(Reuters) - Ivan Rodriguez, a strong hitter and rifle-armed catcher who nabbed would-be base stealers at a 46 percent career rate, was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday in his first year of eligibility.
Rodriguez, who spent most of his Major League Baseball career with the Texas Rangers, will be joined in the Class of 2017 by Houston Astros great Jeff Bagwell and former Montreal Expos All-Star Tim Raines with their induction on July 30.
Puerto Rico’s Rodriguez became only the second catcher after Johnny Bench to be elected at his first opportunity, five years after retirement.
Rodriguez received 76 percent of the vote of Baseball Writers’ Association of America members, just eclipsing the required 75 percent needed for induction into the Cooperstown, New York-based baseball shrine.
A 14-time All-Star, he had a career .296 batting average, claimed 13 Gold Gloves for defensive excellence and was the 1999 American League Most Valuable Player.
Bagwell, whose thunderous swing made him one of the most intimidating hitters ever for the Houston Astros, was the leading vote-getter, garnering 86.2 percent of 442 votes cast.
The first baseman slugged 449 home runs with a .297 lifetime batting average and was named the 1994 National League MVP.
Outfielder Raines, who was in his 10th and last year of eligibility, played 23 seasons for six teams and was a brilliant leadoff hitter boasting a .294 career batting average. He amassed 808 stolen bases, scored 100 runs or more six times, swiped 40 or more bases 11 times.
Trevor Hoffman, who notched 606 career saves, finished an agonizing five votes short of the 332 required, while power-hitting outfielder Vladimir Guerrero fell 15 shy.
There was renewed hope for seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens and seven-time MVP Barry Bonds, shunned in their first years on the ballot over suspicion of doping.
Clemens received 239 votes, one more than Bonds, for 54.1 percent, a jump of about 10 percent from last year.
Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue