwaukee. He has 14 saves more than his closest bullpen rival, Jeff Reardon.

Fingers joins Hoyt Wilhelm as the only relief pitchers in Cooperstown.