(Reuters) - Ken Griffey Jr., whose timeless swing and grace in the outfield made him one of the most exciting players in baseball history, was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in voting results announced on Wednesday.
Griffey, in his first year of eligibility, got a record 99.3 percent of the vote of Baseball Writers’ Association of America members, easily surpassing the required 75 percent needed for induction into the Cooperstown, New York-based baseball shrine.
He will be joined in the Class of 2016 by power hitter Mike Piazza, a 12-time All-Star and former rookie of the year who owns the Major League Baseball record for most home runs by a catcher with 396.
When told via telephone that he had earned 437 votes of the 440 cast, the highest percentage in an election that dates to 1936, a visibly excited Griffey said on the MLB Network: “I’m a little nervous now.”
Piazza, who spent the bulk of his career with the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers, was elected in his fourth year of eligibility a year after falling just short of the 75 percent threshold required for election.
Griffey, whose father was an outfielder for the Cincinnati Reds, was known as “The Kid” but his accomplishments stood on their own after becoming the first pick of the 1987 draft and breaking into the league two years later as a 19-year-old.
He went on to thrill fans with acrobatic catches while flashing an infectious smile and establishing himself as one of the greatest center fielders ever.
Considered one of the pre-eminent players of his era, Griffey earned 13 All-Star Game selections and 10 consecutive American League Gold Glove Awards during a 22-year MLB career with the Seattle Mariners, Reds and Chicago White Sox.
In addition to being the Mariners’ all-time leader in home runs (417), Griffey ranks sixth in baseball history with 630 round trippers. He also stands among the game’s greats in total bases (13th) and runs batted in (15th).
Among the former players who again were denied the sport’s top honor were home run hitter Barry Bonds and pitcher Roger Clemens, two stars whose links to performance-enhancing drugs tainted their statistics.
The Class of 2016 will be inducted on July 24.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue