(Reuters) - Randy Johnson was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday along with Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio, marking the first time since 1955 that four players were selected in one year.
Johnson and fellow pitchers Martinez and Smoltz gained entry on their first attempt while versatile hitter Craig Biggio made it on his third try in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Johnson, an intimidating force on the mound whose 6-foot-10 frame brought him the nickname “Big Unit,” was the leading vote-getter of the group after being named on 534 of 549 ballots for 97.3 percent of the vote.
The hard-throwing lefty, who won 303 games during a 22-year career primarily spent with the Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks, is second all-time in strikeouts with 4,875.
Martinez, a three-time Cy Young winner with the Montreal Expos and Boston Red Sox, was a dazzling starter who deftly featured a sizzling fastball and jaw-dropping changeup.
The slightly-built Dominican right-hander, nearly a foot shorter than Johnson, led his league in earned-run average five times and finished his 18-season career 219-100 for a .687 winning percentage.
“Every time I stepped on the mound, I don’t know if you realize that, but from the top of the mound, I was higher than anybody,” the 5-foot-11 Martinez, who received 91.1 percent of the vote, told MLB TV.
“With that demeanor, I took the mound and I wanted to make sure I came across that way — I came across like I was the taller one. Believe it or not, my nickname in the Dominican is ‘El Grande.'”
Smoltz, the NL Cy Young Award winner in 1996 with the Atlanta Braves for whom he spent most of his 21-year career, is the only MLB pitcher with over 200 wins and 150 saves and went 15-4 in the postseason.
Biggio, who missed election last year by two votes, received 82.7 percent of the vote to comfortably surpass the required 75 percent.
The versatile Biggio, who played catcher, second base and outfield in his 20 seasons with the Houston Astros, collected 3,060 hits in his career.
Falling just short of the 412 votes needed for election was power-hitting catcher Mike Piazza, who was 28 votes shy in his second year on the ballot with 69.9 percent.
Jeff Bagwell (55.7 percent) and Tim Raines (55.0) were the only others to be named on more than half the ballots.
Major league home run king and seven-time Most Valuable Player Barry Bonds (36.8) and seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens (37.5), both suffering backlash from suspected use of performance enhancers, failed to break 40 percent as they each gained 2.1 percent from last year’s balloting.
Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue