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Tuesday, January 8
Updated: July 2, 1:24 PM ET
Smith alone among Hall of Fame inductees
NEW YORK -- Ozzie Smith, regarded as the finest-fielding shortstop ever, was elected to the Hall of Fame on his first try by an overwhelming margin Tuesday.
Smith was the only player picked, with Gary Carter falling just short.
A 13-time Gold Glove winner while with the St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres, Smith was chosen on 91.7 percent of the ballots.
The Wizard of Oz became the 37th player picked in his first year of eligibility.
"To be the only one going in I think speaks to the impact I had at my position," Smith said.
"The guys who get into the Hall of Fame are the guys who hit the ball out of the ballpark," he said. "I hope my going in will open the door for the other guys who have the ability to help their teams with defense."
Smith was selected on 433 of 472 ballots. To be elected, players had to be listed on at least 75 percent of the ballots of 10-year members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Carter got 343 votes (72.7 percent) and fell 11 shy of election. The former catcher's totals have dramatically improved over the years, going from 34 percent in 1999 to nearly 49.7 percent in 2000 to 65 percent last year.
"When the anticipation is so high and it's being talked about so much, there's a letdown," Carter said. "Being this close, you want it to happen."
"I'm at the threshold. I'm waiting for them to open the door," he said. "I'm just excited for next year."
Jim Rice (55 percent) was third in the voting, followed by Bruce Sutter (50 percent), first-time candidate Andre Dawson (45 percent) and Goose Gossage (43 percent).
Luis Tiant (18 percent) fell off the ballot in his 15th and final year of eligibility. Ron Guidry, Dave Stewart and Frank Viola were among the players who failed to receive the required 5 percent to remain on the ballot.
Smith, 47, was a 15-time All-Star in his career. He will become the 254th person inducted into the Hall in ceremonies at Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 28.
Smith celebrated with a sip of champagne at his home in St. Louis after getting the good news. He was the 22nd shortstop overall elected to the Hall.
"There will always be room for the prototypical shortstop," he said.
Smith won 13 NL Gold Gloves -- all in a row from 1980-92 -- set shortstop records for most assists (8,375) and double plays (1,590) and entertained fans with a backflip when he ran out to shortstop at the start of games. The Cardinals retired No. 1 in his honor.
"I don't think anybody ever played the position any better than he played it," former Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog said Monday.
"Was he the best?" Herzog said. "He made more diving plays than I've ever seen. I don't see how it was possible to play it any better than Ozzie played it."
Smith spent 19 seasons in the major leagues, breaking in with San Diego in 1978. Smith played four years with the Padres, then finished with 15 years in St. Louis.
Smith was not known for his offense. He batted just .262 in his career with 2,460 hits, 28 homers and 793 RBI.
But Smith could deliver in the clutch. A switch-hitter, the first left-handed homer of his career came in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 1985 NL Championship Series, lifting the Cardinals over Los Angeles.
The Cardinals went on to win the series in six games, and Smith was voted as MVP of the NLCS.
"It's been a lot of fun," Smith said during his final season. "People have been nice to me. I've been shown a lot of respect and a lot of admiration for what I've tried to bring to the game, and that's all you can ask."
Carter, an 11-time All-Star, was on the ballot for the fifth time. He was picked on 42.3 percent of the ballots in his first appearance in 1998. His percentage dropped to 33.8 the following year, then increased to 49.7 in 2000 and 64.9 in 2001.
Carter hit 324 homers with 1,225 RBI. His 298 homers as a catcher are the sixth-most.
"I thought, for sure, he'd probably get in this year," Smith said.
Rice, on the ballot for the eighth time, was fourth in last year's voting at 57.9 percent. The eight-time All-Star and 1978 AL MVP had a .298 career average with 382 homers and 1,451 RBI.
Sutter and Gossage were bidding to join Hoyt Wilhelm and Rollie Fingers as the only relievers in the Hall.
Alan Trammell got 16 percent in his first year of eligibility.
Among the players joining the ballot for the first time next year will be Eddie Murray, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Fernando Valenzuela and Brett Butler.